10 Highly Effective Ways to Instantly Lower Your Stress Levels on the Job

Man sitting at desk and pinching bridge of nose, looking stressed

Excessive stress in the workplace can have devastating effects on your productivity and job satisfaction levels, your performance, and your overall health and wellbeing. According to The American Institute of Stress, 80% of workers feel some kind of stress on the job while 40% of workers reported that their job is either very or extremely stressful, and 25% view their jobs as the primary source of stress in their lives.

In addition to causing serious and life-threatening health issues or chronic disease, high levels of stress at work can also have wider implications for the economy. The AIS also reported that job stress costs the US over $300 billion annually as a result of things like workplace accidents, missed days at work, turnover, medical costs, diminished productivity, or worker’s compensation.

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Moderate levels of stress from time to time at work are likely unavoidable and considered fairly normal. However, if you find yourself struggling to cope with stress that has gotten out of control and has begun to affect your daily life – from your productivity to your health – consider taking these important steps to reduce your stress levels and work happier and healthier:

Step away

Taking regular breaks throughout your day to step away from your computer or your workload can be one of the best ways to lower your stress level and find some calm. Taking a 15-minute break every three hours is a popular practice in many workplaces now. If you can, make it a habit to walk outside for a few minutes every day and enjoy some fresh air. Turn your phone off, avoid checking your email, and use the time to re-focus your attention.

Deep breathing

There are many deep breathing techniques you can learn to bring down your stress level, although simply taking a slow, deep breath, holding for a few seconds, and slowly exhaling (and doing this several times until you find yourself in a more calm state) is a highly effective way to instantly lower stress in the moment.

Go to the source

Consider the root cause of your stress. Do you have too much on your plate? Are you dealing with a toxic coworker or a bad boss? Are you unsure about your role or expectations or even concerned your job might be on the line? Identify the main source of your stress and do as much as you can to address this issue and make positive changes that will have a direct effect on lowering your stress levels.

Get organized

If you’re dealing with chaos or discord in the workplace that’s causing you a lot of stress, being disorganized on top of that will only exacerbate the problem. When you feel overwhelmed, make sure your physical workspace – your desk or office – as well as your digital space (your computer’s desktop, file systems, online tools, or cloud files) are well organized and that everything you need is easily accessible.

Always take a lunch

When you’re overloaded with work, it can be tempting to just “power through” your day without taking breaks or even lunch. But, ignoring this important part of your day and either skipping the meal altogether or eating lunch on the go while you continue working can rob you of a precious half hour or hour where you could be lowering your stress levels and re-charging.

Establish boundaries

For many people, stress slowly rises to a fever pitch because they are unable to say “no” to requests and end up taking on too much at work. Also, making yourself too available to your colleagues can backfire as you could end up being interrupted throughout the day and therefore unable to manage your own workload. Learn how to set healthy boundaries in the office and carve out the space and time you need to get your work done.

Make technology work for you

Technology can help you to set those much-needed boundaries at work and to reduce the daily distractions and interruptions that can pull you away from your workload and cause your anxiety levels to climb. Use your “away” settings on your email or messaging systems to let colleagues know you’re unavailable, and snooze all of your alarms or notifications during this time as well so you’re not tempted to be pulled back into a non-urgent email chain or conversation. Set alarms for yourself as reminders to stay on task so you don’t miss any important deadlines, which can leave you scrambling at the last minute and compound your stress level.

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Take care of yourself

If you are not taking care of your health, you will have little energy left over to effectively tackle workplace stressors. When you’re in the “thick of it” at work, be sure to follow the basics: get adequate sleep each night, maintain a healthy diet, and get regular exercise.

Advocate for more support

Addressing workplace stress issues should start from the top down. If your organization’s leadership has not already made this a priority and a part of the regular conversation at work, approach your boss or your employer with the idea of putting some resources or support systems in place so that you and your colleagues have the tools needed to reduce stress and work better and smarter.

Find a new job

If you’ve taken all the steps you can take to reduce workplace stress, including addressing the issue with your company’s leadership team or HR department, and you still find that you’re struggling with abnormal amounts of stress, it may be time to seek out a new employer that prioritizes employee wellbeing, health, and satisfaction.

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