Author: Diana Gordon, Psy.D.
Most of us deal with some degree of work-related stress. Many of our clients report that stress at work has become so routine that they’ve given up trying to find solutions. Even if you are fortunate enough to have a job that you love, some degree of stress is inevitable. Since we spend approximately 30% of our lives at work, easing workplace stress can greatly improve quality of life. While we can’t eliminate all sources of stress at work, there are many ways that we can ease this stress to make workdays more pleasant. Here are some tips you can try to ease your stress today:
Practice Good Self-Care
You can think of self-care as the foundation for good mental health. When we take optimal care of ourselves, it’s easier to cope with minor stressors. Taking good care of yourself means eating foods that promote health and energy, getting regular physical activity, and getting a full night’s sleep. When you’re hungry, tired, or low on energy it’s difficult to cope with even minor stressors. Taking good care of yourself can help you build up a reserve of fuel that makes you more flexible and adaptive over the course of the day.
No matter how busy you are at work, it’s crucial to take breaks to refuel your mind, body, and spirit. A break can be as simple as taking an extra lap around the office when you get up to use the restroom. Take even that small amount of time to check in with yourself and re-center before resuming work. If you have a longer break, try taking a short walk, getting a cup of coffee, or chatting with a coworker before resuming work. You’ll return to work feeling refreshed and refocused.
Sneak in Physical Activity
Getting a few minutes of exercise is a great way to boost your energy and alleviate stress. You might try something as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator when you head to a meeting on another floor. If you have more time, try taking a 15 minute walk or even fitting in an exercise class during lunch. If you have a meeting, try asking your coworker if they’d like to walk and talk instead of meeting in the office. The fresh air and physical activity can help alleviate stress and boredom.
Meditation and Mindfulness
There are several meditation apps available that make it easy to meditate on the go. Next time you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed at work, try finding a quiet space and taking 5-10 minutes to do a guided meditation. If a formal meditation practice isn’t for you, check out our post on mindfulness in daily life to get other ideas for integrating this practice into your life.
Many of our clients report that it’s difficult for them to leave work at work, especially when they are expected to check email or take phone calls after regular work hours. It can be challenging to find a balance. We recommend establishing an end of the workday ritual that allows you to relax and transition into leisure time. This can be as simple as listening to music or an audiobook you love during your commute, or changing into comfortable clothes when you get home. This cues your mind and body to relax and transition away from work. If you do need to log back in when you get home, consider setting some limits that separate work and leisure time. For example, you might decide to have a work free dinner, log back in for 2 hours, and then log out and enjoy your favorite TV show. Try to create a deliberate and mindful distinction between work and leisure and allot time for both during the evenings.
Some amount of stress and anxiety at work is normal and can even be adaptive. But if you find that the tips above don’t alleviate your stress, you might need additional help. Working with a therapist can help you identify stressors and make a plan for coping with them. You might need to learn some new skills for coping with challenging emotions, or you might need help problem-solving to make improvements in your work life. Contact us if you’d like to find out more about how we can help with work stress.
Diana Gordon, Psy.D., Kari Kagan Psy.D., and Katie Leoni, Psy.D.
Drs. Gordon, Kagan, and Leoni practice psychotherapy in downtown San Francisco and Oakland. Their areas of expertise include anxiety, sleep, stress, depression, and addiction. They blog about these topics to provide research-based information about common problems and strategies to help manage them.