A Five Minute Stress Reduction Break

In today’s high stress workplace, even a five-minute break can bring relief.

Employees in today’s high stress workplace, where longer hours and fewer vacations have become the norm, should get up and get out of the office for at least five minutes every few hours. My expertise comes from years of business consulting, authoring “Time Management Secrets for Working Women”, and my coaching practice.

If the boss won’t let you take a five-minute vacation from your desk, then take a five-minute vacation in your mind. Turn your attention away from work for a mini, non-work related “vacation” of five minutes and you will reduce your level of stress and come back to work refreshed and refocused.

In my book, Time Management Secrets for Working Women, I describe employees increasingly turning to go-to help from books and Web sites in order to obtain help through a 40-hour work week that is approaching 50 hours for many full-time workers. The success of this book to both a male and female audience pushed it ahead of it’s own marketing schedule by two years and resulted in a second printing.

Are you addicted to your cell phone, your email or other technologies like Instant Messenger? They streamline work, and they also sabotage and stress you if you are hooked in to them 24/7. I’m always surprised by clients who check their email immediately upon waking up and answer every cell phone call at any time of the day.

Unless you’re a doctor or in another profession requiring 24/7 attention, turn off your cell phone and resolve to answer it only at two scheduled times of the day. Lack of control is a huge factor in workplace stress. You will always have an enormous incoming workload, but you will also always be able to control how you respond to it.

I advise my coaching clients to not check email immediately upon waking up, but rather after making a to-do list for the day and then circling two, and only two tasks to accomplish first. You will absolutely feel overwhelmed if you write down a list of 10 or 20 assignments. Deliberately choosing to focus on completing only two tasks (and not the rest of the huge list) will keep you stabilized throughout the day. Don’t get addicted to the sound of the Pavlov’s dog bell of incoming email. Only check it at pre-scheduled times. Constantly checking your email can rob you of time and distract you from the tasks in front of you.

Two recent studies confirm my campaign to persuade employers to become more proactive in recognizing workplace stress and allowing employees an adequate number of breaks, fewer all-employee meetings and other practices that often serve to only exacerbate daily stress levels.

A recent study from the University of California-Irvine reports a direct link between overwork and high blood pressure, and another study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that workplace stress can be contagious.

Employers concerned about the high cost of health care should take note that workplace stress can take a huge physical toll on their workers. That workplace stress can be contagious also goes straight to the bottom line in threatening efforts to boost workforce productivity. Employers and managers who lose control can, in turn, face the same major ingredient for high stress.

Employers should encourage more defined work breaks to create an atmosphere that will allow employees to step back from their desks a few times each day, and to earn a day off with no strings attached. Is every meeting productive? Consider shortening the length and numbers of meetings to allow employees to focus on immediate tasks without distractions that can add to their stress.