Here are five stress triggers and how to stop them.
1. Work Pressures
Change your schedule. When most people get in to work, they check their e-mail and voice mail. Save it for later. Spend your first hour, when you're the sharpest, on creative and strategic thinking. While you're at it, break down your day into specific tasks, rather than trying to juggle everything. Studies now show that a 50-minute task takes four times as long if you juggle too many tasks at once. "Are you a starter of all and finisher of none?" asks Julie Morgenstern, author of Making Work Work. If you can, pick one day a week to leave 30 minutes earlier than usual. "It feels like corporate suicide," Morgenstern says, but allowing yourself that early exit will keep you on deadline and make you hyperfocused to complete jobs more efficiently.
2. Personal Pressures
Change the habit, not the world. Destressing isn't about eliminating all of your stresses; it's about getting control of them, one at a time. To do that, you should make micro-adjustments in your life, not big ones that eventually add more stress, says Stan Goldberg, Ph.D., author of Ready To Learn. "What's important is whatever [changes you make to your routine] need to be small enough so that there is a minimal amount of difference between what you've been doing and what you now do," Dr. Goldberg says. If you're working on being prompt, get to every appointment 5 minutes earlier than normal. Successful change is permanent, not dramatic.
3. Self Care
Eat the anti-stress diet. When you're in stress mode, your insides produce more chemical reactions than Marie Curie's lab and you experience surges of the hormone cortisol and sugar levels that spike and plummet, which can leave you feeling under pressure and sluggish. Counteract those reactions with the right foods, says Elizabeth Somer, R.D., author of The Food & Mood Cookbook. For breakfast, avoid sugary cereals or breakfast bars and eat whole-grain cereal and a piece of fruit. Then pop a vitamin with at least 500 milligrams (mg) of calcium and 250 mg of magnesium. Magnesium, which is flushed out when stress rushes in, helps regulate those cortisol levels. For a snack, the crunch of veggie sticks or carrots helps release a clenched jaw and the tension headache you can get as a result of stress. Before bed, go with a light carbohydrate-rich snack, like toast and jam, to quicken the release of the feel-good hormone serotonin, which will help you sleep better.
4. Losing Personal Power
Always avoid "always". One of the biggest booby traps in your life is over generalizing, first dates never work out, she always gets promotions before me, he always arrives at least 5 minutes late. Unconsciously, using "always" and "never" steers you away from feeling that you have any control over changing the things that stress or worry you, says Daniel Amen, M.D., author of Change Your Brain, Change Your Life.
5. Emotional Symptoms
Schedule your emotions. If we let it, stress can eat away at us like a squirrel with a nut. That constantly worried mentality impedes decision-making, says Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Ph.D., author of Women Who Think Too Much: How to Break Free of Overthinking and Reclaim Your Life. She suggests you write down what you're worried about, then set aside some quiet time (say 30 minutes) to figure out solutions. That way, worrying won't disrupt your work, and you'll be able to think through the answers.