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According to a recent study across 12 countries, stressed workers are unproductive. They are more likely to describe themselves as disengaged from the job at hand and also more likely to call in sick.

There are two ways to deal with stress: either work less or find ways to deal with the stress. If you want to be productive and succeed in the workplace, you are probably inclined to the latter.

Not only is decreasing stress important for your mental wellbeing, it will improve productivity at work and overall output. Successful people manage stress by taking time to understand how to release it and changing their habits with stress reduction is mind.

Here is why stress is a problem and what you can do about it.

How Stress Limits Productivity

A small amount of stress acts as a motivation to work, but too much will make working more difficult. This is due in part to the negative health consequences of stress. By increasing your heart rate, your blood pressure increases.

If this is sustained over a long period, you risk developing coronary heart disease or suffering a stroke. As your blood pressure increases, you will find yourself finding it harder to concentrate. This is your body encouraging you to take a break.

Sustained periods of stress can also take its toll on the digestive system, slowing down digestive activity. This, combined with higher cholesterol, weakens your immune system.

As a result, an overworked employee will find themselves taking more sick days. When they do come into work, they will be limited in how much they can get done.

To cope with stress, the brain has evolved to look for distractions. This is why you may find your concentration dropping, making tasks harder to complete. The urge to look out of the window or find some other way to unwind will increase.

This is why stressed workers often start to drink more alcohol, in an attempt to calm stress-related anxiety or simply distract themselves from work.

When stressed, you will start feeling tired, causing you to be late to appointments. This in turn damages relationships as you become more irritable. If you’re working on a team-based activity, the cohesion and harmony of the team will be diminished, so that achieving goals become more difficult.

Maintaining strong relationships is essential in any line of business, so you need to find a place of inner calm to become a more effective communicator.

Quick Tips to Destress

A true leader knows how to reduce stress. It starts with having a healthy routine.

Start with focusing on your diet. The stressed body craves sugars and saturated fats for an energy boost, but you should resist the urge to go down this route.

A varied and balanced diet includes plenty of fruit and vegetables. This will allow you to work harder for longer, without getting stressed.

Get all the essential vitamins and minerals, especially healthy fats such as omega-3 in oily fish. This will help your cognitive functions to perform at their very best. It will also keep cholesterol low, thereby off-setting some of the aforementioned consequences of too much stress.

You should also avoid drinking too much caffeine. In small doses, it will increase concentration. However, too much coffee will cause your heart to race, causing a surge of adrenaline and anxiety.

Since stress is already having this effect, adding to it is the last thing you need. Avoid caffeine in the late afternoon or evening because sleep is the most important time your body gets to truly relax and recharge.

Furthermore, exercise, either before or after work, acts as a great energy boost and stress reliever.

Invest in a gym membership and dedicate time to working out. This allows a break from staring at a computer screen and releases endorphins to increase happiness levels.

Stress will eventually contribute to feelings of depression, so any mood boosters are essential to help you maintain productivity.

There is also evidence that exercising frequently improves the quality of your sleep, meaning you need less sleep and have more time for work.

Moreover, a repetitive task such as running on a treadmill can act as a kind of meditation. This allows your mind to become clear and focused when you return to the office.

Other forms of meditation can help too. At the end of each day, you need to clear the mind of any worries so that you can get adequate rest to deal with stress. 

Mindfulness practice or yoga are the most popular forms of meditation and have been shown to reduce stress. If you are not working, you should be resting and recharging, so that you’re ready to start up where you left off with maximum productivity.

Ironically, the key to getting more done is to take the time to do nothing. To help you focus on work, minimize decision fatigue. If you get into the routine of wearing the same style clothes, eating the same breakfast, and having the same morning routine, then this part of your life will become automatic.

You will not be wasting brainpower and energy on less important tasks, meaning that you won’t get burnt out so quickly.

Have you ever noticed how Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs are always seen wearing more or less the same outfit? Even Obama is doing it. These hugely successful people are not immune to stress, they have just found a way to limit and manage it. Even small things like getting dressed in the morning takes some mental energy that can be best applied elsewhere.

If you want to make long-term progress, you need a way of managing stress. Just like muscles need rest between workouts to develop, your brain needs rest before it can get back to work.

Trying to work non-stop without breaks will ultimately mean you get less done, so get more done by dealing with stress more effectively.

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