At a dinner party recently, my friends and I were chatting about our work lives and what we were currently doing at work. Someone brought up the topic of workplace stress and how more people lately have been falling prey to such mental pressures, resulting in burn outs. Most of those present then started agreeing and complaining about how stressed they feel at work, which got me thinking: how can such a collective type of stress be relieved?
So, how is workplace stress countered? Workplace stress is something that negatively affects people both at work and outside of it, as it carries over even after leaving the office. Thus, obtaining relief from such stress is also a combination of techniques, practices and ideas that must be followed both at and outside work. The most important thing about stress relief is that one should develop a positive mindset and train themselves not to be so harshly affected by difficulties.
Workplace stress and stress in general, have become major mental health issues over the past decade as lifestyles have become more sedentary and stationary due to maximum desk work and minimal body movement. (We have written a related article - 15 Emotional Signs of Stress in the Workplace). Many people don’t get time to think about anything other than work, deadlines and looming tasks at office, that plague their minds even after they leave work for the day. As such, stress is a killer in many ways- it destroys mental peace, causes anxiety and fatigue, as well as many physical problems. Thus it is necessary to combat this problem effectively and on a long term basis. It may be easy to say that if work is stressing you out so much, you should just quit- but that is the very last resort and for good reason. Stress will be present at any workplace you join. What’s important is that you should know how to face it and deal with it regularly so that it does not affect you as badly in the long run.
1. Consider keeping a desk plant for long term stress management. It is known that nature in general and plants specifically, are beneficial for the human body as well as for the mind. Moreover, the presence of plants nearby also increases productivity and their green beauty provides aesthetic appeal. Consider keeping potted aloe, lavender, orchids and terrariums.
2. A related idea is to make planting and indoor gardening a team activity. This way, everyone present gets involved, from junior staff members to senior management. It’s a healthy, nature-friendly activity that will beautify the office in some time and will help employees bond.
3. One of the major causes of stress and many other bodily disorders is the sedentary lifestyle that most of us have become accustomed to. Sitting at office desks all day has made our bodies inactive and thus the mind is also stressed because of it. Make sure that whenever you take a break from work, such as for lunch or simply to relax, take a short walk around. You will feel better almost immediately.
4. To relieve oneself of the pressures at work, it is a good idea to let go of work concerns once you leave the workplace. Clear your minds of the clutter accumulated at work and think actively about things that calm and relax you. Trying not to dwell on work pressure and focusing on good things in your life will alleviate stress.
5. Music is an excellent stress-reliever. It has also been observed that employees who listen to music while working are often able to concentrate more and are more enthusiastic about work. However, if your workplace does not allow you to do so while working, try relaxing with some music in your break time. Also consider listening to music while travelling to and from work, to relax your mind. (My top recommendation is brain.fm - no affiliation - it's what i use)
6. If you feel like you have too much work on your plate, consider speaking to your manager about the same. Sit with them and discuss your issues, while attempting to chalk out a schedule that is more convenient to both of you. Don’t feel afraid to voice your concerns, as this is your frame of mind and health that is at stake.
7. Similarly, if you have any doubts about your job responsibilities and duties, talk to your manager about that too. Seek help from your co workers with new tasks or things that may be puzzling you. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your colleagues and manager out of fear that they will think badly of you.
8. Office parties, events and cultural functions are held in order to promote employee relations and to create a more informal, fun atmosphere for everyone to socialize. Try to take part in all office events, as they present a wonderful opportunity to get to know other people and to unwind. If you feel that it is desirable, feel free to suggest events to your manager, which can be ice breakers and mood-lifters for everyone involved.
9. One big reason for stress at the workplace is the fear of being incapable of doing the assigned work and a related fear of being replaced. This kind of apprehension leads to immense pressure and stress, which affects mental health and overall performance. To combat this, try to enrol in workshops that are conducted by the organization to enhance skills and impart new knowledge. The new learning opportunity will give you what you need to perform well at work, will boost your confidence and will help you feel better about work. (Check out our top recommended products to help you reduce your Stress and Anxiety)
10. Many people find themselves incredibly cornered and stressed because of workplace politics and internal conflicts. As someone who values mental peace, try your best to keep away from those people who badmouth others, gossip endlessly, and create bad vibes in general. Be friendly, but firm, cordial but uninvolved. Let your work speak for you and not your personal affiliations with people based on such ideologies as relating to religion, politics and other controversial subjects.
