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Effective habits for getting on top of stress at work

Managing job pressure starts with planning, writes Mark Simmonds


Creative agency boss and author Mark Simmonds

Creative agency boss and author Mark Simmonds

Mark Simmonds runs his own creativity agency GENIUS YOU and is the author of new book Beat Stress at Work

Mark Simmonds runs his own creativity agency GENIUS YOU and is the author of new book Beat Stress at Work


Creative agency boss and author Mark Simmonds

The pandemic has turned the world of work upside down for many of us. The new hybrid way of working, in particular, will enable many employees to bring their best selves to work, whether that is in the office or at home.

However, protecting your wellbeing, wherever you are, still requires work on your part. These would be my seven tips:

1. Construct your office oasis

Create a workspace at home which you can call your own. Whether you are lucky enough to have a spare room or whether all you can secure is a small corner of the living room, personalise the space as far as possible.

My little home office is awash with colourful pens and post-it note pads, littered with potted plants, and the walls are adorned with photos of loved ones and inspiring seascapes.

Personalising your space in the office should be no less of a priority. You are a human being, wherever you work. Respect that.

2. Develop a holistic timetable

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Every evening, before I shut up shop, I plan out the next day, from the moment I get up to the point at which I turn off the lights at night.

The plan is a balanced mix of work stuff and fun stuff, and the latter always includes tiny moments of pleasure sprinkled across the day.

Romping around the garden with the dog for 10 minutes, enjoying some chocolate digestive biscuits at tea time, annoying my wife (playfully) whilst she is trying to work — small injections of joy are good for the spirits. Once again, the same holistic principles apply if you are office-bound from 9am to 5pm.

3. Move with your mood

Respect your circadian rhythms, the physical, mental and behavioural changes that affect your body and brain during any 24-hour cycle.

I am in my home office for the first couple of hours of the day because that’s when my mind is at its productive best. I migrate to our ‘Costa kitchen’ late morning to give my brain a break.

Take a bit of outside time late afternoon to let the mind wander aimlessly and give those neurotransmitters the chance to connect and collide.

I take a steaming-hot bath last thing at night to reward myself for a good day’s work and prepare myself for a sound night’s sleep.

4. Exercise as much as possible

A gazillion people have said that exercise is good for mental wellbeing. Why? Because it is an undisputed biological fact that exercising goes hand-in-hand with good mental health.

You sleep better because you are more tired at the end of the day. You are happier because physical activity releases endorphins, making you feel better in yourself. And your self-esteem improves because you are achieving something positive. That makes it a gazillion and one now.

5. Keep sufficiently connected

Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, pinpoint the optimum amount of connectivity with others that works for you.

Your mental welfare can be affected either positively or negatively by how much or how little social interaction you enjoy with others. Adjust the volume level accordingly.

Also remember that if you do find yourself sliding down the slippery slope of mental ill-health, open up to others around you sooner rather than later.

6. Disconnect from all things digital

During the pandemic, we have, at times, never felt so isolated, and yet we have never been more connected.

Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn… where is your oasis of calm in the digital desert? And what are you doing to protect it?

7. Find your therapy

A plethora of different therapies have emerged during the last decade or two, each designed to maintain wellbeing: meditation, mindfulness, yoga and Pilates to name but a few.

I discovered the power of the 30-minute mid-afternoon nap (aka ‘internal meeting’) to help me relax and recharge the batteries. Where will you invest your 30 minutes a day?

So, whether you are working in the office, at home or in a local coffee shop, you must take personal responsibility for managing your own wellbeing if you want to remain at your productive and creative best, because nobody else will.

- Mark Simmonds runs his own creativity agency GENIUS YOU and is the author of new book Beat Stress At Work

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