Still, mindfulness practices, yoga, and meditation are not the only effective ways to reduce stress from work or personal issues. Learning something new can be a great way to relieve tension while enjoying a positive, enriching activity.
Say you are particularly stressed-out during your company’s downsizing period. Instead of putting your head down, gritting your teeth, and hunkering down for the ride, why not see if you can add a new skill to your toolbox?
Such an activity not only helps relieve stress – it also can make you more attractive to potential employers and even more valuable in your current workplace.
LinkedIn, professional organizations like IABC and PRSA, Khan Academy, and Linda.com are places where you can find inexpensive or even free learning opportunities. UC Irvine, Cal State Fullerton, iTunes U and community colleges throughout our region offer short-term professional classes to brush up on your skills or learn new ones.
In my first job as a reporter, I became a de facto writing coach for other writers and soon found myself in a new job as a copy editor.
Later, when I was managing editor of a regional monthly boating magazine, I took a rigorous, 12-week Coast Guard Auxiliary class to learn more about safety, engines, rules of the road for sailors, and more. A nice increase in pay soon followed. I also took two years of sailing classes and even though I’ve forgotten most of what I learned, I do remember how cruising Newport Harbor was enriching, enlightening and just plain fun.
Harvard Business Review writers Chen Zhang, Christopher G. Myers, and David M. Mayer studied stress and burnout and found that the usual coping mechanisms like getting away for a vacation or merely hanging in there weren’t as effective in reducing anxiety as learning something new.
In, “To Cope with Stress, Try Learning Something New,” published in September, they explain they investigated learning as a stress buffer “because learning helps workers build valuable instrumental and psychological resources.”
“Instrumentally, learning brings us new information and knowledge that can be useful for solving near-term stressful problems; it also equips us with new skills and capabilities to address or even prevent future stressors,” they write.
“Psychologically, taking time to reflect on what we know and learn new things helps us develop feelings of competence and self-efficacy (a sense of being capable of achieving goals and doing more),” they say.
“Learning also helps connect us to an underlying purpose of growth and development. This way, we can see ourselves as constantly improving and developing, rather than being stuck with fixed capabilities. These psychological resources enable us to build resilience in the face of stressors.”
So, when you think you just can’t take another pointless meeting or fill out yet another timesheet, think about some ways you can add new skills to your professional repertoire or how you can sink your teeth into a long article in a professional journal. Your boss just might thank you for it.