Riding a motorcycle at 110 mph down the interstate? Too dangerous. Group break dancing in the office? Too dated. Shaking your arms and legs in your cubicle? That might leave your coworkers wondering if they should call 911.
Here are the five best tips for keeping your adrenaline levels from maxing out — commonsense tips you can actually follow.
Volker Hartkopf, architecture professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania and director of the Center for Building Performance and Diagnostics.
Hartkopf surveyed 4,500 workers in the Department of Energy for a 1994 study on the health effects of federal facilities.
Georg Eifert, professor of clinical psychology at West Virginia University.
In a 1995 study, he compared the physical and psychological effects of jogging outdoors with running on an indoor treadmill.
Rod Dishman, professor at the University of Georgia, has reviewed some 250 studies on the effects of physical exercise on stress.
Craig B. Mardus, author of "How to Stop Worry in One Second" (Warner Books, 1995), has spent 15 years researching stress while working at the Canyon Ranch Spa in Lennox, Massachusetts.
Coordinates: 189 Stratton Road, Williamstown, MA 01267
Dr. Paul Rosch, president of the American Institute of Stress and a clinical professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College.
5 Easy Pieces
Tip #1: Look out the window.
Hartkopf found that people who sit near a window have 23% fewer complaints of stress-related illnesses such as headache, back pain, and exhaustion. "Windows provide stimulation — excitement, pleasure, and information," he says, "Subconsciously, we need to know if it's raining outside. " Always choose an office with a view, even if you're offered a larger, windowless office. If you're stuck in a cubicle, make frequent trips past the lobby.
Tip #2: Exercise outside.
After looking out the window all day, get outside! Eifert's study shows that outdoor exercise reduces the level of stress hormones in the bloodstream, resulting in positive mood changes. "There's more to exercise than just doing the exercise," he says. "People who buy Nordic Tracks from TV rarely keep it up, because indoor settings don't generate the positive effects on mood that outdoor settings do. "
Tip #3: When working out, it's okay to go slow.
Dishman found that regardless of whether you exercise at 80% or 40% of capacity, the effect on stress is still the same as long as you work out for at least 20 to 30 minutes. "Not exercising is bad for your mental health, but there's no consistent relation between the intensity of the physical activity and the psychological benefit," he says. "For mental health, more is not necessarily better. "
Tip #4: After your workout, relax.
After an aerobic workout, Mardus suggests, find a place to lie down; close your eyes; listen to music or nothing; and enjoy the floating, narcotic effect of the endorphins you just released. This way you say in an alpha state and get an almost meditative effect. It seems to last for 20 minutes or so. " As you shower and head back to work you'll slip into a beta brainwave state, which helps you shake that "I don't care" feeling.
Tip #5: Change your mindset.
Rosch says that we become stressed when we dwell on the problem instead of finding a solution. The trick is to look for ways to take control. His example: "Your 15-minute commute takes an hour each day because of traffic. You arrive at work completely wired from battling gridlock. Instead of getting mad at the traffic, come in an hour earlier and leave an hour earlier. If that's not possible, get a cassette and use the time to learn a foreign language. Once you gain control over the situation, you've taken a very big step toward reducing stress. "
Bonus Tips from the Web:
If you're stuck in the office and can't get outside, try three stress-busting exercises before you walk into that dreaded meeting with the CFO:
1) Close your hands in a tight fist for 10 seconds and slowly open them. Repeat five times.
2) Roll your head from side to side. Repeat five times.
3) Tighten your toes, hold them for 10 seconds, and release. Repeat five times.
Coordinates: The "Stress Management" site,
A version of this article appeared in the Dec 1996/Jan 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.