How to De-Stress at Work

Meg Delp, LMFT, CCTP on Nov 06, 2022 in Mood and Feelings

We have so many options to destress, it’s really about finding what works for you!

We can easily get overwhelmed from the stress of tight deadlines and high stakes. If we let stress get the best of us, it can reduce our ambition to a mere whisper.

If we can address it head on, we can stay productive and happy at work! And it might be easier than you think.

The below options work super well for instantly taking the top 5-10% off your stress levels, making it easier to engage with work and start crossing things off your to-do list.

1. Take a Walk

If you find yourself sitting all day, one of the best solutions for stress is going for a short walk — especially if you take a coworker or two with you. After just 15 minutes of walking, your brain will release endorphins that decrease anxiety, increase energy levels, and improve mood. Take the long route to the bathroom, start a lunchtime walking club, whatever it takes to get some more steps in.

2. Take a Deep Breath

You’re already breathing; this is just a bit more intentional. Deep breathing helps increase oxygen flow throughout the body and can be done in two simple steps: First, breathe in slowly through your nose, filling up your lungs completely, and then slowly breathe out through your mouth. Notice if your stomach AND chest are rising and falling; continue deep breathing until your whole core feels full of air. It might be helpful to set a gentle alarm every hour to take a deep breath.

3. Stretch Your Body

Similar to walking, stretching will loosen up the body and increase blood flow. This is a great option to de-stress if you're on a time crunch, as you can easily find office stretching techniques for the neck, back, and wrists online.

4. Find a Moment to Meditate

Meditation is all about allowing yourself to just focus on one thing at a time, whatever it is. A good cup of coffee, looking out a window and watching the world go by, listening to a song from start to finish, you name it. You can also use an app like Headspace and Inscape in your own time to practice mindfulness.

5. Make a Detailed To Do List

If you feel overwhelmed by endless assignments, the best thing you can do for your brain is to get organized. Grab a pen and notepad, take a breath, and make a checklist. Checklists are ideal for prioritizing what needs to get done first — you’re bringing the swirling stress out of your brain and evaluating it with a more clear view.

6. Talk It Out with a Friend or Coworker

When under pressure, those we trust can shed new light on how to de-stress at work or give an outside perspective on a problem. Along with this, researchers have also found that having such interactions can release oxytocin, a hormone that decreases stress and helps form bonds between individuals.

7. Get Outside

All year round, it is beneficial for humans to be outside — even in the hot summers and cold winters. Being surrounded by nature and in sunlight can improve vitamin D levels, help with concentration, and prevent illnesses, both long- and short-term. If you aren’t able to move your work outside, ensure you exit your building at least once per day and get 15 minutes minimum of intentional outdoors time throughout the day (walking to your car only counts if you enjoy the breeze and sunshine on your way).

8. Listen to Music

Even as I write this blog post, I have piano music playing in the background. Music is often so important in our daily lives, so why not bring it into the workplace? Listening to songs (instrumental is best) while working decreases stress hormones and can keep us moving. It has also been noted that individuals who listen to music on the job work more efficiently and have a creativity boost!

9. Notice Your Caffeine Intake

It's time to start skipping the coffee and make a cup of tea instead or a sparkling water. Caffeine has been proven to increase our feelings of anxiety — even if it gives us more energy to get things done, we’ll be anxious while we do it! Do your brain a favor and decrease your caffeine consumption to a cup or two of coffee/tea a day.

10. Put Your Mental Health First

If you’re trying all of these ideas and nothing seems to help, it may be time for the next step. Getting professional help from therapists is an option, talking with your manager about workload and potential delegation of tasks, setting more boundaries at work, and even considering taking Short-Term Disability if the overwhelm becomes too much and causes depression or intense anxiety.

It’s okay to ask for help if you’re feeling like you can’t manage it all — you’re a human being with limits! Be your own advocate and acknowledge when you’ve had enough and need help.

Meg Delp is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Philadelphia, PA.

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