11. Make it a point to take your leaves. If there are a certain number of leaves allowed per year, try to use some of those and take a small vacation, a break from work and from everyday life in general. At many places, you have the option of encashing your leaves, but unless you need the cash specifically, try to take the leaves instead. This will give you some much-needed respite and you will return to work fresh.
12. According to Feng Shui, a cluttered workspace equals a cluttered mind. The desk you work at should have as few things cluttering it as possible and should be kept in an organized, neat fashion so that your thoughts are calm and aligned accordingly. So consider redecorating your cubicle or workstation so that it looks tidier. Place a small basket for stationery items. Maintain a to-do task list in a planner or diary rather than multiple post-its you will ultimately get confused with. Redecorating every now and then will help clear out rubbish, relieve stress and will also be a fun activity. (Check our guide to designing a Feng Shui Office)
13. As demanding as your workplace may be of your time and efforts, try to set aside some time for exercise and if you prefer, yoga and/or meditation. Many organizations offer such classes as aerobics and yoga for their employees but consider joining one outside if your workplace does not offer the same. Light exercise daily such as brisk walking and jogging do wonders to counter any stress that may build up during work.
14. When it comes to work pressure, sometimes the stress is self-imposed. All of us want to do our best and at times, we don’t realize that we are burning out trying to meet some impossible standards. It is important to be practical and not demand more out of yourself than you should. There is no shame in knowing your capabilities and limits and working accordingly.
15. Try to maintain a routine. If you go to work at a certain time, it is a good idea to go everyday at the same time and try to complete your work and leave at the end of office hours. Try to avoid overtime regularly as it does not give you any respite and confuses the internal clock of your body.
16. It’s an excellent idea to have a good work life and personal life balance, as both are essential for your happiness. From the get-go, you should determine for yourself very clearly how much, what and when you are willing to do for your workplace, and similarly how much you will put in to your personal life. Set these boundaries carefully and clearly and you will avoid stress easily.
17. Try self-massage to alleviate physical stress. There are several simple body movements you can do while sitting at your desk. This does not take away from your work or distract you- it merely relaxes your muscles. Leading a desk centred work life means soreness and stiffness in the back, neck and sometimes leg muscles due to sitting so long. Try to move your wrists, neck and shoulders in semi circular movements and feel the stress fade.
18. Try to avoid working on many things at once. While doing so may be a bid to prove how professional and hard working you are, it will only result in unfinished or badly done work and a lot of stress. Focus on one thing at a time.
19. This is more of a personal choice but consider spending time with colleagues outside work. Head out for a meal or coffee and get to know each other better in a more informal setting. This may be a great stress-reliever and will help you make more friends.
20. What you eat is an important determinant of how much stress you go through. While eating healthy cannot eliminate all your stress, it can protect you from being as badly affected by it. Adopt a balanced diet to keep stress at bay and make sure your mind and body are both healthy. Often, when we spend long hours at work, we forget to eat on time and end up filling our stomachs with junk food. That is something one should avoid.
21. As mentioned before, body movement is a great way of relieving stress and work pressure. Since gym and yoga can get boring sometimes, you may want to try out Zumba instead. Dance is a fun exercise, a good workout and a great stress-buster.
22. While it’s important to maintain a healthy diet regularly, remember to treat yourself with your favourite foods every now and then. Order in at your office or go out for some dessert. It will make a nice change to routine and will give you something to look forward to, thus reducing stress.
23. Focus on the things that motivate you to continue at your workplace. While deadlines may be looming overhead and office politics may be worse than ever, keep a hold of the bright spots in your universe. If you have a friend group in a set of colleagues, focus on how nice it is to work with them and interact with them every day. If it is your work you enjoy wholeheartedly, enthuse yourself about how good it feels to do what you love.
24. A good way to reduce stress and to eliminate stress-causing situations is to communicate openly and clearly with people around you, at work as well as in your personal life. Confide in people you trust about your daily struggles and work problems. Talking may not solve the problems but will reduce your burden and make you feel better.
25. A more formal way of dealing with stress is seeking therapy. While this is not an option you should resort to immediately when you feel stressed, there is nothing wrong or shameful in asking for help when you need it.
