How To De-Stress From Work

You know it's going to be one of those weeks when you sit down at your desk on Monday morning, blink and it's 6pm. Your inbox resembles the aftermath of a Uni campus kebab shop, the to-do list is now spread over two pages and there's a sense of rising panic constricting your throat. Cue the late nights, early alarms and a bitter kiss goodbye to any kind of a life. Four weeks ago, this was me. I was a mess. A crying, sweating, stressful mess who by the evening, couldn't even find the words to construct a simple sentence. It was that bad. So, when Monday came around again, I promised myself I wasn't going to lose another week of my life to the never-ending abyss of work. This blog post has been a long time coming and I'm by no means now "cured", but these tips worked for me and maybe, maybe, they could work for you too!
Before we get stuck into it, I just want to caveat that these past few week when I have somewhat achieved more of a work/life balance, it hasn't been at the expense of effort, motivation, or giving anything less than 100% to my job. I've just made a few subtle changes to my head space that has allowed me to place emphasis on the things that make me feel better in myself; namely my diet, my exercise regime, and most importantly, my sanity. It wasn't easy, I have to admit. There were times I had to have a stern word with myself and I hate being told off! So, here's how I did it...

There is beauty in the simplicity of this one but I found it to have a profound effect on my state of mind. A job never comes with an end point. It's a never-ending stream of emails, requests and tasks. Your role is a series of projects with various deadlines and you know once one project is complete no sooner will the next one be upon you (or three). Once you actually say it aloud, it's so obvious! To that point, what is working until 10pm every night going to achieve? It's an impossible task to get your job done. You have to draw the line somewhere and it's down to you to determine whether that line is a hard finish at 6/7/8pm or "the line is a dot to you" and you're chasing a phantom hope of satisfaction striving for the unachievable 'job done' moment. How I used this to my advantage this week was to ensure that I was a) effectively prioritising throughout the day so I knew all urgent matters were dealt with (a to-do list helps here) and b) I acknowledged and reflected on the hard day's work I had put in. I thought about it like this; If I was working for my own company, would I be pleased with the bang I'd got for my buck?

This literally started by turning off my email notifications on my iPhone. Simple and effective but I hadn't quite realised how much I remained on 'high alert'. Given I work in a global company with offices in multiple timezones, the emails never cease! When your work phone and personal phone are one and the same, it's hard to be so disciplined to leave work at the office. Last Saturday morning, I made the point of switching off my emails and held strong until I was back in the office. I kept this discipline of switching off my work emails as I left the office which felt like a daily victory. I'd often contemplated this idea but was always terrified of how out of control my inbox would be without this, however I found I was more focused and productive during the hours I sat at my desk. I've stopped waking up, switching off my alarm and seeing straight away 35 unread emails - throat constricts, absolutely can't breath and a horrible start to each day. Plus, what is going to be really so urgent that reading an email at 11pm at night will do anything but ruin your evening and make for a fretful night's sleep. One my favourite quotes from my days working at L'Oreal was "It's PR, not ER!"
There's a reason holding your pulse-points is soothing and that's because you stop, focus and breathe. Breath is the most underrated asset we have in our arsenal which literally has the power to change our physical and mental responses to stress. Stop and count to ten. During an average day, I'd be terrified to see how many adrenaline spikes I punish my body with. I really challenged this on Tuesday early afternoon after a string of back-to-back meetings and raised action points when things just got overwhelming. To break the pattern, I stood up from my desk and walked to the kitchen to make a coffee. On the way, I took several deep breaths and forced my shoulders to drop. 'I can't do it all' I said to myself but I can get through this by compartmentalising and effectively prioritising. Stepping away from your desk forces your body to move and deep breaths can really help release some of that tension. Make a drink, take a quick breather - stop the anxiety in its tracks and talk to yourself calmly - you got this, girl!
I'm an emotional eater. Possibly the biggest emotional eater. We were chatting in the office about those of us cursed with this trait who wish we could be the 'too-nervous-to-eat' kind of stress-head. Instead, and rather unfortunately, I find the hand to mouth action rather soothing (I blame my mother, it must be something to do with my childhood!). Looking back at my final year of University, those crucial last weeks writing my dissertation and I barely left my desk except to pop to the loo and stock up on Minstrels from the corner-shop. Time for a nice nutritional meal? No way! Constant feeding of chocolatey treats? Absolutely.

These days my daily dependency in the working world is Diet Coke. Something about the fizz and all the E-numbers my body craves and I have a stupid association between a productive afternoon and this canned drink. But this week, in a bid to increase my overall wellness, I swapped it for Kombucha which is a rather tasty preoiotic drink to aid digestion, mood and mental stability. Thank you Liz Earle for the tip via 'At Home With' series by The Anna Edit and Lily Pebbles. Flavoured with Pink Lady Apples, it really is a delightful tasting drink. It's not giant leap for mankind but for me, this was monumental. A fizzy drink that is a) good for you and b) good for you. Every sip and I felt like my body wasn't getting bloated by the greedy stress-ball within!
As most of you will know from reading my blog over the past year, I'm very lazy when it comes to exercise. It took a looming wedding and revealing wedding dress to get any kind of gym dedication out of me. Now there is no similar motivation (sorry Ryan, welcome to married life), or so I thought until I realised my clothes were getting tighter. Maybe the launderette machines were shrinking them? At the end of a working day there's barely enough energy left in me to stay awake on the subway ride home, let alone squeeze into some exercise leggings and burn come calories. Thanks to ClassPass though, I discovered and fell in love with Physique 57. Having realised in Spring this year how bad my mental head space was and identifying that my lack of exercise could easily be exacerbating the situation, I took control and booked a month's unlimited pass to the studio. I was in a great groove of weekend classes but weekdays? Nuh-uh. At my most-stressed point, I didn't make it to a single class and I could feel myself getting more and more down about it as the week went on. This week, I turned it around. I checked the night before for the timetable so I could know exactly where I had to be and when. And I made a point of leaving on time. On one occasion I had to bring my laptop home as I hadn't got everything done but I wasn't prepared to let it be at expense of my exercise class. After a day of mental exhaustion, there's nothing more satisfying, I have found, that the physical exertion of overloading your muscles and clearing your head by the sheer concentration that's required at the barre!

It wasn't uncommon for a day to go by where I wouldn't leave the office at all between arriving and leaving. In the Winter, I barely see daylight. Once I'm in, I'm sucked in and it's very hard to get away.
And I'm pale so you can bet what that did for my complexion! So I figured 'Rose by name, Rose by nature', I need a little fresh air and water to bloom! Fifteen minutes outside of the office to stretch my legs and soak up some Vitamin D is just what the doctor ordered. And realistically, what harm is fifteen minutes in the schemes of things? I'm working my way up to the full hour (I can hear my New York colleagues gasping at the sheer thought...!)
This has the most calming effect on me but having the time to do it is another thing! So, I made a point to enjoy each 12 minute subway journey to and from work to sit on my Kindle app and just read. This has stopped me getting irate at the dropping WiFi connection and frantically iPhone typing a response to work emails and meant I savour a little of the calm before the storm. I've just finished reading Giovanna Fletcher's 'Billy and Me' which was just delightful and provided an escape into the British countryside for a dose of baking and romance! I'm now tucking into my AUTUMN READING LIST - check out the blog post here.

So there you have it...small steps for mankind but a giant leap for my sanity. I hope if even one of these points works for you then it was worth writing! Is there anything that really works for you to help switch off or battle with stress? I'm always up for more recommendations to keep me on this path! Sharing is caring, after all.


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