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Five Steps to Beating Stress

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30/09/14 | Posted by Administrator

What’s your best tip for beating stress?

Five Steps to Beating Stress (without pill-popping, caffeine-swilling or booze-chugging) - Julie McMahon

The end of the financial year is here and with it, the excessive stress that accompanies those who make a living in the financial and accounting worlds.

But before you or your employees decide to exit the profession in a mad whirlwind of flying papers and maniacal laughter, consider a few methods of lessening the stress in your work life first: 

  1. Meditate. It’s not always easy to slow yourself down into a meditative state, but the benefits are well researched. According to a 2012 review of 100+ studies done by the American Psychological Association, meditation can reduce anxiety and negative emotions as well as decrease blood pressure (all key to staving off that midday office meltdown).

    But if you are hesitant to commit to a full-blown meditation exercise, consider short periods of quiet, deep breathing. If you can spare six minutes, head over here for a short relaxation escape. Finally, if still in doubt over the benefits of meditation, can you recall the last time you saw a Buddhist monk losing it?

  2. Exercise. That build-up of stress within can make us feel as if we are near exploding, so head to the gym to let it out. Run fast, punch hard or jump into a spin class until the sweat is flowing. Researchers believe that exercise increases the endorphins in your body, resulting in what is sometimes called a “runner’s high”. The endorphins act as natural painkillers, which not only decrease feelings of anxiety, but allow you to return to greater levels of concentration. Now where did those reports go?
  3. Channel your Oprah. If stress is overwhelming you, take five minutes to write down all the things for which you are grateful. Include both big (E.g. your family and your health) and little things (E.g. your hot coffee this morning). Now imagine one of those bigger items disappearing and think about how it would make you feel. By switching your focus temporarily from the work in front of you to other aspects of your life, you can regain some perspective. Yes, your work is a major aspect of your life, but it’s important to remember the bigger picture as well.
  4. Make a schedule. When your work is piling up, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. While your instinct may be to put your head down and plow through the piles in front of you (or in the alternative, procrastinate with just one more trip to the break room to see if a tray of muffins have magically appeared), take a moment to organise yourself first.

    List all the work ahead of you in order of priority and then break each task down into smaller steps. Use a calendar to schedule when each task will get done, remembering to schedule periodic breaks for you as well. Then, be sure to physically cross off each item as it gets completed. Having visual evidence of your progress is psychologically satisfying.

  5. Go hug a tree. A study from the University of Michigan showed that subjects who took a break by strolling through a natural environment increased their ability to perform memory and attention tasks by 20% over those who walked through a busy city street.

No park nearby? Change your desktop image to a nature scene and take a few moments to focus on it periodically. Additionally, consider a plant or two for your desk- as long as you are able to keep plants alive. While no studies have been done on the effect of dead foliage on your mental health, it probably isn’t good.

So remember that a stapler isn't a weapon, a paper shredder should shred only paper and 30th June is just another day of the year. With some conscientious efforts to fight the stress in your life, you can get through this time without losing your health, sanity and/or future career prospects.

But don’t worry if you can’t get a handle on your stress this time around. There will be another Financial Year End in roughly 365 days. You've got time to practice.