It’s Monday ― again. Your brain is ping-ponging between urgent high priority tasks, a never-ending stream of emails, and an overdue report that’s been haunting you for weeks. You have two choices: soldier on through the chaos and get home exhausted and frustrated, or create a happier, brighter workday for yourself.
Impossible? You may think so now. But once you read (and actually try) these five highly ridiculous strategies, you’ll realize that it’s entirely possible to pivot your workday just by tweaking your personal attitude.
Here are five ridiculous yet worthwhile ways to keep yourself going when your workday gets tough.
One: For 30 Seconds, Move in Slow Motion
When you first walk into the office and sit down at your desk, you may feel a surge of anxiety quickly take hold of you, like a stress-crested tsunami. You may find yourself speaking fast, typing emails even faster, and power-walking to your next destination. You’re trying to keep the stress tsunami at bay, but ultimately an increased sense of urgency is only going to lead to a total meltdown by EOD.
Here’s a little strategy I’ve discovered based on years of anxiety-fueled A.M. hurrying: instead of speeding up, slow down. For 30 entire seconds (NO CHEATING), move at half speed. If you have two tasks open in front of you, put one of them aside. Slow down your body movements, slow down your thoughts, slow down your emails. You will be amazed how much more calm and in control you feel after the 30 seconds are up. Try it!
Two: Laugh So Hard That Bad Coffee Spews Out of Your Nose
If you have a few minutes while your coffee is brewing, take time to make yourself laugh as hard as possible. My go-to source for sidesplitting laughter is YouTube, but you might get your fix from a funny image saved on your laptop, an unforgettable text from a friend, or just a really, really ridiculous memory.
Conjure up something that’ll get you laughing hard, then give yourself complete freedom to lose it. Laugh as hard as you want to, and as loud as you want to, for as long as you want to. You will feel both a physical and a mental relief, and you’ll still be pleasantly laid-back and quietly chuckling during some of the biggest meetings and crises of your day.
Three: Help Someone (Anyone!)
Sometimes we get so caught up in our own anxieties that we can’t see past our own noses. If you feel like you are swimming in stress, it’s time to reach out. When we help others our bodies release a hormone called oxytocin, which buffers stress and helps us maintain social trust and tranquility. Along with oxytocin are the other chemicals like dopamine, which is a mood-elevating neurotransmitter. These drugs tend to push aside negative emotions and reduce the stress level.
Look for an opportunity, either in the office or outside of it, to help someone. This could be as simple as offering to help a confused-looking old lady find her destination, or reaching out to a co-worker who looks upset and offering him or her a patient listener.
Whatever opportunity you find, use the time to completely focus on what the other person is feeling and saying. Put all of your own problems and concerns aside, and really tune in. When you’re finished, you’ll feel that good-deed glow AND experience an adjusted sense of perspective. It’s a tiny way to get in touch with the wide world outside of your anxiety blinders.
Four: Don’t Walk ― RUN Out of the Office
There’s really no substitute for this tip: when your day begins to boil over, you need to get away. If you keep your stress bottled up inside of the environment that is causing the stress in the first place, you’ll go home with tension etched into your muscles, bones, and brain. By the time you get home, there will be nothing left but an apathetic deflated balloon, and you’ll end up passing your night zombie-fied on the couch in front of Modern Family reruns.
Break the cycle and take a walk. If stepping outside the office for fresh air doesn’t take you far enough away, walk a lap around the block and people-watch, or head to a nearby dog park and watch some puppies run and play. While you’re out there, let your mind clear and focus on the sights and sounds that are right in front of you. You’ll head back with a dutiful reminder that there is more to life in this world than your agitated internal work-iverse.
Five: Use Your Lunch Break to Act Like a Kid
Your lunch break is a fantastic opportunity to get in touch with the strong, positive vibes that will carry you through the remainder of the day. If you spend that time complaining to a co-worker or venting to your partner, you’ll probably end up feeling just as stressed and pressed by the time your break is over. Instead, do something out-of-the-box during your lunch break to clear your head.
Some effective suggestions from my own experience: buy yourself an indulgent ice cream cone and eat it with reckless abandon. Pick up some kid candies from your local drugstore, like Pop Rocks or Blow Pops, and intermittently thrill yourself with a little sugar-coated fun while you’re wrestling with your daily priorities. Stop and pet a dog. I mean really get into it: rub its little belly, pat its head, ask about its name and its breed, bond with the owner, then set it on its merry tail-wagging way.
All it takes is the right combination of initiative, fun, and engagement to get your mind out of the grinding gears of your workday stressors. Slow your roll, laugh aloud, help out, get out, or get silly: just don’t panic. It’s never too late to turn your day around and start shining again.