According to the Mayo Clinic, stress can impact us in a multitude of ways. It can affect us physically, such as headaches, fatigue, and chest pain. It can affect us mentally, as with anxiety, restlessness, and irritability. Stress can also affect our behavior, causing over-snacking, social withdrawal, and more. Can you relate?
Over the years, psychologists, gurus, and mental health professionals have discovered numerous techniques to combat stress-inducing anxiety. But in a world filled with so many legitimate issues and concerns, emails shouldn’t be adding to that worry. After all, emails are a communication tool and should not be causing stress and anxiety. But they often do.
This guide will get you started down the right path, and show you how to shift your mindset to reduce email stress.
Take a breath. Let’s begin.
This one is so simple it had to start the list.
Stopping to take 3–5 deep, controlled breaths can refocus your mind and help you overcome an initial surge of anxiety. (Even if you’re not feeling anxious, this is a great tool for calming yourself down — like when you can’t fall asleep because you feel too wired.)
Here’s one method you can use called the 4-Count Technique. It goes like this: breathe in for a count of 4, hold it for 4, exhale for 4, hold it for 4. Repeat.
By concentrating on both your breath and counting, you’ll bring yourself back to the present moment, distract yourself from whatever was causing your stress, and clear your mind to re-focus on what you need to accomplish.
It also slows your heart rate so you don’t feel it punching the inside of your chest.
Have a mantra after your breathing exercise to remind you that you are focused. My favorite is: Stop, think, breath, go.
2. Make Email a Game
Now that we have our breath under control, we can look at a more direct, practical way of approaching our email: making it a game. Who doesn’t love to gamify things? (Think: Candy Crush, Farmville, and Wordle.)
Whether it’s baseball, the arcade, or cards, people love to compete with one another. It doesn’t have to be an intense game, but think of getting through your emails as a competition. Your email software is the platform providing the game, and your job is to win.
But make sure you define what winning is to you. Is it getting through all your emails, or achieving the philosophical goal of Inbox Zero? If you normally get through your emails in 30 minutes, can you do it in 25? You normally spend 3 hours a day on email. Can you spend less than 2 hours?
And yes, it’s okay to reward yourself when you’ve earned it. Maybe you’ll even win back some time to do what you love best by winning at the email game.
By seeing email as a game with rewards, accomplishments, and ways to ‘level up’, you may even start to look forward to checking your inbox.
3. See Email as a Friend
If you wake up each morning dreading emails, you’ll not only induce anxiety, but you won’t use your inbox effectively.
One way you can adjust this mindset is by being thankful to your inbox. It’s simple, but by viewing email as your ally instead of an enemy, you’ll find so much of your email stress was just in your head. Remember, email is a form of communicating. To help see email as a friend, remember that behind that message, and all that data, is a person who is sharing something with you as typed words.
4. Practice Meditation
Meditation is a skill. It takes time to master, which is why monks dedicate their entire lives to it. But you aren’t a monk, and even 5 minutes a day of practicing mindfulness will do wonders for improving your focus and endurance.
If you’re not sure how to meditate there are plenty of apps out there that can guide you if you need it. Or, I really just enjoy time-batching this activity by practicing the concept of meditating while in the shower. That is a great time to just be present and aware. Besides the shower, the simplest technique is the 4-count technique from #1. If your mind wanders, that’s okay. Acknowledge it, and go back to focusing on your breath until the timer runs out.
The more you practice, the easier it becomes – like all things in life. If you can do 10 minutes a day, even better. Do what works for you, and suddenly you’ll find yourself feeling that Inbox Zen.
Now that you have four solid pieces of advice, it’s time to put them into practice. Combined, they’ll help you shift your mindset away from stress-inducing anxiety, and help you remain focused on what you’re doing right now – managing your emails…communicating with people and playing a game.
Looking for more? Check out this complimentary 45-minute webinar that will help you learn how to feel in control of your inbox, be more responsive to important collaborators, and reduce your anxiety and stress. ARTT™ demonstrates time-saving techniques within Outlook primarily; however, the concept is platform-agnostic. It is about teaching your human habits connected to technology (whether Outlook, Gmail, or AOL Mail…ok, nobody uses AOL Mail anymore, right?).
Register for your favorite date today and I look forward to having you at the program.