Under Pressure


Easing back into work after the holidays is tough. From demanding bosses and pressing deadlines to mind-numbing monotony, the office is a stressful place. Reports show 60% of the global workforce is under the gun, with more than 80% of American workers reporting serious stress at work.

That stress causes our blood pressure to rise, and our immune response and sex drive to plummet. Forty percent of us overeat due to stress, and 20-30% of us bump up our bar tabs. On top of all of that, it could be ruining our careers.

Impression management, actively monitoring our behavior to influence how others see us, is an important skill in the workplace. Research shows that individuals who scored high on a measure of self-monitoring were more likely to get promoted and have a successful career than their less tactful counterparts. The more time we spend under pressure, however, the less able we are to manage our behavior. Eventually, we let down our guard and behave in ways that could damage our reputations and our careers.

I know, that’s a lot to take in. Before you freak out, I’m here to help. Below are four of the top relaxation techniques I’ve come to live by (after 10 minutes of browsing Google search results).

1. Breathe. In an interview with Intuit, author and serenity expert Kate Hanley said “When we get stressed, we tend to hold our breath in. This exercise gets any stale air out (as well as any tension that we may be holding on to) and encourages deep, energizing inhales to flow in effortlessly: Sit with both feet flat on the floor, and on the edge of your chair seat so your body is not pressed against the chair back. Inhale to a count of three then exhale to a count of six. Repeat five to 10 times.”

2. Stretch. Yogawiz.com recommends working yoga into your workday with six yoga poses that can be done from your chair, including neck rolls, a modified cat cow, seated forward bend, seated spinal twist, something called “eagle arms”, which sounds awesome, and rubbing your temples. Find the full routine here.

3. Ease up your caffeine intake. In an interview with Women’s Health Magazine, author Talane Miedaner said “Caffeine stimulates the adrenals, giving the illusion of accomplishment because you’re rushing. Substitute your stop-and-regroup java hit for a protein snack (like nuts) to balance energy and moods when the pressure’s on.”

4. Listen to music. When you’re feeling overwhelmed at the office, it helps to have a power song. Mine is either “Holy Diver” by 1980s heavy metal demigod Ronnie James Dio and “Firework” by Katy Perry. Or, if you’re not the triumphant power song type, you can listen to this song, which was recently scientifically proven to be the most relaxing song ever written.

For more information about how stress affects your ability to manage people’s impressions of you, check out our complimentary ebook, 11 Ways to Wreck Your Career.