13 Ways to Stay Sane and Relieve Stress

Vol. 13 No. 6

divhead eletter Vol14 No6 stresssqueeze

Springtime is scheduling time for many Division Heads, adding a new bundle of stressors on top of an already hectic work schedule. To support you, our stressed-out readers, we gathered quick and easy ways to help you de-stress at work and achieve the necessary zen to complete those vital tasks.

  1. Work out at work. If your current list of tasks keeps you chained to your desk, there are solutions available to help you burn some calories and relax you—through exercise. Standing desks are a new trend to help combat inactivity. Or, if you prefer to work out while sitting down, there are new ellipticals that can slip under your desk. (If you get this, let us know how it works for you!)
  2. Buy a plant. It feels like every flat surface in ISM’s back office is covered with plants—mostly cactus and other succulents—but those plants work just as hard as we do, purifying our air and helping relieve stress. Washington State University found that people’s blood pressure lowers significantly when entering a room with visible plants.
  3. Cut back on coffee. While caffeine provides a great energy boost to clear the cobwebs, too much may start causing the jitters and feelings of stress.
  4. Pack salads and a snack for lunch. It might seem like pseudo-science, but eating your leafy greens seems to increase feelings of well-being and happiness in those who consume above-average quantities. One 2013 study reported that research participants who ate “approximately 7-8 servings of fruits and vegetables” were consistently “calmer, happier, and more energetic” than they usually were eating a less healthy diet. But don’t give up all sweets! Dark chocolate is a great source of polyphenols, which a recent paper in The Journal of Psychopharmacology claims helped relieve anxiety and stress when regularly consumed by test subjects.
  5. Take a walk outside. Fresh air and sunshine can clear your mind and stretch cramped muscles after sitting at your desk for so long. Besides, sunlight helps generate Vitamin D, which helps keep Seasonal Affected Depression (SAD) at bay.
  6. Keep a “gratitude journal.” Take a moment at lunch time or before bed to jot down at least one thing that you appreciated during the day. It could be something as small as watching the kindergartners take turns at the slide on the playground, or an email from a teacher thanking you for finding a useful new resource. Keeping this small habit will help you look for the parts of your work that you appreciate, rather than dwelling on the negative.
  7. Try some “email meditation.” Dr. Lillian Cheung and Zen master Thich Naht Hahn outline this quirky practice in their book, Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, as a way to reduce stress and anxiety when tackling the ever-growing inbox of emails. The exercise encourages deep breathing and a pause before pressing “Send” as a moment of quiet reflection on the email’s contents and a self-assurance that this email is both necessary and the best that it could possibly be.
  8. Change up your playlist. “Pump up” music might be great for motivation at the gym, but you’ve already got all the inspiration you need to tackle your projects! For a more restful environment, try playing “nature sounds”—like ocean breakers or a thunderstorm—or instrumental scores without any words to distract your already preoccupied mind.
  9. Clean your desk. It might be a chore, but cleaning up those standing piles of papers can offer a sense of accomplishment that carries over to your other, more vital administrative tasks. (One of our writers swears by the anti-anxiety power of bleaching something.)
  10. Prioritize and let the little things go. You can save some energy and mental resources by assigning other responsible colleagues to tackle low priority issues, letting you handle the major dilemmas that only you can resolve.
  11. Smooch your partner! Believe it or not, kissing has been shown to promote higher levels of the “happy hormone” oxytocin, which lowers the “stress” hormone cortisol, according to anthropologist Wendy Hill.
  12. Take up knitting. Repetitive movements that focus on fine-motor skills offer your mind something else to focus on, interrupting loops of anxiety-inducing thoughts.
  13. Pet a pet. Animals are so adept at soothing stress away, that training hospitals have begun regularly inviting therapy dogs to help beleaguered medical students make their way through intensive, stressful training.

Additional ISM resources:
The Source for Risk Managers Vol. 6 No. 5 Burnt Out Parents. Burnt Out Employees.
The Source for Private School News
Vol. 12 No. 3 De-stressing in the Office
The Source for Risk Managers
Vol. 6 No. 4 Staying Positive in Negative Environments

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 38 No. 14The Benefits of Schedule Design Change
I&P Vol. 36 No. 2 Understanding Faculty Culture Differences Across School Divisions

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