The marketer Seth Godin recently put out a short blog post that was so thought-provoking, it stuck with me all day. It was about the nature of work and how, no matter where we’re employed, our jobs often leave us feeling stressed. Godin reasons that:
Responsibility without freedom is stressful. There are plenty of jobs in this line of work, just as there are countless jobs where you have neither freedom nor responsibility. These are good jobs to walk away from.
Does this sound like your job? The fact is while many of us have great responsibilities at work, we usually don’t have the freedom to control our work environment, the hours we put in, or the pace at which we need to complete our tasks. And this “responsibility without freedom” often leads to stress.
But if you can’t “walk away” from your job, how do you combat the stress that often comes with it?
A current story in Spirituality & Health magazine, titled “Five Ways to Transcend Stress”, takes the long view of de-stressing, including acts like detaching, journaling and loving yourself. But it struck me that when it comes to real life, you need a faster way to relieve stress, whether it comes at work, at home or while standing on line at the DMV.
What follows are five small acts that can help you almost instantly. Most of these tactics take only a few seconds, though they require a little practice. (And by practice, I mean remembering to use them.) I think of them as my arsenal of stress relief tools and often use them in combination, employing 2, 3 or all 5 of them of them to bring me back to an even keel.
- Breathe. When we’re in stressful situations, we often engage in shallow breathing. What we need to do is take a deep breath. Innnnnnnnnnn. Outttttttntttt. Repeat. The increased oxygen intake has a way of clearing our heads and quickly calming our system.
- Smile. Now I’m not talking about a big, goofy grin, but a slight upturn of the lips at each corner. There’s something about a smile that can help lighten a tense moment, like a muscle memory that somehow takes us back to a happier time. Start with one each morning, and try to wear it throughout the day.
- Use your mantra. I just wrote about meditation and my take on the mantra—and the fact you need to find a key phrase that works for you. Once you begin meditating on a regular basis, a quick interior repetition of your mantra has a way of reminding you of the meditative state, relaxing the mind.
- Go for a walk. Stress has a way of tightening our muscles including the one inside our heads. Carve out 5 minutes and go for a quick brisk walk, even if it’s just around the block. There’s something about putting the body in motion that makes the mind feel better.
- Remember “It doesn’t really matter.” Surprisingly, these words come from Think and Grow Rich author Napoleon Hill who gave himself this advice whenever he felt overly stressed. In the grand scheme of things most of the things we fret over aren’t that important. What really matters is not our jobs, but the people and activities outside them.
For a story on a related topic, see my post “You’re Spiritual, Your Job is Not. So How Do You Cope?”