5 Practical Ways to Effectively Reduce Stress at Work

Posted on May 15, 2017 by Deb Wood, PhD, CEAP; Senior Consultant

Updated June 4, 2020

We all know stress is unavoidable, but there are things we can do to help reduce the stress when we are at work. We don’t have to make huge changes; even small things can make a big difference.

  1. Recognize the warning signs of stress. Each of us has a physical “tell” letting us know when we are stressed. One person may get a knot in their neck, another may have headaches or stomachaches, while still others may experience loss of interest at work, difficulty concentrating, irritability, anxiety, depression, disrupted sleep patterns or fatigue. When we listen to our bodies, we become aware of our level of stress and can find ways to handle it more effectively.
  2. Take care of yourself. These don’t need to be major lifestyle changes, but making even small improvements in self-care can have a noticeable impact. Exercising, sleeping well and eating right are great ways to ensure better health and relieve stress. Quick tips include taking the stairs instead of the elevator, having healthy snacks at your desk and getting enough sleep at night.
  3. Prioritize and organize. Although it is often difficult, finding balance at work is something to continually pursue.
    • Try saying no to optional work, when appropriate. It’s less stressful to say no than to take on work you can’t complete on time or at a high level of quality.
    • Try to leave for work 10-15 minutes earlier to give yourself time to relax before starting your day. Even arriving without the stress of rushing to make it on time can change the stress level of your day.
    • Take breaks when possible and try to get away from your desk during lunch.
  4. Improve your emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is defined as being aware and in control of how you feel. Be aware of the impact of your behaviors on others and try to understand how they feel. If you become emotionally charged, try to take a break or take deep breaths before responding to the situation.
  5. Break bad habits. All of us have bad habits – even if we’re not aware of them. Negative thinking or “being our own worst critic,” is a common one. Try to think positive thoughts and be kind to yourself. If you are always running late, set your watch ahead 5 minutes, time management is a learned skill. Always rushing and apologizing for being late can be very stressful.

With a few small changes and increased self-awareness, we can improve our emotional well being and increase the enjoyment of our work life.

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