Stress Management Starts (And Ends) With Your 5 Senses
In the accounting and law industries, professionals are commonly working 50+ hour weeks all year long. During busier times, however, that number can inflate to 65-70+ hour work weeks, leaving hard-working professionals feeling constantly depleted, disoriented, and burnt-out. According to the American Institute of Stress, 66% of Americans cited work as a significant source of stress and 80% of workers experience stress on the job.
Given the effect that stress has on workplace morale and overall well-being, we need to find a way to incorporate simple stress management techniques into our daily lives. It can be challenging amid the passive-aggressive emails and back-to-back meetings, but you have the power to create a positive (or negative) working environment.
According to the evidence-based science of Ayurveda, the components of health are comprised of the body, the mind, the soul, and the five senses—hearing, touch, sight, taste, and smell. In Western Science, we are more comfortable with this connection of mind, body, and soul, but we are yet to discuss the effect of misused senses. Improper use of the sensory organs can create discomfort in the mind (i.e., anxiety, overwhelm, fear) and dis-ease in the body (i.e., bloating, constipation, twitching, headaches, adrenal fatigue). Without changing our habits to align with positive sensory use, these smaller challenges have the potential to grow into larger physiological or psychological diseases.
In this article, we’ll explore the importance of our primary senses—hearing, sight, and taste—and a few simple recommendations for how they can help with stress management. Regardless of how many hours you work or how challenging your job might be, it’s possible to find more ease in the workplace.
Sound might be the most powerful sense in comparison to the others. It can be medicine or poison, all depending on what we hear.
In 2018, IKEA created the Bully A Plant initiative, an in-school experiment where students were shown how destructive negative comments can be. The experiment included two identical plants with identically controlled environments. For one month, students complimented one plant and bullied the other. According to Global News, “after 30 days, the plant that received compliments was healthy and thriving, while its insult-riddled counterpart was wilted and noticeably droopy.”
Albeit a small example, it shows how powerful words and sounds truly are. The frequency of sound can affect our mood and change the way we think. As a result, sounds can create toxic environments that impact us and those in our vicinity. Our words also have the ability to inspire and empower. There’s a reason why TED Talks and other motivational speakers have gained popularity over recent years.
Listen to soothing sounds such as peaceful, positive music or nature sounds.
Avoid hearing or participating in rumor-spreading, gossip, and other negative or jarring sounds.
Take a bath and submerge your ears underwater for a few minutes.
Massage your ears with a few drops of a warming oil (e.g., raw sesame).
See the good in others and let them know it. By sharing positive words, you are elevating the quality of sound in your ears and those around you.
What is the main frequency of the words you hear: positive or negative? Then ask yourself the frequency of the words you're sharing with co-workers, friends, and loved ones. If you’re surrounded by hard, rough, and sharp sounds, consider inviting these simple recommendations into your life. These suggestions have the power to transform your entire life without significantly altering your daily routine.
We rely on our eyesight as a primary sense. From the moment we wake up until the moment we’re back in bed, our eyes are open. We’re always looking, analyzing, clarifying, and understanding our world through this powerful organ.
In Vedic philosophy, there’s much to say about what we see and its impact on our psyche. Cleanliness is considered one of the main lifestyle observances to live by, as it helps to keep a clear and focused mind. Imagine walking into a home that’s clean and organized versus one from an episode of “Hoarders” with piles of unused junk everywhere. Can you notice a difference in your mindset in both types of environments? The same principle applies to your workspace. Even minimal reorganization can have a positive impact.
Take a break for a few minutes each hour to look away from your computer and out a window.
Declutter your space by removing old junk. If you don’t use it, recycle or toss it.
Consider adding visually appealing decorations to your workspace, such as a plant or photo from your favorite vacation spot.
If your eyes are feeling fatigued by too much screen time, consider misting rose water onto your face or rinsing eyes with cold water.
Like any muscle in the body, the eyes need exercise and stretching. Invite gentle movement by closing your eyes and creating smooth circles, as if outlining the edge of a clock. Be sure to reverse the direction and breath deeply during this mini-workout.
Assess your workspace. Without judgement, reflect on how you could create a more visually peaceful environment. Given all the time you spend working, it’s worth making a small time or financial investment to create a space that brings you joy. A few minor upgrades can have you feeling more focused and productive.
Think back to your routine during your last busy season. How many hours did you waste each day planning what to eat for dinner? It’s almost as bad as what to watch on Netflix on a Friday night. You can lose hours each day thinking about what to eat and scanning endless menu options. Making matters worse, when the body and brain are exhausted, they are looking for a quick dopamine fix of caffeine, carbs, fried foods, and candy, all leading you in the wrong direction. Though satisfying in the moment, those indulgent foods have an adverse effect on your energy and productivity.
Eat meals away from your phone or computer screen.
Use each meal as a mindful meditation. Notice the qualities, tastes, smell, and textures of the food.
Put down your fork/spoon between bites and chew at least 20 times before swallowing.
When feeling especially overwhelmed by stress, consume simple foods that your body can digest more easily (i.e., soups, stews, vegetarian meals, homecooked foods)
Create a list of go-to places with healthy options in the event you have to order out. When we curate our own menu, we’re less swayed by temptation.
How we digest our food can be indicative of how we digest our life. If you find that you're inhaling your food without thinking, ask yourself how you’re processing the days that pass by in your life. Are you appreciating and digesting each day, or taking it for granted? Are you able to process your life or are you experiencing emotional indigestion?
When stressors are at their highest, professionals feel the urge to make a significant life change. After working with clients for years, however, a big change usually isn’t required. You don’t have to quit your job or reinvent your life to find the peace you’re looking for. Consider trying these simple shifts to improve your mood, productivity, and overall wellbeing. By learning to nourish your sense organs, you can stress less, achieve more, and create an environment where you and your fellow employees can thrive. It might be just that easy.
Looking for more support establishing healthy habits and combatting workplace stress? Check out my private holistic life coaching program. Schedule a breakthrough call and we'll identify your biggest personal stressors and determine what steps you can take to enjoy more peace in your life.
This post was originally published on Thomson Reuters blog in 2020.