Tips to handle stress at work

5 Life Enhancing Tips to Handle Stress at Work

Have you ever gotten home from work and all you wanted to do was just curl up on the couch under a blanket, binge watch your favorite show and forget about the world? Your brain is fried, and you can’t stop wondering whether you forgot to send that critical email before you finally made it out the door.

I’ve been there! Far too many times and for far too long before I finally started doing something to mitigate all that work stress.

One of the most chronic dangers to our health is stress. It’s one of those silent illnesses that can sap energy away from other vital functions of your body, and over time cause breakdowns to occur.  Addictions also often start as a way to escape stress.

There was a time when I drank a few wine coolers after long days at work because it was a way to calm my nerves. It was a vicious cycle, I reasoned that I worked so hard and was so stressed that I needed those drinks, I deserved it. But really it was a bad way to de-stress that could’ve led to something worse if I hadn’t turned it around.

I saw a television special about Mary Tyler Moore during that time. She spoke about her past alcoholism and said she finally recognized that it wasn’t about the drinking, she asked herself, “What was I escaping?”.  

While we may think we can deal with the stress for a while, under the surface it can be hurting you and your happiness more than you know. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the common effects of stress to your health and wellbeing are:

  • Headache, muscle or chest pain
  • Fatigue and sleep problems
  • Upset stomach
  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Sadness or depression
  • Drug/alcohol/tobacco use
  • Over or under eating
  • Angry outbursts
  • Social withdrawal
  • Exercising less often

We can’t always change the situations around us at work and most everyone needs that job and can’t just leave it without a plan. So, how can you help manage the stress that comes at you each day from bosses, co-workers, and customers?

Ways You Can Manage Stress at Work

I won’t profess to having solved all my work stress problems, I still have those days when I’m totally frazzled, but not nearly as much and for not nearly as many days. The difference in my amount of work stress is night and day compared to where I was a little over a year ago.

If you’ve read my About page, then you’ll know my transformation began due to health problems, and the things I did to overcome those as well as have a much happier daily existence encompassed the multiple areas (Eat, Move, Work, Think).

I hope that these tips, which are things that I did for myself and have helped tremendously, will help you too.

For the page-scanners looking for the good stuff quick, here are the bullet points. If you want to dig in more, read on.

  • Don’t Eat at Your Desk
  • Limit “Stewing in Your Mind” to 10 Minutes
  • Listen to Music (When You Can)
  • Turn Off as Many Alerts as Possible
  • Keep Happy Stuff Around You

If you’re looking for some excellent headphones for listening to tunes, I have this exact set. Also great for Skype business calls and VoIP phones. Click the headphones to grab a pair yourself!

  1. Don’t Eat at Your Desk

I used to eat almost every meal at my desk. I would just rush through whatever quickie thing I could pop in the microwave or eat an energy bar, as I worked.  I work remotely, which has it’s benefits but also can cause a person to work all the time (like a ridiculous amount of hours a day) because you feel like you’re always at work. But when I worked at an outside office, I also often ate lunch at my desk.

Why do we do this? Because we feel we can’t even take 30 minutes (or an hour if you’re lucky) to have a proper meal. That all stopped when my health was in jeopardy.

I started taking the time to eat my meals AWAY from my desk. All of them. And the difference having that 30 minutes for lunch away from the computer screen made a huge difference in my stress level.

If you’re eating at your desk, stop. Give yourself permission to actually enjoy your meal. I take a walk after lunch too, so if you want to, it’s a nice combination. When you get back to your desk, you’ll find that your stress levels have come down considerably and you even may feel a bit refreshed.

 

  1. Limit “Stewing in Your Mind” to 10 Minutes

This one takes some time to master, but I’ve found it incredibly helpful for reducing stress. What do I mean by stewing in your head? Here’s an example:

You’re assisting a customer and being incredibly polite and professional, but the customer is upset about your company’s return policy. It doesn’t matter than they already had a copy and that you offered them a discount, they’re upset and taking it out on you, so much, you feel like crying but don’t.

