Learning how to reduce stress at work is crucial in today’s fast-paced business environment. If you are constantly tense and wound up, not only will you have difficulty performing your job duties, you could also put your mental and physical health at risk.
Studies have found strong links between work-related stress and chronic heart disease. For example, a study reported at the 2010 American Heart Association conference determined that a woman’s risk of heart disease, including congestive heart failure and heart attacks, increases notably for those with high levels of stress at work. The study included 17,415 women and spanned 10 years. When the study began, the participants averaged 57 years of age, were healthy, and had either full or part-time jobs.
Clearly, being tense and unhappy at work is a serious problem.
However, you can begin using the following 7 tips to reduce stress at work and improve your situation. Some of these tips were adapted from “Understanding U: Managing the Ups and Downs of Life,” a guide published by the University of Michigan.
1. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
Sometimes we consider “thinking positive” and “being optimistic” natural blessings that you’re either born with or you aren’t. But, you can learn to think positively and choose to be optimistic, if you break patterns of negative thinking.
So, when a thought like “there’s no way I can handle my new job duties” pops into your mind, do not fight it, but rewrite it. For example, you can think, “my new job duties are going to challenge me to push myself, become more disciplined, and learn to do my job more efficiently.”
2. Try taking short breaks—even if it’s just at your desk.
To reduce stress at work, it’s important to take brief breaks. Your brain doesn’t work like a computer. If you force yourself to concentrate for too long at one time, you won’t complete tasks as well.
So, try doing simple things to take a few minutes off. Set a timer for five minutes, close your eyes, and meditate at your desk. Load up a single song, put on headphones, and listen to it while you eat an apple. When you go to the bathroom, spend a few extra minutes walking around.
When you get back to work, your mind will be ready to concentrate again.
3. Relax your body.
Have you ever noticed that your shoulders, jaw, neck, or back were tense after spending just a few hours at the office? Carrying that tension around all day is not good for your health.
When you notice your body becoming tense, take a deep breath and stretch. Focus on relaxing the tense areas. Gentle stretching can also reduce stress at work.
4. Learn to say “no.”
It’s easy to bite off more than you can chew at work. By wanting to please your manager, you could end up accepting more projects or hours than you can handle.
Before accepting a new responsibility, you need to consider whether this is something you can realistically do. Pushing yourself to accomplish more is great, but there comes a point where you are setting yourself up for trouble.
If you know you can’t take on more at work, tell your manager or teammates politely, but firmly, that you can’t accept that new responsibility right now. When possible, offer alternatives that could still benefit all of you. That way, you can help reduce stress at work for everyone.
5. Wake up 15 minutes earlier.
Running to your car so you can make it to work just on time or guiltily sneaking in at 9:10 a.m. are stressful ways to start your day. If you start your day at a steady pace, that relaxed feeling could last longer than you’d think.
So, try hitting the hay 15 minutes early at night and getting up 15 minutes early in the morning. It will feel as if a new slice of time came into your day.
6. Eat lunch outside, when whether permits.
Studies have proved that sunlight can improve our moods. Sunlight also keeps our circadian rhythms in check, making it easier to fall asleep at night and wake up the morning.
So, take advantage of these free benefits by eating your lunch outside when it’s sunny. Just taking in fresh air and seeing the sky can help reduce stress at work by making you feel a little happier.
7. Contact a professional if stress is stopping you from functioning at work.
If you are so stressed out that your performance at work has been deteriorating, you may benefit from professional help. Going to therapy can teach you healthy ways to reduce stress at work. If you are one of many Americans living with a mental illness, therapy or medications could also help you live a happier and more productive life.
The bottom line on how to reduce stress at work…
It may not always be possible to control workplace stressors, but you have to the power to control how you react to them. Each day, focus on what you can do to reduce stress at work. The result will be a healthier and more productive mind, body, and career!