I worked for many years in the corporate world, both before and after teaching yoga. After I started teaching part-time, going to work seemed more and more unhealthy. The florescent lights, the constant stream of emails, the unpredictability of the flow of the day and dealing with stressful co-workers all made my blood pressure rise.
Now that I work for myself, I can say with certainly that my stress level around those issues has decreased, while it’s increased over other things (nothing is perfect, right?) But now that I have the perspective of working in both environments, I can share some of the tips I have for decreasing stress while working in a corporate setting. Many of these tips have little to do with exercise (although that’s a great stress-buster) but more to do with mindset, physical environment, nutrition and attitude.
Try some of these and see what you think:
- If you can work in natural light, do it. If this means you turn off the lights in your office or workspace and bring in a lamp, your body will thank you for it. Florescent lights are stressful to the nervous system and unfortunately are found in the majority of corporate settings.
- Bring a lunch, bring snacks from home, get healthy take-out or go out and eat healthy but whatever you do, stay away from the cafeteria. Unless you work in a very progressive workplace, chances are your on-site cafeteria is loaded with unhealthy food. While you get the convenience, you’ll pay for it in increased weight, blood pressure and cholesterol and decreased energy levels after lunch. If making your lunch is unrealistic, buy a healthy sandwich to enjoy.
- Take a walking break every hour. There are more and more articles out there about the detrimental affects of prolonged sitting. Get a drink of water. Make tea. Go to the bathroom. Walk up a few stairs. Your energy level will stay high, your blood pressure low and you’ll return to your desk with a fresh perspective.
- Park your ego and focus on getting stuff done. Too many projects get hung up because people are unwilling to work together. In any collaborative task, put your focus on the bigger picture. Be a leader in helping others do the same. After all, the sooner you get done, the better.
- Talk less. Listen more. We’ve all been in meetings where one person monopolizes the entire conversation. Like the suggestion above, this has much to do with people who love to hear the sound of their own voice and care little about the bigger picture. When you speak less, you actually have more energy to put towards getting things done.
- Type less and have more personal contact. This was one of my biggest challenges at work. I type fast, respond quickly and am constantly checking email. However, what I found was that my colleagues that didn’t respond to email as frequently but walked over to have quick, face-to-face conversations got more done, gained the respect of their peers, were viewed as a team player and were less inclined to have things misinterpreted. Although sending email can feel productive, you’ll forge stronger partnerships by taking a moment to chat in person.
- Judge less; do more. There’s a beautiful saying from A Course in Miracles that I love: “Today I will judge nothing that occurs.” I said this phrase repeatedly when I worked in a job where there were lots of changes in staff, job responsibilities and the actual physical environment where I worked. I used to get hung up in judging each change, making it “right” or “wrong.” When I re-read this saying, I realized that all of those thoughts were wasted energy. Instead of focusing on right or wrong (since I had no power to change the decision), I tried to focus on taking action on my projects and day-to-day tasks. At least in that way, I felt a bit more in control.
- Stay away from gossip and negative people. Usually these two things go hand in hand. Keep in mind that your energy is a valuable resource. Use it to be productive; less to be destructive. Re-direct gossipy co-workers to more productive topics. Spend your lunch break with someone you admire or someone that has a positive attitude.
- Lobby to bring in on-site wellness professionals to your workplace. As a yoga teacher, I teach corporate yoga classes and give wellness presentations on everything from stress management to living a life in balance. Whether it’s yoga, wellness coaches, onsite massage or acupuncture, ask your HR Department to bring some of these professionals into your office. It’s short money for improvements in both physical health and morale.
- Do your best. At the end of the day, if you do your best and give your all, you can go to bed at night with peace in your heart. Even on days when you don’t feel like you’re making good progress or you feel people are working against you, do your best. Stay professional and refrain from gossip. Set an example for your colleagues and see what happens.