Some of us have the privilege of adopting a flexible mode of working and are able to work at the comforts of our homes. This doesn’t necessarily mean that our work stress levels are surely lower than those who work in an office environment.
Stress hormones affect us physiologically, impacting our immune, respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Although some people thrive under optimal stress, prolonged experiences of excessive work stress actually cripples our work productivity and quality. Remote workers tend to be more prone to elevated levels of stress and feelings of loneliness due to a decreased level of social interactions.
This month, as most employees are encouraged to work from home, many are looking for the best WFH practices as they start to notice the blurring boundaries between work and home life. Some remote workers find themselves working longer hours or till late hours while others experience a dip in productivity. Not only does this jeopardise the work-life balance that modern employees actively seek, but also negatively impacts our physical and mental health, causing us to burnout.
That is why, for the sake of our productivity and wellbeing, we must remind ourselves to find ways to reduce work stress throughout the day. Here are 8 stress-relieving activities you could do at home to reduce work stress.
1. Unleash Your Green Fingers
Gardening has been found to reduce cortisol levels, a hormone released by the body when we’re experiencing stress, and boost moods. Another study conducted by the University of Hyoga in Japan found that plants can reduce stress at work. It was shown that a mere 3-minute break interacting with your desk plant can significantly lower pulse rate, hence, reduce stress. Try your hand at gardening. Start with small desk plants like a cactus or a bonsai or an air plant.
2. Start the Day with Morning Meditation
While meditation is something we can do any time of day, many find morning meditation beneficial as it helps to set a calmer tone for the rest of the day before any work stress creeps in. You don’t have to be a deeply spiritual person or a yogi to master the practice. Simply start by rolling out of bed 10 to 15 minutes earlier before you start your normal routine and find a quiet space. Get into a comfortable position, free and clear your mind, and focus on breathing slowly and deeply. There is also a great variety of online resources and mobile apps available for those looking for more guidance.
3. Listen to Soothing Music
Music can have tremendous effects on our emotions and body. Quiet music with a slower tempo can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and the level of stress hormone, making it a powerful tool for stress relief.
4. Stress-Eat, Healthily
When we are stressed, the boost in cortisol level in our body increases hunger, resulting in us craving for high-energy foods. Our answer to that craving is often the nearest snack we find in our snack cabinet or refrigerators. When we stress eat, accessibility tends to play a huge role in determining what we consume.
If you find the urge to stress eat, try to do it in a way that’s healthy. Next time you shop for groceries, find healthier alternatives to your favourite junk food. Swap your dairy ice cream with yoghurt, caramelised popcorns with roasted almonds, crisps with dried fruit chips, milk chocolate with dark chocolate or Nutella with hummus. Eating nutritious and healthy foods can improve your immune system in the long run and build a better defence against work stress.
5. Play with your pet
If you’re living with a pet, congratulations! Your much-needed dose of stress-reliever is probably wagging their tails at you or happily curled up on your lap right now. Numerous studies conducted have found that pets are natural mood-stabilizers, alleviating stress, anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Playing with a dog, cat, or any other pet can increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, which makes us calm and relaxed.
6. Stay Social
With all the social distancing and shift to remote work, face-to-face interactions and the chances you get to talk to a colleague-slash-friend about work-related stress you are experiencing are limited. A lack of social interaction can lead to feelings of loneliness and leave us vulnerable to experiencing an elevated level of stress. Call and talk to a friend about what’s stressing you out will help you feel less isolated and alleviate stress. Make up for those lunchtime chitchats at the office by arranging virtual happy hours or birthday parties with your team.
7. Stretch Your Stress Away
Exercising can help us reduce stress as it pumps up endorphins levels in our body. When time and space are limited, something as simple as stretching can give our body and mind some well-deserved relaxation throughout the day. During your work day, take a 5-minute break every hour or two to do simple stretches at your desk to awaken your senses and improve cognitive functions so you can stay productive and always have a refreshed mind. Wrap up your day with 30 minutes of stretching and breathing exercises to release any work stress or physical tension that has built-up from sitting for long hours.
Findings from the University of Sussex revealed that reading is one of the best ways to relax and six minutes can be enough to reduce the stress levels by more than two thirds. Reading a book or newspaper in silence is a much better and faster way to relieve stress than listening to music, going for a walk or sitting down with a cup of tea.
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