Obviously my doctor was listening between the lines. As soon as I finished describing the five minor ailments that finally led me to schedule an appointment, he asked “Are you under a lot of stress?” He nailed that diagnosis.
Work had been very stressful, and it was taking a toll on me.
He treated the minor ailments and wrote this prescription for me:
I still keep his prescription under the clear cover on my desk. It reminds me that to manage stress at work I need to take care of myself at home.
To fill the doctor’s prescription at the time, I had to do two things. The first was to recognize that while arriving early and working late can manage short bursts of intensity at work, it isn’t sustainable in the long term. The second was to train my mind to think relaxing thoughts at bed time.
When my brain raced with thoughts about work, I forced it to slow down and think about something else. I read for enjoyment until I was sleepy. I consciously focused on relaxing each part of my body, from the toes up. I thought about a hobby.
Today I have good sleep habits that are in line with recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation:
- I don’t drink caffeine near bedtime. In fact, most days I limit my caffeine to one large mug of tea in the morning.
- I go to bed and wake up at the same time throughout the week. It might vary by an hour on the weekend, but it’s close. Note: Researchers from Pennsylvania State University say you can’t really “catch up” on sleep. Even after sleep-deprived people rest longer for two nights, their performance on skill tests still suffers.
- I make my bedroom a sleep-friendly environment. I don’t have a television or computer in my bedroom. I do keep my smart phone beside the bed, but I don’t check email in the middle of the night.
Over the years that I have been a telecommuter, I have worked at the kitchen table, from a chair in the living room and on my deck, but I have one hard rule: I never take work into my bedroom.
How do you manage work stress?