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5 Smart Ways To Make Your Work Day Much Less Stressful

In the last quarter of the year, boss up and tell stress where to go.

Workin' Girl

Let's face it: Stress in the workplace is inevitable and unavoidable. Whether it's due to the nature of the job, your work environment, the people you work with, or the at-home issues that trickle into the office, we've all had to deal with it one way or another. As women, we even take on additional stresseson top of the usual, and if we're not careful, too much stress (and bad habits of suppression or coping) can negatively affect our livelihood, our health, and our sanity.

We're sure you know the dangers of stress, so we won't get into the research today, but sis, we're in the last three months of the year. It's time to go ahead and nip those stress-inducing habits in the bud and tell nagging annoyances where to go. Here's a quick and smart guide on how to reduce stress at work, one step at a time:

1. Add a fun, active exercise to your workday routine.

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Even if your job requires lots of physical movement already, the keyword here is fun. Medical experts always recommend exercise and movement as a stress reliever, and doing something active can indeed increase endorphines and boost you mood. Take things up a notch by bringing a bike, skates, mini trampoline (yes, sis, it's a whole thing), a mini boxing bag, or a jump rope to use during a break.

You don't have to break a sweat, and you certainly don't have to use your whole lunch hour to play, but getting in at least 15 minutes can mean the difference between zen and a disciplinary warning for reading that annoying, narcissistic coworker for the fifth time. This can especially be doable if you work from home or have flex hours. No excuses, friend.

2. Utilize technology to automate, get organized, and save time.

We're fans of working smart, not hard around here. And if you can't put together a good Excel sheet, automate many tedious tasks (like often-used email responses, out-of-office notices, to-do lists, presentations, data projections, even food delivery and self-care appointments), get help. (Literally. Hire a Task Rabbit, ask an intern, invest in platforms like Calendly or take a course. Trust us. It will save your life.)

Research by analytics company Verint shows that 72 percent of people who have "low stress" said they have access to tech that allows them to "work productively" and 64 percent believe that automation "helps reduce workload and stress." So let's stop hand-typing, manually calculating, and doing other monotonous things in real time, and save our amazing brain cells for larger, more complicated tasks.

3. Make prayer or meditation a deliberate part of your day.

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This practice doesn't have to be limited to your home, bedtime routine, emergency response, or that one day you choose to dedicate to self-care. Beyond the spiritual and mental benefits of doing this daily at work, let's get into the science: They have found that prayer and meditation can be "calming," increase your focus, and up those feelings of "emotional support."

You can choose to do it in your car, in a workplace breakroom, or via a 30-minute class or mid-day service, or you can simply breathe a prayer or several affirmations at your desk. Just be sure to deliberately slide this in to break up the chaos that might be going on around you.

4. Carpool, get a ride, or take public transportation.

Again, we see that side-eye, sis. Pick up your lip and hear us out. Beyond the environmental and monetary savings, letting someone else take over the driving during your morning and evening commutes (or for going to mid-day meetings and participating in work-related activities outside the office) has its perks. If you're not into the idea of taking a bus or train right now (totally understandable), treat yourself at least once per month to an Uber or Lyft ride, or find a trusted coworker, family member, or friend, and alternate days to drive. The less time personally dealing with road-raged lunatics, non-driving bumper-riders, and cray-cray congestion, the better.

5. Partner up, get a coach, or delegate.

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Sometimes stress can be connected to taking a do-it-all approach to everything. Here's where a partner comes in. Find ways to either delegate tasks or partner with someone to take on half the load. Advocate for yourself by engaging with others and finding out strengths and skills that can be exchanged or bartered. If that's not an option, utilize the resources provided by your HR department, talk with a mentor about ways to cope with the stresses of major experiences like a work deadline or staff change, or tap a coach or therapist to help you pinpoint workplace stress triggers and ways to reduce, rebound or eliminate them.

Not all stress is connected to negative experiences, and even doing a job you love or working at the company of your dreams involves an element of stress. You're closing deals, managing staff, getting promoted, or taking on new responsibilities, so be sure to take a cue from at least one of these steps and arm yourself to come out on top.

For more job search tips, career advice and profiles, check out the xoNecole Workin Girl section here.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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