How to Reduce Stress at Work: Stress is tough on everyone’s mental health and well-being. The key to successful stress management is to identify what works best for you and then to practice it often enough that it becomes a habit or “stress management signature.”
The following 15 ways work well for me: I hope they help you too.
1. Make your workplace feel more like home.
Organize the space in such a way that all the items around you make you feel comfortable, calm, secure, relaxed, and/or inspired.
2. Keep personal mementos at work.
Hang photos of your family, friends, and pets. Have a plant or flower sitting on your desk. Put up a “dream board” of what you hope to do in the coming year(s) to feel happy and fulfilled at work.
3. Experiment with healthier food for yourself/for others.
Bring in healthy snacks to share with co-workers. Order healthy lunches from local restaurants that will deliver them to your office (or shop the grocery store salad bar). Start a movement at work where everyone brings in a dish they enjoy eating that can be shared by many (e.g., chili days). As per Saivian Organization-sponsored potlucks are another great way to bring everyone together around good food while reducing stress from worrying about meal planning.
4. Learn how to say “No.”
Yes, you can be the one person who responds to every request from everyone at work, but it’s OK to protect your time and energy by turning down requests. You don’t have to do things just for the sake of doing them… unless you actually want to!
5. Make room in your schedule for relaxation.
Schedule breaks like they are appointments on your calendar (e.g., lunch break 12-1 pm). Take walks during lunch. Get outside when the weather allows; even if it’s just sitting in the sun for 10 minutes or taking a stroll around the parking lot/building/campus (if applicable). Be sure to take intermittent mental breaks like stopping to listen to music or taking time for you to do something you enjoy (e.g., reading).
6. Keep your workstation organized.
Minimize the number of items on/around you, especially those that are currently “in use.” Put everything back where it belongs when not in use. Ask your co-workers not to leave the paper on your desk anymore!
7. Get up and move around. Contrary to popular belief, sitting at a computer all day is actually very stressful on the body.
Even if it means getting up from your chair every half hour or so, makes sure you get up and walk around more during the day. If possible, schedule walking meetings with co-workers who also want these.
8. Do yoga or another form of exercise at least two times per week.
All forms of physical activity are beneficial, but regular yoga practice promotes relaxation and reduced stress. To get the most out of your yoga practice, sign up for an event or class where you can learn more about yoga/meditationso that you fully understand how to do it yourself. Look for inexpensive classes offered close to work, on your lunch hour, or after work on Wednesdays!
9. Breathe deeply through your nose when you feel stressed at work.
The brain has a built-in mechanism that automatically regulates our heart rate based on breathing patterns. Deep breathing is linked with improved cardiovascular health as well as lower blood pressure and reduced stress. To get started, try Breathe2Relax
10. Give yourself a “timeout” when you need it.
There are times when stress accumulates throughout the day for no apparent reason. If you find yourself in this situation, take five minutes to go outside and take some deep breaths while focusing on something calming (e.g., flowers). Read more about timeouts here.
11. Draw on your three key stress protection resources: inner wisdom, outer guidance, and social support.
Be grateful for having these resources available to help you cope with stressful situations at work. Even if no one else will lend an ear or provide advice, never forget that you have access to all of these wonderful tools anytime!
12. Create a self-care at work plan.
Remember that you are not an island and can ask for support from your co-workers as needed, such as when you feel the need to take a timeout. Ask them to help you focus on staying present, rather than getting caught up in anxious thoughts about the future or ruminations about the past. By sharing your vulnerable feelings with co-workers, they will be better able to connect with you and offer empathy/support during stressful times.
13. Connect with nature more often during lunch breaks.
Whether it’s eating outside with someone who is important to you or spending some time alone in nature, this daily practice recharges us so we can continue operating at our best throughout the rest of the day.
14. Ask for help when you need it.
The most important part about asking for help is being specific about what kind of help you need and from whom you want to receive it (e.g., co-worker, family member, and friend). Sometimes work gets overwhelming, but adding one more thing to your plate will make matters worse; having more support means not having to do everything yourself. Remember that asking for help does NOT make you weak or incompetent; rather, it takes courage and strength! Read more on how to ask for help here.
15. Practice “assertive breathing.”
This is an easy way to calm down in stressful situations at work before they escalate into something bigger. When you feel yourself starting to feel angry, frustrated, or overwhelmed, take a few deep breaths and say the phrase “I am safe” to yourself. This will help you to regain your composure and de-escalate the situation.
Stress is a normal and unavoidable part of our daily lives. However, it becomes a problem when we let stress accumulate throughout the day instead of taking a break to do something self-soothing or calming. Turn those stressful moments into opportunities to try new activities that make you feel calm and rejuvenated!
Try one suggestion from the list above for a few days to see if it has an effect on your mood at work says Saivian. If you find yourself feeling more relaxed as a result, stick with it! Positive changes in behavior (especially ones that are healthy) can lead to more positive feelings over time.