Labor day? Thank goodness. You may need an extra day to repair the house, buy furniture, clean the garden, go to the recycling center, picnic in the well-designed backyard, visit the relatives you don’t like for a long time… and so on. What’s wrong with this picture? Hint: This is not the part about relatives you don’t like.
The problem is that we can’t seem to keep an empty day empty. Most of us are overbooked, so much so that any reward day we receive is immediately redistributed to a time-consuming project or a pile of to-do items left over from a few months ago. Have we lost the ability to rest?
According to any number of surveys, Americans are an exhausted person. We drink more than ever before, lack of sleep, stay on the computer late at night, and don’t exercise. Our stress levels have peaked and are now intensified by the pandemic, not to mention the series of painful events that dominate the news every day.
For some workers, the accumulation of pressure has reached a critical point, leading to a wave of resignations. For these employees, resignation may be the right solution, or it may prove that work is not the problem. When you are stressed, this is not the kind of thing that you can easily judge, which is ironic.
Regardless of whether work is the problem, not everyone can afford to leave work. And many people who don’t have a job are also under pressure, so resignation is obviously not a universal solution. It’s time to dig deeper to relieve our pressure. We can try other strategies first, instead of starting with resignation as a solution. If they are helpful, having a clearer mind should make job decisions easier.
Here are my 10 favorite stress-reducing techniques; maybe the things here are useful to you.
1. Say no. Yes, this is stress in itself. However, if you can resist a request by saying “I’m sorry, I can’t” this week, you may find it easier the second time.
2. Think that your week is very fulfilling. Starting with the idea that you have been fully invested in your week means that your default answer to extra tasks is, “I’m not sure I can do it; I will reply to you” instead of “I will try to squeeze in.”
3. Remove one thing from your list. If you add something during the week, remove something. Or, even if nothing is added, something must be removed.
4. Slow down the reaction to others. Just because the request is made via text does not mean that you must respond immediately. By waiting for a response, you can give others a chance to solve the problem without you.
5. Accept “good enough”. Some tasks need to be completed well, but most tasks only need to be completed. When higher levels are not important, let yourself do things to the lowest standards.
6. Create patterns in daily life. Anything you can set as a mode—such as eating the same breakfast at the same time—is another decision you don’t have to make. Decision fatigue is real, and the stress of making multiple choices every day is well documented.
7. Repair when there is a problem. If the faucet starts to drip and you can afford a plumber, call one. The longer you wait, the greater the pressure on you to worry about the drip.
8. Take a break. There is a reason why the workplace must rest all day. Our mind and body need to pause to keep functioning.
9. Sing instead of thinking. Are your thoughts inclined to negative self-talk? Try to sing out loud and you will find it difficult to keep up with negative clues. To get extra impact, add a dance step or two.
10. Start every day again. The night ritual that ends the task of the day can help you get things done until the next day. Some people write diaries or make lists, others take a walk or end the day watching TV or reading to get rid of stress.
No matter how you deal with stress, take a moment to think about the workers and activists who have really died in the past few decades to ensure fair working conditions on this Labor Day. The benefits they receive have not been evenly distributed, but without them, we would not have gone so far. Commemorate them with the rest time they bought for you.
Amy Lindgren owns a career consulting company in São Paulo. You can contact her at [email protected]