Stress is no stranger to most of us. Between having a career, a social life and a family or relationship, it can seem like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. The burden can grow even larger when there’s particularly heavy pressure in one area of your life.
Unfortunately, the more stressed we become, the lower our productivity goes. When we’re unable to focus and get things done, the work on our plate grows, and we become even more stressed. This unhealthy cycle only drives us deeper into our bad habits.
Letting go of your stress and becoming more productive needs to start somewhere. The best way to begin is to identify which habits may be contributing to the problem, then eliminating them. To help you get started, we’ve identified 11 bad habits that may be stressing you out and making you unproductive.
1. Not Getting Enough Sleep
When you’re trying to squeeze in just a few more hours of work or “me” time, you’re probably taking time away from sleep. While you may be able to function short-term on fewer sleep hours, not getting enough sleep is likely to come back to bite you. Sleep deprivation is linked to a whole mess of conditions and disorders, including obesity and anxiety.
To ensure you’re getting proper sleep, shut down your technology an hour or two before bed. Develop a nighttime routine that helps you unwind and prepares your body for sleep. This may include reading a book, writing in a journal, or doing another calming activity that can help you sleep better. Try to stick to a similar sleep schedule each night and get to bed early enough that you can get a full eight hours before work.
2. Skipping Meals
If you’re overly stressed, eating a well-balanced meal might be the last thing you’re thinking about. Instead of having a healthy breakfast or lunch, you grab a granola bar — or skip the meal altogether. While this may give you a few extra minutes in your day, it’s usually costing you.
To keep your body going, you need to give it fuel. If you’re not properly hydrated or you’re not eating appropriate meals, you may become tired, dizzy and confused. To ensure you’re properly nourished, always keep snacks and a water bottle with you.
3. Drinking Too Much Caffeine
Many of us rely on caffeine to get us through the day. Whether it’s energy drinks or coffee, caffeinated beverages can help keep you functioning if you’ve had a poor night’s sleep. But while one cup of coffee can be a great way to jumpstart the day, too much caffeine can actually contribute to your stress.
Because coffee is a stimulant, it speeds up your heartbeat. If your heartbeat becomes too fast, you may experience jitters or shakes. It can be difficult to calm down and focus, as well as make it difficult to fall asleep at night. Instead of drinking coffee throughout the day, look for more natural ways to improve your energy level.
4. Not Getting Exercise
If you have a desk job, finding time to work out can be a struggle. You’re left sitting at your desk all day, but you’re still exhausted when it’s finally time to leave work. The last thing you want to do is go to the gym or head out for a run.
Exercising allows us to work off excess energy, emotions and stress. Even something as simple as getting up and going for a walk can help us relieve some of the tension we’ve been building up. At the very least, try to schedule some short walks throughout your work day.
5. Never Taking a Screen Break
These days, we do just about everything on a phone or a computer. Whether it’s working, browsing the web, or checking our favorite social media apps, we just about always have our faces buried in a screen. Unfortunately, this can be damaging to our health.
Allow yourself to disconnect from the world by taking a screen break. When you’re able to shut off your phone and head out for a walk without the anxiety of being connected, you can start to calm down. Begin with taking one screen break every week, where you spend a few hours without any technology. As you become more used to it, try to schedule a screen break every day.
6. Binge-Watching TV
Many of us come home from a long day at work and plop down on the couch in front of the TV. We binge-watch our favorite shows and may even spend hours in front of the TV at once. While we think this is helping us relax, it could actually be contributing to our stress levels.
Watching TV once in a while can be relaxing, but if you’re spending too much time in front of the TV, you may be making your anxiety worse. Pick up some other hobbies you can do when you get out of work. Spending time with friends and family members or taking a creative class are all great ways to blow off some steam without hurting your health.
7. Bringing Work Home
Smartphones and laptops allow us to stay connected all the time. Sometimes, the advancements in technology are awesome. But being able to access your work email when you leave the office can leave many people feeling obligated to respond to messages that come in after hours. When you bring your work home, it can feel like you’re never getting a break.
You may occasionally need to give work a few hours of your personal time, but don’t make it a habit. If you can avoid adding your work email to your personal devices, do so. When you clock out of the office, recognize that it is now your time and you’re not required to do any additional work.
8. Not Letting Go
Once in a while, a mistake, embarrassing moment or cringe-worthy situation will get trapped in our head. Instead of acknowledging that it’s in the past and moving on, we scrutinize each and every detail, worrying about what we could have done differently or if it was really as bad as we remember. Unfortunately, dwelling on these situations will do nothing except increase your stress level.
Letting go of things can be difficult, but it’s necessary if you want to stop stressing so much. If you find yourself fixating on a previous situation, think of the things you’d do differently if it happens again and release the thought from your mind.
9. Waiting Until the Last Minute
Procrastination is real. When we have a million things on our plate, it’s too easy to let something go until the last minute — especially when we’re feeling unproductive. Unfortunately, that means we’re left rushing through the job, stressed about whether or not we’ll reach the deadline. When you’re always procrastinating, it can feel like you never have time to really breathe.
There are a few ways you can get over your procrastination. First, if there are tasks you frequently put off until the end of your day, move them to the top of your to-do list and knock them out early. You can also try setting timers to help keep you focused. If you’re unable to stop procrastinating, write the due date down a day earlier. You may still be waiting until the last minute to get it done, but at least you’ll be able to finish it an entire day in advance.
10. Frequently Checking Social Media
Social media can be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it allows us to stay connected with friends and family, but on the other, it typically only shows the best parts of their lives. When you’re constantly checking social media, it can be easy to compare yourself to others. You begin stressing about why you’re not married, having kids, buying a house or getting that big promotion.
If you’re not willing to completely cut out social media, try to limit your use. Spend just a few minutes during the day browsing through your timeline, or set up alerts to get notifications for the people you really care about. This ensures you’ll never miss a post from an important friend or family member, while eliminating the hours of your day spent obsessively scrolling through your newsfeed.
11. Forgetting “Me” Time
When you’re trying to juggle a million different things, it can be a real struggle to find time for yourself. But when you’re constantly putting the needs of other people in front of your own, you’re the one who suffers. You become stressed and unproductive, and your mental health can take a bit of a dip.
Schedule at least an hour of “me” time a week. If you’re able to carve out time for yourself each day, don’t feel guilty doing so. During this time, do whatever you want. Read a book, watch your favorite TV show or take a bubble bath. You’ll end your time feeling recharged and ready to take on your tasks.
Unfortunately, many of us won’t be able to completely eliminate stress from our lives, but knowing how to take care of it is crucial. If you’re guilty of any of these stress-inducing habits, take the necessary steps to eliminate them.
How many of these habits are you guilty of? Tell us how you plan to beat them in the comments!
For more advice on productivity and getting ahead at work, subscribe to Punched Clocks.
Get everything you need to build a career you love by signing up for the newsletter.
Latest posts by Sarah Landrum (see all)
- I’ve Lost My Job Because of COVID-19: What Do I Do Next? - April 30, 2020
- How to Make a Memorable Introduction - February 7, 2019
- 9 Ways to Keep Learning and Advance Your Career - January 20, 2019