A new science report has claimed that constantly checking work emails on our phones is a 'toxic source of stress'.
The study, from the London-based Future Work Centre, says notifications from our inbox trigger feelings of tension and worry, and that if we want to de-stress we should throw our phones in the nearest river. Sorry – we mean turn the email applications off.
Whether that sounds like a simple tweak to your daily routine or a life-altering step into the unknown will depend entirely on what you do and your attitude towards it, but it is hard to argue with the basic idea from a health point of view.
Stress, after all, is now the biggest cause of work absenteeism in the UK after the 'big two' – colds and bad backs, collectively known as hangovers – and has a negative impact on all areas of your life.
We've all heard how eating healthily and exercising regularly are the most important ways to combat stress, but what about smaller changes you can make to your every day?
Here are a few that work for us which, you'll be please to hear, don't include sitting in a dark room somewhere meditating twice a day. Though we've heard that helps too.
1 | Pick your outfit and pack your bag the night before
"Where the hell did I put my tie / folder / wallet?" is the first battle cry of a stressful day. Get your shit together the night before instead, and you'll wake up feeling immediately in control, with more time on your side.
2 | Make (shorter) to do lists
The problem with making to-do lists is that they can end up being so long, they compound rather than alleviate your sense of having too much on. Have a long list and using that, make a new one each morning of 1-3 tasks you can nail that day. (Alternatively, making one just before home time for the following day is great for clearing your mind.) There are some excellent apps to help if a pad and pencil is too old school for your tastes.
3 | Be early
Make a decision to be ten minutes early for every working day, meeting or event and you'll immediately eliminate a major source of stress: running late (not to mention impress your boss). Some people set their watch to run early to help: if you do that, remember to tweak the clock on your computer screen too.
4 | Set a clear boundary between work and home
Few of us clock in and out of work anymore, so adopting the strict 9-5 attitudes of our forefathers is probably unrealistic. But then so is the 'available all hours', work-martyr complex of today. Make a decision that after, say, an hour of leaving the office, you won't take work calls or check on your emails. Make the same rule for the morning and wait an hour before you're due to start work - i.e. on your commute, not while you're still lying in bed - before you check in. Leaving those gaps will make very little difference to the so-called 'problem at work' but a world of difference to your stress levels.
5 | Be tidy
Some people are naturally – perhaps even a little neurotically – tidy. Others claim mess makes no difference to them at all. But even if you think you fall into the latter category, it's amazing how much de-cluttering your work spaceand putting things in their right place can sooth and clear the mind. A simple tip is to spend the final five minutes before you leave the office each day tidying straightening out your desk, so in the morning, you can start with a clean slate.
6 | Take half an hour a day to relax
OK, we are going to mention mediation here, but only as part of a list that could include anything from reading, running, Sudoku, yoga, painting, cooking, listening to music on your headphones or creating matchstick models like your man from The Wire – anything, basically, that focuses your mind and absorbs your attention. Find something you enjoy that isn't staring passively at a screen (TV, in other words) and grant it an uninterrupted slot of your time every day (that means no checking your phone).
7 | Don't underestimate the power of three deep breathes
Whether it is in the park near the office or just locked in a quiet toilet cubicle, never underestimate the proven physiological benefits of stopping still and breathing in and out as deeply as you can for as long as you can. If you calm your body down, your thoughts will follow: it is as simple as that.
8 | Use this easy de-stress technique
In moments when you feel overwhelmed by a problem, ask yourself honestly: will I care about this in 6 months time? A year? Two years? More often than not, the answer will be no, and the sense of perspective will help relax you. Failing all of this: hit the pub.