5 Reasons Being Relaxed Can Make You Successful

by Lara Rutherford-Morrison

There's a completely unfair stigma attached to being a "laid back" person. People automatically assume that, in the absence of an obsessively competitive, uptight personality, laid back people are apathetic losers who are destined to achieve nothing and subsequently be miserable. Uh, there is nothing accurate about any of that. According to Reuben Yonatan for the Huffington Post, 83 percent of American workers say they feel stressed out by their jobs, and 76 percent name work as the primary source of stress in their lives. The United States is a “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” culture: We’re taught from birth that we all have the power to be professionally and financially successful, if only we work hard enough. While this message is inspirational for many, it also instills in us the idea that it is ­only by working our proverbial asses off—spending late nights frenetically scribbling out reports and ignoring our families and friends—that we can ever experience true success.

The truth is that you don’t have to be a hyper-competitive, highly strung workaholic to be a high achiever in your professional life—and, in fact, this approach to your job can often be damaging to the quality of your work, your office relationships, and your ultimate success. By taking the time to relax and take care of your health, you can increase your creativity, improve your social relationships (professional and otherwise), and be generally happier. Here are five reasons that you don’t need to burn the candles at both ends to get ahead.

1. We’re more creative when we’re relaxed

Inc. reports that the human brain experiences heightened creativity when it’s relaxed. Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, writes,

Neuroscience is finding that when we are idle, in leisure, our brains are most active. The Default Mode Network lights up, which, like airport hubs, connects parts of our brain that don't typically communicate. So a stray thought, a random memory, an image can combine in novel ways to produce novel ideas.

So if you’re constantly running around like a madwoman, you might literally be stressing yourself out of your Next Big Idea.

2. Your stress can bring down your whole team

A 2013 Wall Street Journal article explored how one person’s stress can negatively impact an entire workplace. The report found that stress could be “contagious” among a team at work, causing everyone undue anxiety and bringing down the whole team’s productivity. Lowering your stress at work can thus have a positive effect, not only on you, but on your coworkers. Being part of a more productive work team can in turn bring you more success.

3. Sleep will improve your memory and make you happier at work.

You might think that staying up into the wee hours of the morning to work on that report is good for your job, but what you’re really doing is damaging your brain function. According to Health, getting adequate sleep can improve your memory. Furthermore, sleep can help relieve depression and increase emotional stability. In an interview for Health, Dr. Raymonde Jean, director of sleep medicine and associate director of critical care at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in NYC, says

A lack of sleep can contribute to depression. … A good night’s sleep can really help a moody person decrease their anxiety. You get more emotional stability with good sleep.

Being more emotionally stable will make you more effective when you’re working, and your coworkers will find your easier to be around.

4. Stress is bad for your general health

Stress can affect health in myriad ways, ranging from the mildly inconvenient to the life threatening. According to the Mayo Clinic, stress can cause headaches, muscle pain, insomnia, chest pain, and stomach upset. Over prolonged periods, stress can contribute to obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. All of these conditions are undesirable in and of themselves, of course, but even if all you care about is work, think about this: Your efficiency and creativity will surely suffer if you physically feel like crap all the time, and you can’t go to work at all if you have a heart attack. So take a deep, relaxing breath, and take care of yourself!

5. A sense of humor makes everything better

When you’re not an angsty stress-monster, you can make space in your work life for a healthy sense of humor. Jacquelyn Smith writes in Forbes that humor can improve the work place in a number of ways: a well-placed joke will make people happier about working with you and can help create human connections between employers and staff. Humor can also increase worker creativity, boost office morale, and improve overall productivity.

Images: Mitya Ku/Flickr; Giphy (5)