There are hectic deadlines. There are quickly shifting priorities. There are performance demands. There’s tension and there’s conflict. The unfortunate reality of any given working day is that there’s stress. And, without some sort of release, stress can build to a point that it can cause harmful physical problems, including headaches, fatigue, and even chest pain. To try to avoid that, here are five tips to help combat stress at the office.
1. Environment: Start with your personal space. You might not realize it, but if your desk is cluttered, it could be contributing to your stress levels. Tidy up and organize, and your body might respond by feeling calmer. Also, if your company approves, consider bringing in a houseplant. Studies have shown that houseplants can reduce stress—plus they can be a visually appealing break from a computer screen.
2. Create a buffer. Sometimes, you might just want to get away from it all, but your workload won’t let you leave. If office rules allow, think about having a pair of headphones and some good calming music (classical music or light rock, for example). You’ll have the soothing tones, you’ll reduce auditory distractions (particularly in an open office environment) as well as other interruptions, and you might feel as though you’ve stepped into a new world, all of which can help lessen the tension of the day.
3. Take breaks. Even if for only a few minutes at a time, breaks can help boost your energy levels and let you refocus on the task at hand. Even better is doing some stretching, which can relieve strain on your shoulders, joints, and neck. If you can spare a few extra minutes, move around some—especially if you’re able to get outside. Fresh air and movement can greatly reduce stress. And if it’s possible, suggest a walking meeting instead of one in a conference room—everyone can feel a little better as they increase energy and stretch out chair-tired muscles.
4. Control your reactions. Workplace conflict can create growth opportunities for all involved, but it can also create a high level of stress. Although you can’t control how your peers handle a situation, you can definitely control how you do. If you feel that your emotions are running too high during a conflict, especially if you’re getting overly angry, try to step back from the situation. Take deep breaths, measure your responses, and be respectful of the other party’s position in the issue. You might find that not only will your stress levels decrease, your coworker’s stress levels could decrease, and you might be able to find a faster and better resolution to the problem.
5. Take care of yourself outside of the office. It’s hard to battle stress if you’re not healthy, and good health starts with how you care for your body. Eat the right foods, drink plenty of water, and get the right amount of sleep. Also, get active — exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress, and it helps keep your body fit and able to take on whatever the workday throws at you.
Although stress is an inescapable fact of workplace life, taking a few simple steps to curb it can help make each day more productive and can even lead to reducing its ill effects. Try some of these ideas to see what works for you.