In a recent interview on 702, I spoke about the difficulties of being a manager and how stressful a place that can be to occupy within a company. Managers, especially middle-managers, are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. They’ve got just enough authority to get into trouble, and not enough to get themselves out of hot water.
Maintaining health and managing stress therefore become vital for managers. Make no mistake, managing other people might well be the most complex, stress-inducing task the modern world of work has to offer.
Fortunately, Psychological Science has a couple of suggestions to make things bearable:
- Get out into nature more: Nature is still unbeatable when it comes to relaxing environments. Being in natural settings has been shown to be more beneficial than just about any other context. Stephen Kaplan and his fellow researchers at the University of Michigan found that even being able to see a nature scene through a window can be more restorative than being in a well-appointed office cut off from natural stimuli.
The upshot? Take a walk in nature at least once a day, even if it’s just your office park’s garden. If it’s cold outside, take a few moments to observe nature through the window.
- Relaxing = Active: It’s easy to confuse relaxation with doing nothing. Surely, after a busy day, the best thing to do is to collapse on the couch, switch on the television, and put your brain on “standby?”
Not according to science. Restoring vitality to the brain is an active process. Activating parts of your brain that are related to creativity and higher cognitive functioning suppresses the emotional areas of the brain associated with stress and anxiety.
The upshot? To really relax, use your brain to create. That’s why hobbies are often seen as good strategies for relaxation. If the thought of a hobby makes you cringe, don’t despair. You don’t have to go the arts and crafts route. Learning a new skill, such as horse riding or vehicle maintenance, or learning a new language, are all acceptable alternatives.
- Play complex games. While there are real health and restorative benefits to going to the gym, physical exercise alone will not help you relax. It is simply not immersive enough. Being transported and fully engaged by an activity is another golden route to proper relaxation.
The upshot? Find a computer game or board game to play, preferably with friends and family members. A lot of studies have shown the health benefits of video and table-top gaming. A recent study reported in Science showed how even traumatic emotions may be reduced by playing a simple game of Tetris. An added benefit is the social support and bonding that comes from playing games with loved ones.