Now that you've identified both your internal and external stressors, it's important to take steps to reduce or eliminate them.
Some may involve only minor changes in your routine, others may require drastic measures or purchasing new furnishings and equipment for your work space. Whether large or small, the steps you take and the changes you make will significantly lower your stress levels, and will dramatically improve your productivity and quality of life.
Eliminating the sources of environmental stress may be as simple as tidying and rearranging your office. Eliminating clutter and organizing your supplies and resource materials is a good place to start. Once your office is tidy and clutter free, take a look at how your furniture and equipment is arranged. Does it flow according to the placement of the doors and windows? Is there plenty of space for moving about the room? Are the things you use most often throughout the day conveniently accessible? Is your chair comfortable? Is your desk/work surface large enough? If not, study your current arrangement and come up with creative ways to arrange and store your furnishings. In the process, you may discover that you need to buy a few key items such as bookshelves, storage bins, or even a new piece of furniture.
While you're at it, take a look at your lighting, ventilation, and acoustics. If lighting is a problem, invest in a bright desk lamp or some overhead lighting. If the temperature is uncomfortably hot or cold, you may need a fan, a small air-conditioning unit, or a space heater. As a solution for noise stressors, you may want to invest in a sound system, a "white noise" machine, or look into installing sound insulation to eliminate stressful outside noise.
If physical stress is a problem, the solutions will probably be physical as well. For problems such as repetitive motion injuries, you may have to invest in an ergonomic keyboard for your computer, foam pads for your desk, and supports or braces for vulnerable joints. Muscle tension problems may have several solutions. Enrolling in a yoga or tai-chi class may provide a way stretch tense muscles and improve posture. A weekly or monthly massage may also prove well worth the cost. Think of it as a reward for all your hard work.
For the scheduling problems that cause you to rush all day, and the sleep deprivation that causes physical fatigue, you'll need to rethink your daily routine and your personal habits. Note how much time you waste on unnecessary tasks and activities, and put that time to better use getting plenty of sleep and taking care of yourself physically.
Mental stress is insidious, and the first step toward eliminating it is learning to catch yourself in the midst of your self-destructive thinking patterns. If you're in the habit of dwelling on problems, instead of thinking about them, take action! Make a list of possible solutions and act upon them immediately. If catastrophic thinking is a problem, make a list of the times when doom seemed eminent but everything worked out okay. When you find yourself visualizing a catastrophic outcome, refer to that list and envision a positive, more realistic outcome to your current situation.
If you catch yourself rehearsing defensive arguments, agonizing over mistakes, or thinking about things you wish you'd said or done, stop yourself on the spot with a command word such as "STOP!" or "ENOUGH!" and focus your mind with a simple, physical task. This gets you out of your busy, verbal left brain and into your spatial right brain.
If you're in the habit of lying awake at night worrying over problems you can't do anything about until morning, repeat a gentle word such as "rest…rest…rest" or "breathe…breathe…breathe." Remember that your sleep time belongs only to you, and that you need it to refresh and energize yourself to tackle those problems in the light of day.
If you suffer from emotional stress, it's highly likely that it involves other people, and resolving it may be considerably more complex than your other sources of stress. Instead of simply eliminating them from your life, it may require talking to your colleagues or loved ones in a neutral setting to express your concerns and frustrations and to set boundaries. A mentor, counselor, or mediator may also be necessary to guide you through the process.
Changing your nutritional habits requires a conscious and systematic approach. One of the best ways is to start small by making healthier food choices. Most fast food restaurants now offer salad and fruit dishes, and snacks such as flavored yogurt or whole grain bars are readily available and easily incorporated into your routine.
If you're routinely too busy to eat breakfast, the best way to solve the problem is to set yourself up for success. Plan a quick and easy morning meal before you go to bed at night and set up the things you'll need (including dishes and silverware) to make it possible.
If you're in the habit of eating take-out at your desk but you really need that extra productivity time, try packing yourself a nutritious lunch the night before and taking a small work task with you for a healthy lunch outdoors in the sunshine.
Instead of energizing yourself with coffee and caffeinated sodas, try splashing your face with cool water, snacking on a high-protein, low-fat snack and practice a set of refreshing deep-breathing exercises.
And instead spending your evenings eating fast food and watching reruns on TV, invite your family or friends to join you in the kitchen to prepare a light, healthy meal and sit down with a movie to enjoy together.