If you want to manage stress, sleep. Although I admire the enthusiasm and energy of people who live by the adage “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” I could never join their ranks. On days following restless nights, I struggle to focus, to keep organized and even to hold conversations. All of those things, of course, lead to increased stress.
One other thing is a very close second for me: exercise. I jokingly refer to running as my “free therapy” and have a few routines I do at the office when I’m feeling stressed, unfocused or just “off.”
Even though I work from my home office most days, I’m still not interested in sweating during the workday, so my exercises during those hours have to be low-key. Here are my suggestions:
- Keep a pair of dumbbells beside your desk. When I realize I’m losing focus or feeling frustrated, I pick up my 10-pound dumbbells and do three quick sets of 10 bicep curls, 10 lateral raises and 10 shoulder presses. I complete all three sets in less than two minutes, and the exercises get my blood pumping just enough that I’m immediately able to refocus. On a typical day, I might do this routine one to three times.
- Lie down and do a plank. Planks are great for work because you can do them in as little as 30 seconds and still benefit. The exercise consists of lying face-down and holding yourself up in a straight line with your elbows and forearms. It’s much tougher than it looks and works your whole core. I usually do two 1-minute planks a day, especially when I’m feeling sore from sitting at a desk for too long.
- Walk at lunch. Winter might not be the best time to suggest this, depending on how cold it gets outside. When it’s not too cold or hot, though, I try to take a 10- to 30-minute walk most days during my lunch break. When I return I feel refreshed and ready to get back to work. Added benefit: I do some of my best thinking on those walks.
I’m not a fitness guru by any means, but I find that these simple exercises—along with running in the mornings and evenings—make a big difference for me. On days when I make time for exercise, I feel calmer and more focused. Plus, there are the indirect benefits. Working out makes me feel fitter, and that makes me more confident in many situations—including at work. And, bringing this post full circle, I find that on days when I exercise, I sleep much better too, meaning I’ll be less stressed the following day.
How do you exercise at work?