26. Another solution for workplace stress is sipping green tea. Green tea is filled with antioxidants that purify your system and is a great alternative to caffeinated hot beverages such as coffee. Other teas you can drink to calm yourself at work and to relieve stress are chamomile and lavender based teas.
27. Always keep some dark chocolate on you. Dark chocolate is extremely beneficial in small amounts to keep the heart healthy, as well as to reduce the spread of stress hormones in the body. Take a small bit of chocolate whenever you feel stress coming on.
28. Make sure that you remain hydrated. The body undergoes further stress when there is lack of water in the system and it so happens many times that when we are occupied with work and are seated in one place for hours, we forget to do things such as drinking water. Drinking water not only eliminates toxins, it also reduces stress. Stay hydrated. (We have created a deep article - The Complete Guide to Providing the Best Water for Your Employees)
29. Avoid caffeine and sugar-rich foods when you feel stressed. While the sugar/caffeine high feels great and invigorating at first, you will eventually crash and feel the need to consume more, which is a toxic cycle for your mind and body. Switch to infusion beverages or stick to water if you prefer.
30. Deep breathing is a good way to lower stress levels and anxiety. Try a few simple breathing exercises that can be done sitting at your desk, whenever you feel pressured or stressed. This will help relax your muscles as well as your mind.
31. Spend time with family and loved ones. While this might seem obvious, many do not realize that having too much association with the workplace is harmful for personal mental health and does not help with self-development. Take time out for your dearest ones and unwind with them to relieve stress.
32. Try to get some reading time in between work and during breaks, or when you get home from work. Reading does not have to be a strenuous activity requiring intellect and high concentration- just do some light reading of whatever you enjoy: fiction, history, autobiography, science, tech, etc. Your mind will be attracted towards these thoughts and will be distracted from stress.
33. Get a Rubik cube. Solving logic puzzles like the Rubik cube might sound challenging and complex, but such a brain challenge might just be what you need when you are stressed. The analytical thinking this puzzle requires will capture your attention and refresh your mind. Moreover the practice of solving something relates directly to the idea of things falling in place and thus, helps in relieving stress.
34. Be sure to spend enough time outdoors. As much gym, yoga and Zumba you may practise indoors, your mind and body still need the fresh air and calmness of nature to be at peace. Even if you can’t go on nature walks and hikes, a morning jog in the park or a night time stroll outdoors will do wonders to relieve stress for you.
35. Discuss with your seniors and garner support for group activities which can be fun for all those in the office. Plan a picnic, or a potluck lunch. Note down the birthdays of everyone in the office and plan a surprise for them on their special day. Such fun gives everyone something to look forward to.
36. While it is important to be warm and cordial to everyone, don’t take any injustice or bad treatment lying down. If you feel that a co-worker is purposely discriminating against you or behaving unprofessionally, try to talk to them about it, and if they do not respond well, take the matter to the management and HR. You deserve respect and peace of mind at your workplace, without which stress levels rise terribly.
37. This might seem like a cumbersome and tedious idea, but consider maintaining a daily journal. Use this to write down your thoughts and feelings about whatever happens in your life and whatever you feel upset about. You can also use this journal to note down those events and situations that trigger stress levels in you, so you can figure out how to avoid or deal with such events. (My personal recomnedation for journaling is The Five Minute Journal - Check out the latest price on Amazon)
38. Plan a vacation. As mentioned earlier, make good use of leaves and holidays to relieve yourself of workplace pressures. Take a good amount of time to chalk out a detailed plan for a vacation, so that you feel relaxed, enthusiastic and happy by the time you are about to go on your trip. (Get up to 50% of All-Inclusive Vacations at Bookit.com)
39. When you start a new or difficult task, proceed steadily but slowly. Be patient with yourself and reward yourself in small ways when you can make progress. Never take stress or berate yourself over how incapable you feel- rather consider how hard you worked to get something done and how well you are doing.
40. Following up with the previous tip, remember to incentivize yourself when you need that particular push. Instead of forcing your mind to do something, promise yourself things- for example, at the end of the day, you will get to go home and relax with that new thriller novel you began recently.
