by: Lee Blue
Stress is a fact of life that most of us have learned to accept and grown accustomed to enduring in our busy lives. But minimizing noise, an element that often compounds stress, can lead to better concentration, increased productivity and can reduce your overall stress level.
There are many types of audio and visual noise that can cause distractions that break concentration and increase stress. There’s the noise of traffic and conversations when we’re walking down the street, but then there’s the subtle everyday noises of our homes and offices that can easily distract us: doors shutting, the television playing, conversations in the next cube, phones ringing, fingers tapping on the keyboard. A study conducted by Cornell University found that office workers exposed to constant noise showed physiological signs of stress, even though they did not report feeling stressed at all. Not only does the noise distract you, but it can be stressing you and you don’t even realize it.
While we can’t necessarily control the fact that the noises exist, there are ways to minimize or eliminate these noises from infiltrating our personal space.
And when outside and background noise is minimized or eliminated, the result can be a noticeably positive change in human productivity. A study by the Federal Interagency Committee on Aviation Noise revealed that when the outside noise of airplanes flying over a school was reduced, test scores among high school students increased by 12%. Now, airplanes are a dramatic example of noise, but the evidence shown in the study speaks for itself – reduction in noise reduces distractions, increases productivity.
Here are some suggestions to reduce the sources of noise and stress in your life.
Check Your Environment – When you sit down to complete a task that requires your full attention, and you find yourself easily distracted, take a look around – is your office disorganized, have a décor that encourages a lack of concentration, or is the furniture arranged in a way that encourages distraction? For example, if your desk faces a window that overlooks a busy street, maybe you should turn your desk in another direction. How does your space or office feel? If the colors and décor are too loud and busy with bright colors, patterns and designs, it may be time for a makeover to tone it down a bit if the space is constantly distracting, rather than inspiring, you. On the other end of the spectrum, if your office décor has muted tones and bare walls, you may need to spruce it up a bit to make your office more interesting. Lastly, clutter is an unappreciated distraction for many of us. If your desk is buried under piles of old files and junk mail, your mind can easily trail off to thinking about what’s in the pile instead of being focused on the task at hand.
Tune the Noise Out – Even after making sure there are no distractions in your own personal space, you still face the noise of others. Especially for many of us who work in open offices with cubicles, something as small as a quiet conversation between two coworkers can destroy our concentration. Earplugs are an option, but are limited in their ability to truly turn off the outside noise in your environment. A set of headphones, such as the EX29 Extreme Isolation Noise Reduction Headphones, can completely tune out the noise. Unlike noise cancellation headphones that attempt to balance the noise coming into the headphones to the noise outside of the headphones to create quiet, noise reduction headphones go a step further and block outside noise. In addition to blocking out distracting noises to help increase concentration, the EX29 Extreme Isolation headphones do not need batteries and you can wear them for hours without fatigue. If you use them to listen to music, you do not have to raise the volume to override outside noise – instead, you will be able to enjoy the intricate nuances of your favorite music.
Get Your Downward Dog On – A routine yoga practice can reduce the “noise in your head” so that when you do sit down to concentrate, you won’t be distracted by the noise between your ears. There are several different types of Yoga for various fitness levels, and with the focus on breathing to ease the flow of oxygen throughout the body, most people notice a significant difference in stress levels from their very first Yoga session. There are many medical research reports to support the health benefits of the exercise done in Yoga, and many Yogis claim success in gaining an ability to focus on the present moment, making them more productive and less stressed than non-Yogis.
Research from sources such as Cornell University, Yale University , University College London , and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health point to a link between noise and stress. While there are many other ways to reduce the stress in your life, the above suggestions are a prescription to minimizing the noise and stress that you inevitably face everyday.