How to find calm when your job is the worst

You know that feeling when your boss is giving you a thousand things to do (and all of them need to be done right now, by the way) in addition to the laundry list of tasks you already have on your list? “Stressed” doesn’t even being to describe how you might feel.

Chances are, things are going to go one of two ways at this point: you’re either going to work ridiculous hours to get it all done (which means you won’t have time to eat well or exercise or even see your family so you’ll just feel like crap) or you’ll reach the point of overwhelm where you don’t know what to do first and so you don’t do anything (and then you’ll worry about losing your job).

Either way, you aren’t going to be able to think straight until you get your stress levels (and heart rate and blood pressure) down. Sounds great in theory, but not so easy in practice, right?

It’s not as difficult as you might think.

Here are a few options:

  • Breathe. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing has been proven to help you relax, among other things. To do it, put one hand on your belly and one on your chest. As you inhale, breathe into your stomach so that it pushes your hand out. The hand on your chest should move after your belly is fully expanded, if at all. Take a few breaths and see how you feel.
  • Meditate. If you want something to focus on, do the above breathing but to a guided meditation. Apps like Headspace or 1 Giant Mind are great and have options for everything from one minute to 20 minutes or more. If you’re new to meditation, don’t worry about clearing your mind or not getting distracted. Thoughts are going to pop up, so just notice it when it happens and then come back to your breath.
  • Go for a walk. Get away from your desk, whether it’s taking a lap up the stairs, going out to your car for a minute, or walking around the building. Moving will get out some of your anxious energy and give you a mental break.
  • Take your lunch away from your desk. Again, get away from your desk and your work. Giving yourself a mental break will allow you to be more focused when you get back.
  • Do something fun. Even if you just plan to go to one fun thing a week, put it on your schedule. “Something fun” can be happy hour, dance class, shopping trip, dinner with a friend, watching The Bachelor—whatever you decide is your something fun, add it to your calendar and make time for it.
  • Bring snacks to work. Hangry is never a good spot to be in, so pack a few snacks at the beginning of the week to take to work with you each day.
  • Spray some essential oils. Lavender is a nice scent that probably won’t bother anyone else in your office and is a common calming oil. Other good options are cinnamon, cedarwood, grapefruit, eucalyptus, orange, sandalwood, clary sage, lemongrass, or peppermint. These scents can be both calming and energizing. You don’t have to spray them either – just smell the oil in a bottle, rub it on your wrists, or get an essential oil diffuser bracelet (they’re usually made from porous lava beads that hold the scent).

No matter what strategy you choose to destress, the important thing is that you pick something that you will actually do. And practice it often, not just when you’re feeling super stressed. If you make something a habit, it will be easier to do when you need it the most.

What would you add to this list? What have you found to be helpful to destress throughout the day when your job is particularly difficult?

2 Responses
  1. These are great tips, Abbie. Something I’ve noticed about myself: It’s exactly when I think I can’t afford to take a break that I most need to do so! I catch myself thinking, ‘I don’t have time to regroup!’ and I use that as my little red flag that immediately setting aside even 15 minutes to get well in my head must become my very next task—before I can even begin to think about conquering the next to-do on my list. Thanks to you, I’m going to incorporate the essential oil option into my routine; I suspect that something decidedly sensory like this one could help to snap me out of my racing thoughts and into the physical present.

    1. Abbie

      Thanks, Helen! And that’s totally it – when you feel the most overwhelmed and the most like you absolutely *can’t* take a break is the time you need it the most!

      I also like combo oils. DoTerra’s On Guard is supposed to be an immune system/protective blend, but it combines so many wonderful scents (orange, clove, cinnamon, eucalyptus, rosemary) that it is really helpful when I need a calming boost!

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