You do yoga five days a week, meditate and splurge on a monthly massage. So why are you still feeling so agitated all the time?
Improving your work-life balance won’t just help you get ahead at the office. It can also improve the function of your body and mind, says the American Psychological Association. Living in a constant state of tension can put you at risk for major health problems — chronic pain, fertility issues, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes — to name a few.
Read on for six surprising ways stress can sneak up on you and how to get back to your “ohm.”
You’re Surrounded by Clutter
When the space you live or work in is cluttered, you’re adding unnecessary tension to your life. Thanks to how your brain processes visual information, it will automatically think “chaos” (even if you know exactly where everything is).
And the effect isn’t pretty: The visual interpretation of disarray will hurt your ability to focus, make you distracted and slow down your ability to interpret information. Clutter is particularly counterproductive at work.
Quick Fix: Carve out time to reorganize your space. Minimize the clutter and your brain will thank you for it. (Here are some tips on how to make your workspace work for you.
You Work With High-Strung People
Did you know that just being in the same space as high-strung people can make you feel stressed? Seeing someone become unglued can actually trigger the same physical response in you, according to a team of German researchers from Leipzig and Dresden.
Called “empathic stress,” this phenomenon causes your body to produce higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as if you’re the one under pressure.
Quick Fix: Give yourself a buffer. Change the configuration of your desk, so you face away from your stress-inducing culprits. Or, invest in some plants. A little greenery may do you some good, say Norwegian environmental psychologists.
You’re Too Social on Social Media
Research has shown that as social media use ramps up, users’ state of happiness declines.
University of Michigan researchers believe the computer deters actual physical interaction, “which has cognitive and emotional replenishing effects,” while triggering “damaging social comparisons” with friends’ and acquaintances’ digital personas. (A result that may disproportionately affect women, as we spend more time than men on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.)
Quick Fix: Balance is key. Remember, hyper-use is defined as spending more than three hours a day on social media sites or sending out more than 120 messages a day — so try to stay below this threshold. Chances are, your level of anxiety will drop as your usage does.
You’re Overshooting Your Paycheck
Spending more than you take home is one sure-fire way to stress yourself out. Money worries can creep into other areas of your life, fast.
Ever been in a meeting and you zone out because you’re worried about making your mortgage payment? It happens to the best of us. In fact, a recent survey from the American Psychiatric Association found that 67% of Americans are worried about paying their bills.
Quick Fix: Create a budget. We know, even the thought of building a budget can seem stressful, but it will be worth it. Knowing exactly how much money you have coming in and going out will help you gain control over your finances, which is a great step toward stress-free living.
You’re Too Serious
You may think staying focused will keep you from feeling stressed or overwhelmed, but taking a break from work is actually key to keeping your tension to a minimum.
When you embrace brief diversions after just 50 minutes of intense concentration, you’ll produce better results — and remain calm.
Quick Fix: Grab a cup of coffee with a friend, or just take a walk around the block. You may think that you’re taking precious time away from your looming deadline, but in reality, you’re helping to meet it as you’ll be more focused when you return.
You Work In An Open-Space Floor Plan
Can’t shake that feeling of being overwhelmed most days? Don’t blame your project manager. It could be the fault of your work-space design.
From the cacophony of noise around you to the level of overhead light you can’t control, those who sit in partition-less zones tend to have significantly higher levels of stress, say Harvard researchers.
Quick Fix: Try to convince your superiors to let you work from home more often. It will have very real effects on your tension level — and performance — according to a recent Stanford study. Home workers had a 13 percent performance increase and said their stress decreased by 25 percent. Now, that’s a relief.