This story first appeared on The Muse, a Web destination with exciting job opportunities and expert career advice. 

Hey there. How’s your day going?

Before you automatically blurt out, “Good!” or “It’s going!” like you usually do, take a deep breath, pause, and think about how you’re really doing.

Lately, have you experienced any of the following:

  • Troubling falling asleep?
  • Trouble staying asleep?
  • Weight gain (especially around your tummy)?
  • Weakened immune system (i.e., getting sniffly all the time)?
  • Low libido?
  • Stomach pain or digestive issues?
  • Panicky feelings or a racing heartbeat?
  • Headaches and muscle aches?
  • Cravings (especially for sugary and fatty foods)?
  • Moodiness or feelings of anxiety?

First things first, I apologize for sounding like a commercial. But if any of those sound familiar, you--like 80% of Americans--may be stressed out because of your job.

And stress plus work is not a good mix. One recent study indicates that going to work when you’re sleep-deprived--a common side effect of chronic stress--is just as bad as going to work buzzed on a few drinks. Your judgment, focus, memory, and problem-solving abilities become impaired when you’re tired, run down, and well, stressed. Which means it isn’t just bad for your body on a physiological level; it could also derail your performance at work, clog up your creativity, and hold you back from getting an award, promotion, or pay raise.

So what’s the solution? Can someone powerful just wave a magic wand over America and melt everyone’s stress levels away? That would be amazing--but, no.

It’s up to you to learn how to manage your emotions and keep your stress levels in check. Fortunately, it’s actually not that hard to do. You brush and floss daily to prevent plaque from forming on your teeth; you can take steps to prevent anxiety from building up, too.

Here are a few things you can do--starting tonight--to make tomorrow a much less stressful workday.

Tonight: Release Pent-up Emotions

A tension-free tomorrow begins today.

Tonight, after work, make time to do whatever you need to do to release pent-up emotions in a safe way. Run. Journal. Punch a punching bag or a pillow. Hurl paint on a canvas. Sing at the top of your lungs.

After a few minutes of the stress-relieving activity of choice, you’ll probably notice a shift in how you feel, as if a literal weight has been lifted. You’re already on your way to more relaxed workday tomorrow.

Tomorrow Morning: Start Your Day With an Empowering Reminder

When you wake up, tell yourself something like, “No matter what happens today, I am in charge of how I respond.”

Remind yourself that you can’t control what other people do, but you can always--always--remain in charge of your own choices and responses.

You can choose to munch chips in frustration as you race to meet a deadline, or you can opt to take a walk, clear your head, and then work calmly and steadily. You can choose to bottle up negative emotions, or you can elect to release them at the end of your workday--safely and in private.

As your stress levels start to climb, life can sometimes feel out of control--but it’s not. You’re in charge. You’re always in charge. Remembering this simple fact can provide a lot of peace and relief.

Throughout Your Workday: Schedule Deep Breathing Breaks

The simple act of taking a few deep, full breaths can immediately lower the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in your body.

Breathe and feel your anxiety levels drop. Breathe deeper--they’ll drop some more. This is one of the best stress-relief tools ever created, and it’s free and accessible at any time.

You may find it helpful to set a timer and schedule a breathing break once an hour or so. See if you notice a difference in how you feel as you move through your day.

At the End of Your Workday: Do an Emotional Check

Once you get home from work, take a mental inventory of your day. Ask yourself, “How did I do?” “How am I feeling?” and “Did anything make me feel especially stressed today?”

Mentally catalog or write down any situations that felt especially stressful, irritating, or anxiety-provoking. Then, later tonight, focus on releasing those emotions, just like you did last night. You’ll clear the decks for a good night’s sleep, unburdened by anxiety and negativity. And tomorrow? You can repeat these stress-management practices again.

You can’t always prevent buses from running late, bosses from planning poorly, or colleagues from stealing your yogurt or taking credit for your hard work. Irritating things happen in life and at the office. That’s the reality of our imperfect world.

But you can choose to take good care of yourself and develop healthy practices that keep you stress-free, even under the worst circumstances. Don't wait until your body has to scream to get your attention-;with stomach pains, insomnia, or collapsing at your desk from stress-induced exhaustion. Take small steps to clear away stress every day.

When you take care of your emotions and keep your feelings in check, you’ll be amazed at how much energy you have, how much you're able to achieve, and perhaps most importantly, how much more you enjoy your life and work. 

Published on: Nov 13, 2015
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