How To Deal With The Stress Of Returning To Work

Even though work may be a little less merry than it was a few weeks ago — no more pre-meeting conversations about far-flung vacation destinations, no more just-because holiday treats in the communal office kitchen, no employers paying your bar tab — doesn’t mean the next few weeks (and beyond) can’t be awesome. Now’s the time to solidify those new habits, realize those new goals, and lay the groundwork to get everything you want (including that promotion!). So, clear off your workspace and get going on these eight office hacks to make 2015 your best ever.
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Designed by Elliot Salazar.
If the eyes are the window to your soul, your inbox is a window into your work mindset — and taking the time to tame it will instantly lead to a less-stressed you. Start by creating rules and filtering e-mails automatically into folders, suggests Sarah Robinson, a spokesperson for Microsoft. Then, color-code e-mails, so you know immediately what’s arriving in your inbox. Finally, don’t be afraid to use the “ignore conversation” feature, especially when it’s a large e-mail chain that’s not essential to your work.

Other helpful tips: Get off e-mail and schedule an in-person meeting or phone call if the issue is more complex than a paragraph can sum up, and don’t check e-mails unless you actually have time to respond to them. (Yes, refreshing your inbox while you wait for the subway is an easy way to pass the time, but unless you’re actually ready to deal with whatever you receive, it’s better to skip it and wait until later.)
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Designed by Elliot Salazar.
Work isn’t just about digging into whatever project’s currently on your plate. Since you’re likely to spend more waking hours with your coworkers than anyone else in your life, including your family, it’s worth it to invest in some sort of relationship with them, says Jamie Novak, productivity expert and author of Keep This, Toss That.

Is everyone at the office psyched about season three of House of Cards? It may be worth your while to watch a few episodes so you’re not out of the office-water-cooler loop. If you get invited to drinks after work, make an effort to go and try to connect outside the office. If your coworkers aren’t the type to grab drinks together after work, it may be up to you to spearhead an initiative.

Keep your ear out for industry-related lectures and events, then send out an e-mail to the group of people roughly at the same level of seniority as you, saying you’re planning to attend, and see if anyone else wants in. Heading to an industry-related event keeps it professional while allowing everyone to get to know each other in an environment outside the office (where you might even learn something new).
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Designed by Elliot Salazar.
Unfortunately, daydreaming about white sandy beaches won’t change the fact that you’re back in the office — so you might as well buckle down and get back to work. How to snap out of vacation mindset? First, get someone else — a cubemate, a partner, a BFF — onboard with your resolution to get stuff done.

Set goals at the beginning of each week with them, then e-mail each other your results on Fridays, suggests Wendy Capland, a leadership-development expert and author of Your Next Bold Move for Women. Next, create a list every a.m. of ongoing and longterm projects or goals, and make it a priority to check one thing off before January is over. Having a list ensures you can spend any downtime getting stuff done, rather than daydreaming.
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Designed by Elliot Salazar.
As counterintuitive as it seems, banning the word "busy" from your work vocabulary is a simple way to make you feel way less stressed, says Novak. “It’s a habit, but this [word] can sabotage your energy and motivation. Instead, say that you’re 'having the most productive day ever,' or that 'everything is going great.'” Sure, you still may be swamped, but you’ll send a message to everyone around you — and yourself — that you’ve got everything under control.
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Designed by Elliot Salazar.
It’s cold, you’re sniffly, and you hate the oversize cardigan you couldn’t wait to wear back in 70-degree September. Instead of succumbing to the ugh surrounding you, try pushing yourself, both in wardrobe and life choices outside the office, suggests life coach Heather Hansen O’Neill.

Maybe it’s experimenting with only wearing a capsule collection of clothes from your closet for a month; maybe it’s committing to getting to the gym or doing some sun salutations in the a.m. Whatever it is, even a small challenge in or out of the office can have major impact on your mood and productivity for the rest of the day.
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Designed by Elliot Salazar.
First, know that simply upping the amount of interaction with your boss doesn’t automatically enhance your career, says Steve Orma, a clinical psychologist in the San Francisco Bay Area who specializes in stress and anxiety.

“Don’t just make a lot of noise to get your boss’s attention. Make sure when you speak that it’s meaningful, thoughtful, and helps her and the company,” says Orma. Instead of automatically volunteering for a project, take a night, write up a quick memo or notes to yourself, and explain why you want to be on it and what you’d bring to the table. “Showing that you want to do the work and how you’re valuable to the company is key and puts you ahead of the competition,” says Orma.
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Designed by Elliot Salazar.
To get to where you want to be, you have to think in specific steps, says Orma. Start by envisioning yourself six months in the future: Where do you want to be?

“A six-month timeline is a short enough amount of time to allow you to break your goal into specific steps,” says Orma. Then, think about the measures you need to take to get there. Do they include confabbing with your supervisor to take on new projects? Or setting up networking meetings with people in different industries? Make a list of all potential actions that will help get you closer to that goal, and resolve to conquer one every week.

Don’t get discouraged if things don’t seem to be working at first — just revise your action plan. “You'll make some false steps or find dead ends, but that’s all part of the process. If a tactic doesn’t work, try something else, keeping your eye on the goal,” says Orma.
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Designed by Elliot Salazar.
Sure, that strip of photo-booth-style photos from office karaoke is adorable…but is it projecting the capable, confident, on-top-of-it attitude that you want the world to see? Since your work area directly reflects your office persona, experts agree that less is more when it comes to decorating your space.

One or two framed photos of family or friends (preferably ones where a Day-Glo margarita isn’t making a cameo appearance) is fine; any more may be overkill, especially if the higher-ups in the office also seem to maintain a minimal workspace.

If you work in a creative industry, bright and smartly designed office supplies — like the ones from Poppin and See Jane Work — can convey personality while still staying professional.