Your lunchtime outings were longer and sunnier during the summer months, making for a nice break from work stress. But that’s when sounds of silence in the corner office were deafening. Summertime has made an exit and here we are, kicking off what is arguably the busiest time of the calendar.
Coming into fall, we all tend to step up our career game (it might have something to do with those new boots we have to pay for). But your work stress level doesn’t have to ramp up along with it, if you get a handle on how you’re going to manage it ahead of time.
To help you get those new boots walking in a positive direction, here are some keys to creating a stress-free return to more cubicle time in autumn.
1. Revisit Your Morning Work Routine
The sun gradually rises later in the fall, but instead of grabbing a few extra zzz’s, try to get into the office just 10 minutes earlier than usual this month to reorient yourself to what might be slightly altered working conditions. Take quiet time before your day gets going to do a quick overview of the day’s responsibilities and what the week will bring. You can also use this time to take a few deep centering breaths before jumping into work.
2. De-clutter Your Workspace
Just as you rake away the leaves this time of the year, take an hour to rake away all the dust and irrelevant files and papers from your desk. This will give you a nice clean plate visually, which is pleasing to the brain as it’s less distracting. (Major bonus points for cleaning out your inbox, combing through your bookmarked sites, and streamlining your apps, too!)
3. Evaluate Workplace Stressors
This is great to do every quarter, but especially in the fall: Spend time considering what’s stressing you out at work. Is it an increased workload? A challenging relationship? Unreasonable deadlines? If there are a couple specific things you can point to, it might be worth a conversation with your manager to try to work them out before things get really busy. Go into such dialogue with a clear head, positive energy, and a few solutions.
4. Keep a Work Stress Diary
In addition, try to monitor your work stress more closely moving forward. What triggers anxiety and stress that distracts you, making you less effective or productive? On the flip side, what kinds of good stress inspire or motivate you to get those creative juices flowing? Identify the times of the day that you are most stressed, in contrast to those hours when you feel the most creative and alert, and see if there are ways you can adjust your day to better suit your schedule and your energy level. Can you schedule meetings mid-morning, when you’re feeling great? Here’s a tip: Tackle some to-dos in the evening before you leave, so you’re not so stressed when you return to work.
5. Invest in What Brings You Joy at Work
Even if you’re working in a job that you’re not thrilled with, identify the responsibilities or tasks that give you the most joy. Then, look for 2-3 ways, even if they’re small, that you can focus more attention on these projects or tasks: Maybe it’s spending more time mentoring the junior employees on your team or lending a hand to a project you’re particularly excited about. Spending time each day focusing on something that brings you meaning and fulfillment is a great way to make all that other stuff feel worthwhile, too.
6. Get Your Happy Mojo On
Studies show that your mindset can have a huge impact on the way you handle stress and how effective you are at work. In a positive mode, your brain is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral, or stressed conditions, according to research by Shawn Achor at GoodThink Inc. So, think about what makes you happy, and find ways to bring it into work. Refreshing your office with new photos of family and friends, bookmarking that link to baby animal videos on YouTube, and creating a few new playlists you can access at work are all great ways to get the good vibes going.
7. Revamp Your Daily Routine
You’ve heard it before, but taking care of your body is one of the best ways possible to manage your stress levels throughout the day. So, starting now, try to schedule time in your calendar to stand up, move around, and relax. Plan a midday walk around the building, schedule a few minutes in an office or conference room for deep breathing exercises or brief meditations, and use lunchtime to unwind and connect with colleagues instead of eating at your desk. Better yet, set an alarm every hour to remind yourself to stand up and stretch, releasing tension and relieving sore muscles. Also check with your HR department to see what might be offered—more and more companies are hosting on-site wellness programs such as yoga, meditation, and nutritional counseling.
Finally, have your 911 kit handy at all times. Keep a bottle of water on your desk so you can hydrate throughout the day, and a dark piece of chocolate for those moments where taking a breath just doesn’t cut it. Here’s to a happy, productive autumn!