Effective Ways to Reduce Stress at Work

How can you handle stress in the workplace more effectively so things don’t get to you? We all know the office can be stressful. Find out tips and advice on how to reduce stress at work – including  incorporating mindfulness practices into the workplace and why spring is the best place to start! 

Techniques for reducing stress in the office

Why does reducing stress at work matter? 

You might have gotten used to living in a stressful work situation for so long; it feels normal. Running from meeting to meeting, forgetting things, apologising, starting over, working evenings and weekends to catch up? Already sounding familiar? You aren’t alone. Stress at work is still a huge problem, and while you might think that a nation of stressed workers means we are getting the hours done and causing a big push to gross domestic profit, we’re actually making ourselves sick and ineffective. Reducing stress at work really matters. 

According to the Health and Safety Executive, stress, depression, anxiety, and musculoskeletal disorders accounted for the majority of days lost due to work-related ill health in 2021/22, 17.0 million and 7.3 million, respectively. 

Many of these, such as depression and anxiety, start with stress at the core. 

Want to know to reduce stress at work before it takes over? Here’s the bad news. There is little you can do to prevent stress. Life has its own plans, and even if you managed to get your workplace serenity sorted, all it takes is a bad life event to put you back to square one. 

Work stress and home stress all meet together in you. That’s why it’s not about ‘never being stressed’, which is almost impossible – but instead flipping the script so you know the things you can do to manage stress more effectively.

How to reduce stress at work – the two major pillars 

Getting a handle on stress yourself involves learning how to relax – and some of the best ways to do this are to take regular exercise, practise breathing techniques and adopt good time-management techniques.

Most ‘deal with stress’ advice fits into those two categories because it is so effective. 

How to reduce stress at work – relax with breathing 

How can you handle stress in the workplace? Breathe! 

A new study on 114 people divided them into four groups and requested they respectively practise mindful meditation, box breathing, cyclic hyperventilation or cyclic sighing for five minutes a day over a month’s time. The researchers charted changes in mood, anxiety and physiological arousal — defined as respiratory and heart rate variability — finding that “daily 5-min cyclic sighing has promise as an effective stress management exercise.”

Multiple other studies show breathwork is great for reducing stress. 

How to reduce stress at work: Relax with better time management 

Managing our time is one area of control we can exert over stress. While we can’t manage the boss and their demands, we can start to create to-do lists and use other techniques to manage our time and show we are keeping a track of the tasks on our plate. 

The most well-known trend is time chunking, where you block areas of the day to similar tasks. 

Then there are bigger trends – like simply moving tasks into tomorrow. Apps such as Do It (Tomorrow) allow you to generate a list of tasks for the current day and the following day, so you have visibility of a to-do list that doesn’t overwhelm. 

Many other people have got use from dividing their tasks into quadrants, where tasks are logged in one of 4 easily identifiable categories: 

Q1: Urgent and important.

Q2: Not urgent yet important.

Q3: Urgent but not important.

Q4: Not urgent and not important.

Could these help you feel you have control? 

If all else fails, consider a change of perspective, as highlighted by Oliver Burkeman in reference to the adage that “the effect you expect is the effect you’ll get”. In one study, hotel housekeepers grew physically healthier when encouraged to think of their hard work as good exercise; those who saw it as arduous labour didn’t.

The takeaway? See yourself as less stressed, less overwhelmed and more ‘challenged’.  Could you see yourself not at all as stressed – but to reframe as suffering ‘A strain’-  (something which consists of at least two stressors, either pulling or pushing an individual in different directions.)

While just a simple language shift, it could be enough to help change how you feel. 

How can you handle stress in the workplace? It’s often all down to your mindset – but to get into a space where change is possible, you must feel safe, respected, healthy and confident. If you are running on an already overworked body and mind, it’s going to be really unhelpful to start pressuring yourself to manage your time better or to ‘take it easy’. 

How to bring stress reduction techniques into work: Practical tips 

Get started with some small changes to your routine that can help, even if you feel there is nothing left in your tank. 

Bringing stress reduction techniques into the workplace can be challenging, but it is important for overall well-being and productivity. Are you a manager or looking to make the workplace calmer? Or just watching out for yourself? Either way, there are some easy steps to take. 

That’s just the tip of the iceberg – but hopefully, just enough to take the edge off the stress of modern work life and to help you feel better. 

Elaine Keep

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