How to Stress Less

Date: July 01, 2014

3 tips for staying calm under pressure.

Stress may seem an unavoidable side effect of a small business owner’s busy schedule, but it doesn’t have to rule your life, says speaker Maura Thomas of Austin, Texas, author of Personal Productivity Secrets and founder of Here, she shares three tips for minimizing stress and maximizing well-being.

1. Make a list. “Much of our stress is caused by worrying and trying to remember all of the things we aren’t doing now,” Thomas says. Many people carry their to-do lists in their head, which puts them under an extraordinary amount of pressure to remember everything. Jotting haphazardly on a piece of paper isn’t the best solution, either, Thomas says—“because unless you remember to look in the right place of the right notebook at the right time, that task might still be forgotten.” She recommends an electronic to-do list tool, such as the task list in Microsoft Outlook or Apple’s Reminders app, or stand-alone programs such as Remember the Milk or Todoist.

2. Take a break. How many days have you spent at your desk, hunched over a computer or smartphone, believing you don’t have time for a break? “Studies show that prolonged periods of physical inactivity dull our creative capacity, burn us out and, yes, increase our stress,” Thomas says. “We fail to make the best use of our most important resources—our body and mind—in an effort to save time.”

Take a break at least once an hour to stand up, stretch or walk around the office—and don’t feel guilty about taking a lunch break. Kimberly Elsbach, a management professor at the University of California-Davis who studies workplace psychology, told Time magazine that a brief respite from your desk improves productivity and creativity. “If you’re skipping lunch to continue to push forward in a very intense cognitive capacity, then you’re probably not doing yourself any favors,” she says.

3. Get moving. Outside of working hours, exercise is one of the best ways to bust stress, regulate your sleep cycle, improve your mood and focus your frazzled mind after a busy day. The Mayo Clinic reports that any kind of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, provides stress-relieving benefits.

For healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise (such as brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (such as running) every week. Best of all, the benefits of exercise far outlast your sweat session. “Exercising regularly burns off stress, sharpens our mind, and actually makes us better and faster at whatever tasks we plan to tackle,” says Thomas.

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