10 really unusual ways to really beat work stress
New research suggests that work-related stress increases your risk of developing serious illnesses. We don't fancy that, so here's our brilliant stress-busting guide.
1 Inbox zero
An overflowing email inbox is enough to give anyone an anxiety attack so practise inbox zero as suggested by US writer Merlin Mann - a radical approach to tackling your emails more efficiently and ensuring the inbox is as close to empty as possible.
2 Say a little prayer
American writer Anne Lamott, author of Help, Pray, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers reckons the prayers can help. "Sometimes the first time we pray, we cry out in the deepest desperation, 'God help me'", she writes. "This is a great prayer, as we are then at our absolutely most degraded and isolated, which means we are nice and juicy with the consequences of our best thinking and are thus possibly teachable."
3 Practice Radical Honesty
"We suffer stress at least in part because of social dishonesty - those white lies we all tell in order to smooth things over in the course of every day," says Dawn Baird, who runs the training consultancy Sensei.ie with her husband. "Being radically honest to everyone and in all circumstances might alleviate the stress people feel because their inner self - how they really think and feel - is at odds with their outer self - how they behave in front of others and whether they tell the truth." Perhaps not one to try out on your boss without warning.
4 Ask for help... from your kids
Working mum and blogger Andrea Mara (officemum.ie) advocates sharing her work-related stress with her kids. "At six, five and two they don't fully understand when I tell them about stuff that's going on at work but sometimes their perspective - with their really simple way of looking at the world - can be very therapeutic.
5 Get an office pet
"It's commonly posited that pets can help reduce stress levels, reduce blood pressure and heart rate," says Damien Higgins, marketing manager for Eden Springs Water & Coffee Company (edensprings.co.uk/blog). "Pets have been found to be better at helping lower stress than interactions with people or loved ones, so having a furry-friend around is a perfect stress reliever."
Mags Mathieson is a Belfast-based Local Leader with Join In (joininuk.org), a network of volunteers in community sport. "Volunteering provides me with a distraction from the day to day stress of working life," she says. "Having the opportunity to share in a worthwhile activity with other like-minded people gives me a huge sense of community, and the knowledge that I am doing something useful gives me that 'feel good' factor that I don't always experience at work."
7 Juggle balls instead of spinning plates
"Juggling is great at reducing stress because it focuses the mind, and is primarily a physical skill requiring a playful concentration to develop," says Galway-based brief therapist Diarmuid Lavelle (livenow.ie).
8 Hum Your way to happiness at work
If juggling is beyond you, try humming, says Diarmuid Lavelle. "Humming can change the mood and its requirement of releasing the breath slowly calms the system, much like singing, except less intrusive for fellow office workers," he explains. "Humming a happy or catchy tune brings people more into the now, and introduces more right-brain creative input, which often inspires problem solving."
9 Be a planker in the workplace
"We work as a team of four and when someone gets stressed it can negatively affect the morale and motivation levels of everyone in the room," says Tom Bourlet, Digital Marketing Manager at sncdirect.com. "We therefore decided to introduce a penalty whereby whenever someone gets irritable or stressed, they have to do a plank (a core-strength exercise that involves holding a push-up) for 45 seconds. It instantly lightens the mood and makes us laugh. We also push each other to hold on for as long as possible, so it can be a great way to build team spirit."
10 Have an art attack
"Stress can be caused by the office environment, and art is a great fix for that," says Katie Henry, director of Art In Offices, a corporate art consultancy. "Colourful paintings can make you feel energised in a dull office; windowless offices can be oppressive and benefit from landscapes or light and airy paintings; break-out rooms needs something interesting that you can stare at and lose yourself in, and open plan offices need paintings or photographs that offer escapism for when you're bored of staring at the computer screen."
And if all else fails, quit your job, says digital marketer Rich M Brady (richmbrady.co.uk). "No job is worth losing sleep, your health or a relationship over, and the alternative - quitting and finding a new job - is never as bad as you anticipate."