It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when work fills your weekdays, weekends, and holidays. You stay at the office late. You decrease your hours in bed. You eat enough for minimal energy. And you dispose of the word ‘no’ to push the boundaries of personal potential, welcoming utter exhaustion, anxiety, and perhaps even depression. You tell yourself that it’s better to work this way when you’re young, and reap the rewards later. But when you find yourself at the brink of tears on the regular with sighs escaping your lips as a plea for a deep breath, you start to wonder if there is more to a career than stress and angst. Why are moments of joy constantly in the minority? Do Mondays always have to suck?

There used to be this feeling of dread every time my Blackberry alarm would scream in my ear in the morning, forcing me to wake up and take on another day of “work.” I’ve grinded out traditional jobs with the expectation that I’ll perform consistently at my maximum ability while dedicating a minimum of nine hours a day to an office, despite knowing that I don’t work well with set workspaces and monolithic routines. I’ve done work as a student feeling the overwhelming burden of reading, writing, and regurgitating underwhelming academic discourse for hours and hours every day. And I’ve been self-employed serving as my own overseer, driving myself into negativity if I didn’t work all the time, without stopping, or for significant financial gain.

After too many emotional breakdowns pushing for unrealistic deadlines disguised as “challenges,” I told myself that “work” needed a reinvention in my life. Sanity became a priority. Tears became unacceptable. And stress became a quickly fleeting emotion. I wish someone had told me that the following could immensely help your work life day to day. Human beings were not created to work like machines. Honor your need for balance.

Work hard but breathe harder. When you feel yourself getting tense, ready to lash out on a co-worker, or perhaps just frustrated enough to let a few tears drop, grab your iPod and take a walk around your local neighborhood. Sing a few of your favorite songs out loud. Take some deep breaths. And acknowledge that you are in control of your emotions. No one can work you up unless you allow him or her to do it.

Eat a delicious lunch, and don’t be afraid to snack. The right foods can provide our bodies with energy and all the right nutrients to balance out our emotions. Do not skip meals just to get “more” work done. It only hurts you in the long run and depletes your stamina.

Call a friend, and vent. Don’t be afraid to tell someone that you’re having a rough day on your lunch break or feeling a bit stressed due to work. If your friends are real friends, they should serve as your life anchors and empower you to treat yourself fairly when it comes to work. Give them the opportunity to provide an ear and share some inspirational words to get you through your day.

Pamper yourself. Take an hour to get a pedicure or manicure. Sometimes it just feels good for someone to rub your feet or perhaps even massage your shoulders in the middle of the day. We hold stress in various parts of our bodies. Physical touch helps us release anxiety, let go of stress, and thus, work more efficiently.

Take a power nap. Too many people underestimate the power of sleep. While every individual may have a reason to cut back on slumbering, it’s better to give your body the rest it needs in order to perform at your maximum potential. If you’re feeling mentally exhausted, physically tired, and emotionally overwhelmed, try taking a 15-20 minute power nap on your lunch break. Sometimes the brain just needs a break from thinking and processing to come back stronger and better. And when you get home, give yourself 6-8 hours for a good night of sleep.

How do you manage stress in your daily career? Share your tips to bring others back to sanity.

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  • MarloweOverShakespeare

    A glass of Riesling no more than thrice a week.

    If you wine to unwind sometimes.

  • Whatever

    A nice walk helps and so does the midday mani!

  • Cree

    I notice that bad habits that lead to poor time management really add up over the course of the day. If you know you have a long commute in the morning or just have to hit the snooze button, start preparation (outfit, materials, packed lunch, etc.) the night before. As a matter of fact, on the weekend (or your off-day) plan out your lunches/dinners/iron your outfits.

    To some of you this might sound like common sense, but I had to re-learn this after four years of college where I could plan for all of my classes to start at 11 a.m. or later. Half of our bad, on-the-spot decision making and emotional flare-ups stem from lack of preparedness.