Have you ran or wanted to run a marathon?

OK, those of you who are truly crazy and raised your hands, go away now.

[Image courtesy of Grand Velas Puerto Vallarta from Flickr via a Creative Commons license]
Finding way to relax and take away the stresses of the day go a long way in keeping workers productive and happy. A Canadian health and safety organization is offering up some quick tips to help workers manage stress effectively.

For those of you normal people like me (no offense freakish runners), none of us would ever consider running a marathon without plenty of training, right? Despite these earlier comments, I have great respect for those men and women who have the discipline to get up five or six days a week and go out and run eight to 10 miles a day. It takes a special person to go through such a physical test. And it takes a great pair of shoes to use as effective tools to enable you to complete such a marathon ins less than four or five … days.

Anyway, a marathon, even for the most incredible runners in the world, is a two-hour physical test where the runners have to perform at a high level for a long time – the average marathon runner is probably in the four- to five-hour range. But again, think about that – you have to run for four hours! That means having great physical strength and mental fortitude for half a work day.

And just from the mental standpoint, staying focused for four hours during a workday – especially consecutively – can be exhausting. So just imagine the mental fortitude to remain focused for an entire workday – eight hours, or sometimes more? While it may not be running a marathon in terms of physical stress, but if your mind is fatigued, that tends to manifest itself on your bodies and you could act physically exhausted even as you only sat at a desk most of the day.

Anyway, the point  here is that a workday can be a marathon of sorts – a marathon for your mind. And do you get good training everyday in preparation fr your mental marathon? And do you have the right “shoes” to run this mental marathon every single day of your work week? You probably know that if you don’t have the right tools, you can wind up taking time off and not “training” one day or even running the “marathon” at all.

Being mentally fit is very important to keeping you and your co-wokers in your workplace, happy and productive. And having the right training regimen for your mental marathon can be valuable to keep you able to run every day and get less fatigued. From our friends at the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), here are some quick and dirty tips to help you stay mentally fit every day:

  • Daily “Me Time.” And it doesn’t have to be long; even just 5-10 minutes when you get home from work. Just tell your family you need a few minutes to de-stress, and go into a quiet room and pray, meditate, listen to music or whatever you find pleasant to do to wash away the stresses from the day.
  • Self-reward. Every so often, allow yourself a little splurge. Go do something you don’t usually have time to do that you really like, or just buy yourself a fancy drink or an indulgent snack. Little rewards to support our de-stressing efforts go a long way.
  • Focus on what you do well. Stress increases when we do things that we know we are weak in; so as much as you can, stick to your strengths and those things you know you do well. When you know you’re good, there is less stress to perform at a high level – you are in your element, so you tend to be more relaxed.
  • Two-way help. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance if you notice your stress level rising; also, offer your help to someone else if you notice their heightened stress level. Especially if the help they need plays into your own strengths. Win-win for relaxation on both parts!
  • Relax the diet. Often, people resort to eating when stressed, and they tend to eat a little unhealthier. Stick with fruits and vegetables  if you are a stress-eater. If you would rather not eat, then leave the office and take a short walk to clear your head. If your stress level is down when you get back, you may be less “hungry.”
  • Decompress. As mentioned before, there is nothing wrong with leaving in the middle of the work day and taking a brisk walk or a power nap. No one has to be go-go-go all the time on the clock; downtime is perfectly OK for a few minutes when the stress level gets elevated.
  • Get moving.  It doesn’t have to be every day, but getting some exercise on a regular basis helps with stress management.
  • Journaling. When you can, keep a journal of your days, including your stresses. In that journal you can also set daily or weekly goals and and use the journal to keep you accountable.
  • Frankie says relax. Frankie was on to something; find a good relaxation technique that works for you and do it a few times during the day. And also make sure you get an adequate amount of sleep that you feel rested in the morning.
  • Cop an attitude. In this case, I mean a positive attitude. Look at each of your stresses as opportunities rather than challenges. Be grateful for the good around you, including that you have a job and a paycheck, and keep your eyes on the goal and don’t let anything derail you from that goal.