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10 tips for working with less stress

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We are bombarded every day with articles on stress and it’s influence on our health. We are all wondering if there is a job in the world where stress is just a distant memory of past jobs?

There are also many articles with tips on how to organize your day to remove stress from the equation. But does that really work?

In my personal experience, no. In today’s profit driven world, there is no way you will find a programming  job (or any job) without stress. Deadlines, non-technical bosses, new technologies emerging every five minutes, you name it.

I will try to lay down 10 tips that help me to cope with stress in my everyday life. It doesn’t mean they will work for you, but I hope you will find some and try some.

1. Express yourself

Do this loud, tell someone how you feel, what makes you go nuts and what does not. Just by talking to a coworker helps. Don’t make this wrong and be that annoying co worker that just complaints about anything, rather express your opinion on the subject that bothers you, ask questions, try to figure out if anybody else is having problems of the same kind.

After this kind of talk, maybe you will realize that it isn’t such a big deal as you feel it is. And talking alone will help you reduce stress levels.

Conversation with your colleagues on any subject is good, just make sure you do that on your lunch break or in a way that will not make negative impact on the work process (or the stress levels will increase when your boss calls you to tell you to stop talking during working hours).

2. Filter out stuff that hurts you

Empathy is one of the crucial and key leadership competencies in positive leadership. Yeah, right. Did you ever meet an empathic boss? If you did, I congratulate you.

Our superiors often say things to “motivate” us and sometimes these  things hurt our feelings. Learn to filter this stuff out or, even better, turn those insulting words into humor (later of course).

Try to listen to your feelings for a moment and do something to relax after a stress indulging experience. (make sure it isn’t yelling or doing some free running on the premises)

Don’t take work stuff to personal, or it will get to you and hurt you. Take a deep breath and do something relaxing, like listening to your favorite music.

3. Eat healthy

Take your time for lunch and go out. Don’t eat on or around your working place, change the climate, eat something warm and preferably healthy.

While working, always try to have some snacks available and try to keep those healthy. Rather than coffee, try some apples or oranges.

In the last few years I never had breakfast. I would come to work and drink coffee or tea and didn’t eat anything until noon. Recently, I read an article on Sumo fighters and their diet. They never eat breakfast. Just two big meals after noon.

That made me think, look how those guys are looking. We should eat breakfast in the morning before work and it should be a nutritious one. I tried and it really helps to concentrate (as my body is not busy by telling me that it’s hungry).

4. Presume nothing

Don’t think that you know how your coworkers think or feel. Think before turning your presumptions to beliefs. Talk to them, try to understand their feeling and do not presume that you’re the all seeing eye of Mordor and nothing can go past you.

Presumptions are evil games of our mind. Our own mind is trying to convince us that something is true just because it creates a comfort zone for us by doing so.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Asking for clarification will often make positive impact and you will look interested on the subject and involved. Of course, don’t ask dumb questions or the effect will be just the opposite.

5. Time management is crucial

Oh yeah, you heard this over and over again. Organize your time, to do lists and stuff.

But think about it for a moment. If you lost half an hour on trying to find what to do next, you will surely have to make this half an hour in your free time. Or stay longer or whatever.

Use your working hours to work, to do as much work as possible and this way you will avoid making compromises with your free time or weekends. To do lists are great as they allow you to reward yourself (see step 8 for more details).

6. Stand up and walk

Our human bodies are not made for 8 hours of sitting. Sitting position is not natural to us (and no Pilates ball will prove otherways).

I try to organize my time in small chunks of work, then work on those chunks for half an hour, hour, and then stand up and walk around the office, go to the toilet or whatever that makes me do something else than sitting (again, free running is probably not the best option). Fetch a glass of water, walk some stairs for 5 minutes.

Don’t think that super ergonomic sit, desk and keyboard is the way to sit for straight 8 hours. Believe me, it’s not. Headaches, tension and everything is still there, no matter how comfy your chair is. Movement is the key. Trust me, I am 37.

Go out for 5 minutes and make some deep breaths. You will see how much energy you will have and stress level will surely decrease.

7. Change working environment

Try to change the working environment if you can. Work from home for a day or two. Do not work from home if you don’t have the conditions for it (separated working environment, no kids, peace of mind …).

When I work from home, stress levels decrease, there is less interrupts and more work can be done in less time.

One of the greatest stress inducers is interrupt. Emails, Skype chats and calls, questions from other employees. So, if you change your working environment, your concentration level is higher and your boss is happy (actually, there is no such thing as a happy boss, don’t fool yourself).

8. Award yourself

Oh yeah, congratulate yourself for every single thing you completed successfully that day. Put that check mark on your to-do list, buy yourself a dessert at lunch or whatever makes you happy. Bosses are never happy, that doesn’t mean you can not be!

Don’t expect that your boss will award you, you can keep your confidence high just by jumping in the air and yelling “YES, I did it!“. Obviously do this in a manner that will not make you into an office clown.

9. Positive, positive, positive

Gratitude. Try to find one single thing in your job that you are grateful for. If you can’t find it, go to number 10 of this list.

Every time something good happen, write it down or remember it. You will be surprised to see that no matter how your work is stressful, there are plenty of positive sides to it.

As the song says: “Always look on the bright side of life”… It’s really easy, try it.

10. Quit your job

If nothing helps your and you become suicidal, your knees can not stay still for a minute, quit your job. Either this job is not for you, or the working environment is just to stressful.

Don’t torture yourself further or spend money on expensive therapy. If it is so stressful that you consider a therapy, it is not worth it. Try to switch jobs as soon as possible.

Enough of my babbling, it is time that you share your experience below in comments. What works for you?

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