Create a More Pleasant Workspace for Less Stress

Here are a few ways to take some of the stress out of your workspace. Your employer may not be entirely supportive of all of your stress-reducing efforts. If you share a tiny cubicle with three others, it may be hard for you to burn incense, move in a couch, or install a multi-speaker stereo system and personal video player. Nevertheless, see what you can do with some of the following ideas:

  • Soothe yourself with sound. If you can orchestrate it, listening to calming music at your workspace can unruffle your feathers. Your MP3 player or radio can be the source of relaxing music. Classical music, especially Bach and Mozart, works nicely. If these composers are too highbrow, try one of the “lite” radio stations.

    Recent studies at the University of California found that listening to Mozart, particularly the piano sonatas, can significantly improve a person’s ability to reason abstractly. Not only do stress levels go down, but IQ goes up. On the other hand, listening to Philip Glass or Metallica didn’t enhance anything.

  • Lighten up. Although I’m sure that a naked, 300-watt bulb dangling from your office ceiling can provide you with more than enough light, you want more than “just enough light.” The right lighting in your workspace can reduce eyestrain and make your environment a more pleasant place to work. Go for soft and indirect lighting. Just make sure you have enough light.

  • Create visual resting spots. Give your eyes — and your mind — a break. At regular intervals, look away from your computer screen or paperwork and focus on a distant object to “stretch your eyes.” You can also create visual relief in your office by adding a few interesting objects. For example:

    • Strategically place one or more photographs of those you care about to bring a warm glow to your heart. Better yet, have the picture include a scene — a vacation, a gathering — that reminds you of a happy experience.

    • Place a plant or flowers in your workspace to add an air of beauty and relaxation to your workday. Some plants (such as English ivy and spider plants) are even said to help clean the air of indoor pollutants — an added bonus!

    • Hang some artwork that you find calming and peaceful.

  • Be scent-sible. Fill a bowl with green apples to add a relaxing scent to your office. Be careful, though. Many people are scent sensitive and may be allergic to your favorite smells. If you share your workspace, ask before you sprinkle.

  • Have more than one dumbbell in your office. Keep a set of weights or mini barbells in your office. In a spare moment or two you can rip through a set of reps and feel a bit more relaxed. Alternately, keep an elastic stretcher in your desk that you can use for both your arms and legs.

  • Keep a toy chest. What’s an office without a few toys? (Balls that knock into each other . . . a game on your computer . . . that peg-jumping triangle game . . .)

  • Don’t get tied down. One of those headsets that attaches to your telephone can free up your hands to do other things, such as look through your e-mail, lift those weights, or play that computer game. The better ones are wireless and let you really move around your office so that you can file, play Nerf basketball, or rearrange your books in order of their color.

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