41. Work pressure is sometimes high for everyone, but almost always so for disorganized people. Make sure you are not one of them, by categorizing your emails, marking events and deadlines and storing information in an organized manner. If you become organized, you will be able to stay on top of things rather than lagging and this will reduce stress.
42. Time management is another important way to avoid stress. Stress piles up on many people because they are unable to manage their time well and end up rushing through things daily. Set time frames for completion of tasks and find out what is time-consuming for you, adjusting your schedule accordingly.
43. Play single player games that use brain power such as sudoku, solitaire, online chess, scrabble etc. The use of brain power will stimulate and re-energize your mind, helping in reducing stress in the long run.
44. Try the visualization technique. When you are feeling stressed, imagine yourself in any place or environment you feel the most peaceful at- be it the beach, a lively market, the quiet of your bedroom, etc. You will feel much better.
45. Lack of sleep is a major cause of stress. When your body does not get enough rest, every additional problem feels like a major issue and you feel pressured and stressed. Make sure you get seven to eight hours of sleep daily to avoid feeling stressed at work.
46. Make sure you eat stress-reducing foods such as nuts, pumpkin seeds, etc. Such foods are also easy to store in small containers and carry with you to work, so you can have them at your desk in intervals too.
47. If you are a smoker, cut down on smoking. While now it may look like a great stress-reliever, it makes you addicted to nicotine, the withdrawal of which then causes additional stress.
48. Keep a photo or a few photos if you wish, at your desk space, of happy moments you enjoyed with friends or family. Looking at happy-moment photos when you are stressed will help you remember those good times and will fight stress.
49. Create a personal mantra or message for yourself to repeat in your mind when you feel pressured. This could be a quote by someone else that inspires you, a thought you relate to deeply, or anything that gets you going.
50. Most importantly, count your blessings. We often focus so deeply on the negatives which happen to us that we forget to be thankful for the good things we have; friends, family, a roof over our heads, food to eat, and so on. Take time out to consider these things and you will feel ready to handle most of what is thrown at you!
Lastly, while quitting your job is the last option you should resort to, you may consider doing so if it is taking too much of a toll on you and your health in the long run. No workplace can be perfect, but an office environment where you feel regularly put down, demeaned and pressurized despite all your efforts, may not be the best fit for you. You deserve to work somewhere you enjoy dignity and respect from your colleagues and seniors- so if the stress you are feeling is caused by oppressive behaviour of others that you cannot change, it is no longer your battle to fight.
Whatever happens, have faith in yourself and your abilities and don’t let the stress of a bad workplace put doubts in you.
What can employers actively do to manage employee stress levels at the workplace? Often, organizations and the management are held responsible for the well-being of the employees and for good reason. (We have written a quick guide - 10 Evidence-Based Ways to Boost Employee Wellbeing). Most working people these days spend over 9 hours of their day, five days a week, at the workplace, which makes their employers at least partially answerable to employee stress and grievances. As such, employers can contribute majorly to relieving employees of stress-
How can one counter stress in daily life without resorting to formal techniques and practices? Ideas such as practising yoga, meditation and breathing exercises are well and good, tried and tested, but there are ways to combat daily stress without doing anything special which may need practice and routine. (Check out our Top 25 Stress Relif Product ideas)
A very simple thing that counters stress is laughter: so smile and laugh more. If that sounds easier said than done, the idea behind managing stress this way is to not let stress affect you, particularly your mental health. Surround yourself with people and things that make you happy and promote positivity in your life. Get rid of negativity and any of its sources.
Don’t be ashamed to take a step back and give yourself time to breathe and think whenever things get overwhelming. You are human and have the right to take a break for your own sake. Take time out to do things you love: be it reading, gardening or painting, Take a baking class, learn a new language. There are many ways to find happiness, seek those.
Don’t feel disheartened when things seem to be getting worse and nothing is working out. As long as you are doing your best, you need not worry about anything else. Besides, worrying changes nothing. So, feeling stressed and over thinking will not solve your problems. The mind is a wilful but trainable entity- so train it to be optimistic and to build positivity within yourself. Always believe in yourself and appreciate how far you have come in your journey, the progress you have made, rather than the problems you encounter. Guide yourself and advise yourself the way you would if a very dear one came to you for help. Be kind to yourself and try to look on the bright side, whatever comes your way.
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