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De-Stress at Work in 15 Minutes

You don't need much time to relax--and lower your blood pressure. Here are five easy tactics to try.
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You probably think of stress as a normal part of your work day--most of us do. And while a small amount of stress is part of every job, if you're getting seriously stressed out you should stop and give it some serious thought. Studies show a distinct connection between workplace stress and increased risk of such deadly ailments as heart disease, digestive disorders, sleep disorders, and obesity.

If you have 15 minutes to spare, you can avoid these disorders. Try these five tips, provided by Tom Gimbel, founder and CEO of LaSalle Network, a $33 million staffing firm based in Chicago.

1. Wake up earlier.

Ideally an hour earlier than you're used to, but even 15 minutes will help. With more time to relax in the morning you can read the paper over coffee, get in some early morning exercise or stretches, or have a leisurely shower.

That's a lot less stressful than flying through the door to your office just in time for your morning meeting. Starting out rushed can make you feel stressed all day. It's well worth rising a few minutes earlier to avoid it.

2. Post a quote in your work space that's meaningful to you.

And change it frequently enough that it doesn't just fade into the background. My office has this posted in it: "Did you do something scary today?" That's inspiring to me, though I'm not sure it would be to anyone else.

What motivates you may not work for anyone else in your company and vice versa. And that's OK.

3. Put family photos on display.

Sometimes just seeing your children's faces, or remembering that great vacation you took with your spouse can be enough to bring down your stress levels. So make sure to put out family photos in places that you can see easily. "And don't stop there!" Gimbel adds. "Put a picture of something you really want on your desk. It can be as small as a new watch or as ambitious as a new car."

4. Take a crying break.

I'm not suggesting that you start blubbering on your boss's desk, but crying is a healthy release that's virtually guaranteed to cut your stress level down to size. So the next time something upsetting happens at your job and you feel like crying, instead of forcing yourself to act professional, give in to the urge. Go outside for a few minutes and give yourself permission to sniffle, sob, or wail. "Crying clears your body and mind, so that you can get back to the action at hand," Gimbel explains.

5. Keep a journal.

Writing at work may make you seem odd to your employees, but writing in your journal even one day a week can noticeably reduce your stress levels. So block out at least 15 minutes once a week for journal writing, and see how much calmer it makes you feel.

Never journaled before? Not to worry--there are no rules. All you have to do is write down whatever you're thinking at that moment, safe in the knowledge that no one is ever going to see it (unless you decide to share) so you can truly write whatever you like. And you should. With fewer stress hormones in your system, you'll not only be happier at work, you'll be healthier and live longer as well.

Last updated: May 2, 2013

MINDA ZETLIN | Columnist | Co-author, The Geek Gap

Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and speaker, co-author of The Geek Gap, and president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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