Workplace Wellness: add stress management to your year-end checklist

Arete HR
Arete HR
A leading provider of Canadian business support solutions, employee and business assistance plans. AreteMD améliore le bien-être des Canadiens par l’entremise de programmes d’aide aux entreprises et aux employés.

It’s that time again – year-end deadlines loom. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the many tasks required to wrap up annual payroll and tax reporting requirements. It’s not easy to manage it all without feeling stressed.

As humans, we all experience stress in different ways. Some of us feel anxious and become overly preoccupied with the task at hand. Others can’t sleep or overindulge in comfort foods while searching for relief. People lose or gain weight when under stress. We can become angry and the slightest provocation can set us off. Regardless of how we react to it, stress not only affects us emotionally but can have a serious impact to our physical health. Our effectiveness at work can suffer as a result.

Managing Stress on Schedule

One of the best ways to handle stress is to incorporate stress management techniques as part of your year-end workload. It may sound counterproductive, or even impossible in deadline-heavy times. But if you’re overloaded or know from experience that year-end is exhausting, booking the time to look after yourself is the best way to make sure it happens.

Add these four things to your schedule to help manage stress during busy times:

1. Take a Walk

Did you know that even 20 minutes of walking in a natural setting can induce a more relaxed state of mind and increase cognitive performance? Mayo Clinic research finds that regular walking—yes, even in an urban environment—decreases the amount of the stress hormone cortisol, increases your cardiovascular capacity, strengthens your bones, and improves your mood.

A walk in the park may be ideal, but it’s not always feasible. Find creative ways to fit more walking into your day. Park a little further away from work or get off public transit a stop early. Take a break and get outside, if only for 20 minutes. Walk around the block.

It’s tempting to work straight through without a break at key times of the year, but your concentration and effectiveness will suffer if this becomes a regular practice. A quick walk will help you to re-energize and perform better at your job.

Pro Tip: If you’re stumped by an unexpected problem and a solution evades you, try a walking meeting. Invite a colleague to walk with you to discuss the issue. The change in environment can free your thinking power and the right course of action can sift to the surface.

2. Be Kind, Unwind

Taking time to unwind is an important part of being kind to yourself. Reserving time to relax physically and mentally will improve your sleep, boost your immune system, and support your body’s ability to reduce stress hormones.

Choose something that works for both your body and mind: a long shower or bath or a therapeutic massage can work wonders at the end of a hectic day. Many people benefit from a meditation practice, which you can do almost anywhere. And if being still isn’t your thing, some forms of yoga and Tai Chi are designed to work as moving meditations, suitable for all body types and physical abilities.

When you schedule your relaxation time, make it a rule to disconnect from texts, emails and zoned-out feed-scrolling, and create some space between the demands of life and your time out.

Pro Tip: We all know the trick of turning a device off and on to make it run more efficiently. Try it on yourself – unplug and take a break before plugging back into your workload.

3. Play

When we’re stressed, it’s easy to let personal interests fall by the wayside. Think of at least one activity that makes you happy and book it—daily, weekly, monthly, or whatever you can reasonably manage.

Everyone is different: perhaps you’d like a regular night out with friends, an outing with your kids, a bi-weekly date with your partner, time alone to work on a creative project, a class at a local college, or a physical activity like racquetball, hiking or swimming. These things all count as grown-up “play” - and play isn’t frivolous. It’s an effective way to reduce stress, sharpen creativity and problem-solving skills, and derive more joy from life.

Pro Tip: Whatever leisure activity you choose to add to your calendar, make sure it’s something you’re enthusiastic about, and naturally motivated to do. The point is to decrease stress, not add to it.

4. Commit to Self-Care

When you’re overwhelmed during a busy time, it really helps to consciously set time to manage your stress. Commit to the time required to take care of yourself as you would any other important task. After all, it’s important. Your health and well-being impact every aspect of life, from personal to professional.

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