So, after that interaction you try to return to your next task, but in your head, you’re running all kinds of scenarios (you’re stewing). Here’s a real example of one of my “stews” from a nasty interaction with a rather mean person: I imagine me meeting them years later at a fancy business party. I of course am a guest of honor. I turn around and they’re coming up to want to shake my hand, and I immediately recognize them, pull my hand away and say something like, “Oh yes! I remember you! You were the most horrible, selfish person I’ve ever met.” Then I turn around and walk off. And they are soooo sorry they ever were mean to me!

LOL.. Now you get it!

We can’t help stewing when either a boss, co-worker, or customer wrongs us in some way or causes us to feel totally stressed out. We stew about it and stew and stew, perpetuating that stressful moment for much longer than we need to.

I have a 10-minute stew rule. I will give myself permission to stew about something and run scenarios through my head for 10 minutes tops. Then I put it away and move on.

It’s a happy medium that lets you “get it out” by thinking on it for those 10 minutes, but after that, you mentally turn that off and you’ll find you’ll feel much better and that incident will stress you much less.

  1. Listen to Music (When You Can)

For the longest time I only listened to music at my desk on the odd Friday and when I was in the mood. I’m not sure why, I think I just let the stress bring me down, and I just didn’t feel like it. But listening to music, in between meetings, calls, etc.., has this magical instant mood enhancing ability that I now use to help me stay in a good space even when I’m getting hit with tons of stressful situations.

So, put on some Coldplay, Prince, or whatever you like. I use YouTube’s playlist feature and made a playlist of a bunch of songs that I love, I add to them often. I just pause it when I have a call.

If you can’t listen during work, then listen while commuting and at lunch to get that injection of happy from tunes you enjoy.

  1. Turn Off as Many Alerts as Possible

I’ve written about turning off alerts on the Work Happy page as well. Being interrupted while you’re trying to concentrate on something can raise stress levels more than you realize. Some studies say that it takes a person 20 minutes to mentally get back to the same place they were before they were interrupted. (I’ll bet some bosses out there would stop coming in the office to ask for things so much if they knew that! Ehh or maybe not!)

Are you feeling frazzled and like you can’t get anything done, and the work day’s only halfway over? Those rude needy alerts can be one of the reasons. Banners pop up when emails come in, sounds play when someone likes a post you made, or when someone pings you on Slack or Skype, the list goes on.

Stop letting alerts interrupt you. Even if you don’t realize it, they’re also stressing you out. Turn off all of them you can, except the ones you absolutely need for your job (like if you man the website chat). Believe me, you’ll feel much better, and you won’t miss anything – you can check your email and other apps when YOU choose to.

  1. Keep Happy Stuff Around You

If you have a work space you can decorate, take advantage of that space to make your own oasis. I love stuffed animals, so I have them around my desk, and even one hanging over my desk! (see photo of my Fairy Dragon). Looking at and holding one of my stuffies instantly makes me feel a little better if I’m stressed.

Happy Coworkers
I have awesome coworkers!

I also have some small plants that are actually lemon seeds that I planted (they’ll be lemon trees someday!), family photos and figurines in my oasis. Surround yourself with what you love. It could be…

  • Plants & flowers
  • Photos of loved ones
  • The Avengers figures
  • The latest copy of Vanity Fair
  • Sports memorabilia
  • Pet figurines
  • A photo of all the Star Trek captains
  • Stuffed emojis that you rotate according to how you feel

The point is to surround yourself with YOUR HAPPY to help you Work Happy.

Remember, who you are! You’re that awesome person that is doing your best every single day. Don’t  let one person’s bad mood change how you feel about yourself. Stay true to you.

I would LOVE to see your workspace and the happy you surround yourself with. Please hit me with photos on social media with hashtags: #WorkHappy #HappinessMe

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