From a purely speculative standpoint, I’d wager that stress is the number-one productivity killer in an office setting. However, unlike other productivity killers — jury duty, a newborn child, the plague — stress isn’t usually considered an acceptable reason to take time off from that which is likely causing you that stress.
Stress is an inherently personal occurrence, but there are a few general ways to combat it that you can try in order to reduce your daily stress level.
Check-in with yourself
Emotional sick days aren’t really a thing yet—at least, not in any employee handbook I’ve ever read—but taking some time out of your day to fully realize, appreciate, and disseminate how you’re feeling is crucial in learning how to manage your stress. The way in which you do this is contingent on personal preferences; some people will invariably need more time for this kind of thing than others.
To that end, if you need to take a day every once in a while to check in with yourself, that’s okay.
You can justify the decision to do so in any number of ways—I often tell myself that I’m no use to anyone in my current stress-occupied state—but as long as you actually confront your stress on your day off rather than using it to catch up on Breaking Bad, you shouldn’t have to explain your decision—the results will speak for themselves.
Of course, if you’re one of those people who actually de-stresses while watching Breaking Bad, I can’t help you.
Keep it clean
I personally have a very difficult time sitting down and working when my house is a mess. This is because visual noise is essentially a cognitive minefield; if you have to strategically re-position papers, writing utensils, and coffee mugs every morning just to get to your keyboard, how do you expect to lend 100 percent of your focus to the task at hand?
Take a few minutes every day to declutter your workspace. The reduced visual input will help you relax, and with less impacting your peripherals and subconscious, you’ll see a distinct upswing in productivity.
Similarly, if you spend a lot of time in your car for your job or your daily commute, keep the interior groomed and clutter-free. Not only will clean surroundings decrease your existing stress levels—but they’ll also ward off depression and anxiety, which are huge contributors to stress.
Take care of the small tasks first
Little errands like putting gas in your car, emptying the coffee maker, transferring the washed clothes to the dryer, and tidying up the kitchen can add up quickly to make you feel as though you’re entirely swamped from the get-go.
If you start your day knowing you have a list of chores to do when you get home, it’s hard to get out of bed and be productive.
Taking care of these things before you start your day is a great way to cross several items off of your itinerary. The fewer things you have to accomplish, the less stressed you’ll be—so cross off the small ones first.
Don’t sweat the petty things…
I know, I know. Such generic advice doesn’t usually make it off of cheap t-shirts and social media sites, so what’s it doing here?
We often get caught up in the minute details of our jobs, interactions, and personal lives. Once you realize that you’re your own harshest critic, that nobody perceives your failures anywhere near the same way you do, and that Steve from HR forgot about your awkward handshake five minutes after it happened, the world will seem like a much more forgiving place.
…And don’t pet the sweaty things
Seriously, that’ll ruin your day.