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Karen Dwyer: Five Ways to De-Stress Your Workweek

Follow these tips for each day of the week for a less stressful new year

Cautious optimism seems to be the theme for 2011. This new year offers particular hope to workers and job seekers ready for progress in their careers and a fresh start as the economy begins to change.

Throughout 2010, the recession took its toll on the work force, a fact underscored by widespread economic uncertainty in a variety of sectors. Survey results confirm that many have felt increased pressure during the past year. In September, Express Employment Professionals surveyed 9,340 current and former clients, and 49 percent of respondents reported that their work stress increased, while 36 percent rated their stress as “overwhelming” or “very high.”

That tension also has a tangible result. According to the American Psychological Association, “job stress is estimated to cost U.S. businesses $300 billion a year in absenteeism, diminished productivity, employee turnover, and direct medical, legal and insurance fees.”

The APA also noted increases in substance abuse and domestic violence throughout the past year — destructive behaviors sometimes associated with stress.

It’s not always possible to resolve daily stressors, but you can choose how to react to issues that cause tension. Having a strategy for the workweek can get it off to a great start. Follow these five tips for a less stressful new year.

Monday: Write Yourself a Roadmap

Take a proactive approach to the week by prioritizing your main tasks. Divide each task into manageable steps. Post your list in a visible place where you can check off each item as it’s completed. An organized approach will help you feel more oriented and know that you’re making positive strides.

Tuesday: Step Up Your Exercise Regimen

Try attending a fitness class a few times each week or hitting the pavement with a brisk jog. Exercise doesn’t just keep you in shape and reduce your risk of preventable illness. It also releases stress-fighting endorphins that can boost your mood. Add variety to your routine with other less traditional activities, such as ice skating or ballroom dancing.

Wednesday: Take a Break from Technology

Society is now more connected than ever, and it’s easy to feel bombarded by news. Give yourself permission, midweek or whenever your work allows, to turn off your television, mobile devices and computer for an evening. A little break goes a long way.

Thursday: Invest Time in Friends and Family

Dedicate one night every week to spend with people who energize you. Surrounding yourself with a support system gives you a chance to talk with others about issues that stress you out, as well as to relax in good company.

Friday: Do Something You Enjoy

It may sound simple, but engaging in activities or hobbies that you find fulfilling can make a difference. Whether it’s going to a movie or visiting a local coffeehouse, taking a break from work, being in a different environment, and changing your usual schedule can improve your outlook.

Get your new year off to a great start by determining what will help you curb tension at work in 2011. By resolving to reduce stress with these five tips, your workload will seem more manageable and you’ll feel better about a new year of professional opportunities. Approach every week with a fresh outlook and watch your productivity soar.

— Karen Dwyer is owner of Express Employment Professionals, 1025 Chapala St., Suite 206, in Santa Barbara. Click here to contact her or call 805.965.6900.

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