I recently did a stress reduction seminar for an office group and what struck me was that beyond all the talk about worker productivity is the fact that most workers are really stressed. Stressed out from doing two and three jobs, trying to cover the demands of family life, or just plain can’t handle one more thing on a long list of things that never seem to end.

Work stress has always been with us, probably from the time when the cave man realized he had a period of time to kill something or the people back in the cave would starve. Work stress is nothing new.

But, I think the difference for this generation is that technology now tells the cave man how many seconds he has to kill that dinosaur and delivers never ending updates on the status of the people in the cave and how many dinosaurs are required to keep cave members alive. Sometimes it all becomes too much.

Don’t misunderstand me, because I love technology, but there comes a time when we have to unplug and give our bodies a chance to not only breathe but exhale. After all, the demands of the job are not going away but there are things we can change in terms of how we deal with them.

Some of the things I told the group:

Beware the manager with his/her hair on fire:

There is always someone in the organization who runs in with their hair on fire regarding the latest thing that has to be done or the world will end project. The trick is to not be drawn in to the contagion of the latest crisis. When someone runs in with their hair on fire, you have to stop, take a moment, and do a mental calculation of what is the most pressing thing based on your knowledge of the situation. It is not possible to do two things at the same time so stop the flame thrower and attempt to pin them down in relation to exactly what is most important and provide the implications of tackling that task. Most flame throwers are not able to scale or prioritize so you have to help them do so.

Work in breathers moments:

It is ever so tempting to eat at your desk if you eat at all, but all you are doing is slowly killing yourself. Build in the habit of what I call “taking a walk around the block.” Literally build into your schedule 5 to 10 minutes where you get up, get away from your desk and take a short walk either through the lobby of your building, around the block if weather permits, or someplace that is a little more calm than where you usually work. Just the act of making your body move helps you take in more oxygen which in itself is a natural relaxant. This also provides an opportunity to step back from a situation and allows your brain to rest so that you can return to the project refreshed with a new perspective. Studies have shown that ten minutes has the same effect as working hours in the gym if you build in a couple of increments per day.

Work in doing something that you love:

The greatest stressor is the feeling of things being out of your control. Find something to do on a small scale that works on your schedule and gives you a sense of control. My brother recently bought a table saw and spends some of his free time making bird houses. The bird houses will never win any awards but he and my niece love the work and time spent together talking about how the birds will love their new condos. It is not something he is forced to do on a time schedule, but when he feels the urge. The same can be accomplished by taking a class that you can attend when you want. The last thing you want to do is build more pressure by adding to your list of “to do’s.”

Take a moment and just unplug:

I know saying to turn off the I-Phone is like asking an addict to go cold turkey but a few moments (again, think 10 minute increments) actually allows you to get away from the fight or flight response that latest update brings. The basic concept is to create small islands of relaxation throughout the day where you are away but not away so long as to create additional stress.

These suggestions are not a cure-all for every situation but at least provides a few moments of the relaxation response that will help you think more clearly and probably add years to your life. Try it!