While everyone experiences job-related stress at one time or another, those of us who work mostly or entirely online have a slightly different type of stress. We trade stressful commutes and stressful office environments for the stress that results from spending too many hours in front of the computer with little human interaction. We all need to find ways to deal with stress before it becomes a problem. Over the years, I’ve developed some stress reduction techniques that help me manage stress without letting it get out of control.
Balanced Approach to Control
First, you need to take a balanced approach to stress by focusing on the things you can control. Most people who have real issues dealing with stress let too many things that are out of their control increase their stress level. If something is out of your control, then worrying about it or dwelling on it to the point that it causes you stress just isn’t productive. Take a step back and think about the problem with an objective eye toward focusing your time and energy on those things that you can control and focusing your work in areas where you can have an impact. Learning to let the rest go and not letting those things that are out of your control increase your stress level is very difficult, but it can be mastered with practice. People who regularly read my posts will notice that this is a common theme for me; in most things, I have learned to focus on a few areas and let the rest go.
Get Out and Get Moving
Getting regular exercise and keeping your body moving is a time-honored way to reduce stress. Exercise increases your endorphin levels and gives you a boost, which is why I try to exercise during lunch when the weather isn’t too hot because it gives me a nice little break in the middle of the day and lets me hit the afternoon with a fresh burst of exercise-induced energy. This is also a perfect opportunity to get some fresh air and maybe even a little sunshine, depending on where you live. Even if you just get outside long enough to make the trip to the gym, getting out of your home office for a short break and a little fresh air can be useful. On those days where your schedule refuses to cooperate, even a 5-10 minute walk around the block can really help reduce your stress.
Great conversation and laughter with friends is one of my favorite ways to reduce stress. When was the last time you had a nice lunch away from the computer or went to happy hour with some friends after work? Make it a point to plan a couple of activities with friends every week. This doesn’t need to be complicated or time-consuming. Take a 20-minute walk at lunch with a friend, work out or run with a partner, invite a few friends to happy hour or dinner, or even attend some local social events related to your areas of interest. Talking to real people, in person, is a great way to decompress after a long day at work and reduce our stress.
Reading and Hobbies
Turn the television off, shut the lid of the laptop and spend a few minutes doing something in the real world that doesn’t involve typing. I love to read, and I try to spend at least 30 minutes every evening with a book — the dead tree kind — to get away from the glare of the computer screen. I also like to turn on some music and cook a real dinner occasionally (you know, the kind of dinner where you recognize the ingredients as something from nature, rather than something out of a box). If you don’t have a hobby, find one, and spend some time relaxing and forgetting about the things that leave you stressed out at the end of the day.
The real key to managing stress is to stay ahead of it by making your stress reduction techniques just another part of your daily routine. By exercising, getting fresh air, socializing with friends and making time for your hobbies, you naturally keep your stress levels down without having to take any drastic measures later.
What are your favorite ways to reduce stress?
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Enabling the Web Work Revolution