If you’re experiencing stress related to work, you’re certainly not alone.
Work stress is real. So real, in fact, that a recent survey discovered that 83% of U.S. workers are stressed at their jobs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that a quarter of employees view their job as the number one stressor in their life.
Why are so many Americans experiencing so much work stress? Some of the biggest reasons employees cite for the exponential levels of stress they feel about their jobs include their workload, work/life balance, interpersonal issues at work and job security.
63% of U.S. workers are on the verge of quitting their jobs because of work-related stress. Luckily, if work stress has you ready to throw in the towel, there are a few simple ways you can save your sanity.
Here’s How to (Really) Overcome Work Stress Once and For All
Soothing work-related stress starts with taking care of you. When you take steps to ensure that you’re doing your best to keep overall stress levels in check, it’s much easier to overcome the acute stress you experience at the office.
Of course, there are things you can do while at work to keep your stress levels low. Before we get into some of the best ways to soothe stress while at work, let’s first look at a few small personal changes that can help significantly diminish your overall stress levels so you can better enjoy all aspects of your day, including work.
Personal Changes That Can Help Soothe Work Stress
Start Your Day Off Right
One of the best ways to kick work stress to the curb is by keeping stress levels in check before your workday even starts. The way we start each day has a tremendous effect on how the rest of the day unfolds. If you’re someone who is regularly stressed out at work, you might want to think about a few changes to your morning routine.
Think about your typical morning. How many times do you snooze your alarm? Do you rush around in a panic trying to get out the door in time, frantic that you’ve forgotten something or dreading the day ahead? Or do you breeze through your mornings with ease, waking up earlier and taking the time you need to ensure you’re setting yourself up for success?
Starting your day off right can do wonders for flipping the script on your work stress. There are many awesome ways to create a relaxing, mindful morning routine that will help keep work stress in check.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is vital for keeping work stress levels low. Have you ever noticed how much more difficult a day at work becomes if you don’t get adequate sleep the night before? Focus and concentration levels take a nosedive, while crankiness with coworkers and customers becomes intensified.
Experts recommend we get an average of eight hours of sleep each night. The majority of people barely get six. When you get enough sleep, you can walk into work refreshed and ready to start your day. If you don’t sleep like you should, you can expect work stress to stick around until you do.
Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule, turning off electronics an hour or two before bed, taking a warm bath or shower about an hour before bed and turning your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary are all easy ways to help you get the sleep you need. You might also want to consider naturally supporting relaxation and healthy sleep with herbs and essential oils beneficial for a good night’s rest.
Make Sure You’re Getting Regular Exercise
It’s a well-recognized fact that exercise is awesome for easing stress. If you’re not getting enough of it, all areas of your life can be affected, especially your work life.
Did you know that a whopping 86% of Americans have jobs that require them to sit down all day? One in four Americans sit for more than eight hours a day, which isn’t just bad for stress levels but can wreak havoc on one’s health. Time refers to sitting as “the new smoking,” as research shows that people who spend long periods sitting are at a higher risk for heart disease and early death than people who spend long periods standing.
When it comes to soothing work-related stress, exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself. When we engage in physical activity, the brain releases endorphins that can help boost mood and almost instantly make us feel better. A chemical called norepinephrine is also released during exercise, which has shown to regulate our response to stress.
If you’re someone who doesn’t exercise at all, even just 20 minutes of light exercise each day is amazing for keeping stress levels in check. You can also take the stress-relieving benefits of exercise to work with you!
When you feel yourself getting stressed at work, take a break and move. Do a few simple stretches (desk yoga is a real thing), take a walk around the office, try ten quick jumping jacks or even run for a few minutes in place. Get your body moving and those stress-relieving, “feel good” chemicals will begin to flow.
Tips for Easing Stress While at Work
Eat Healthy, Wholesome Foods
You’re probably aware that what you eat has a tremendous effect on the way you feel. Knowing something and acting on it, however, are completely different stories.
If you’re one of the countless people who crave comfort foods at work, saying no to that morning muffin or mid-afternoon snack loaded with carbs and sugar that you chase down with your favorite Starbucks drink or soda can do wonders for the work stress you experience.
Why does eating healthy, wholesome foods make such a difference in your work stress levels? When we become overwhelmed with stress, the brain releases the hormone cortisol, which makes us crave foods that are full of fat, sugar and salt, simply for the fact they make us feel temporarily better. The problem is when the temporary “fix” these foods offer wears off — our stress levels typically become even worse.
This is why it’s essential to commit to eating foods that boost your brainpower and don’t trigger a stress response, especially when you’re at work. Rather than dipping your hands into the office donuts, do yourself a favor and reach for the following stress-free work snacks instead:
- Fresh Veggies: Carrot and celery sticks might not sound as appetizing as a piece of pizza, but they make for a great mid-afternoon snack that won’t leave you feeling frazzled. One of our favorite ways to beat that mid-afternoon slump is by eating an array of fresh veggies with hummus.
- Fruit: Instead of processed sugar, try satisfying your sweet tooth with some fresh fruit throughout the day. Consider bananas, which are full of the potassium you need to keep your blood pressure low. Avocados are another excellent option (yes, they’re a fruit) as they contain even more potassium than bananas. Grapes are another good choice, with one study even suggesting that grapes may help counter stress because of their rich antioxidant profile that helps reduce oxidative stress levels.
- Nuts: Almonds, pistachios and walnuts contain high levels of vitamin E and zinc, which are great for keeping immunity strong. They’re also high in B vitamins, which can help manage stress. Cashews are a good stress-free nut snack as well due to their magnesium and B6 content.
- Herbal Tea: Consider an afternoon cup of soothing chamomile tea before you give in to the mocha that will leave you feeling even more wound up than you were before lunch. Herbal teas are a great way to soothe stress and can help induce a sense of calm when you still have hours to go at work but feel like you can’t take anymore. Black tea is said to soothe stress as well. According to University of London researchers, “black tea may speed up our recovery from the daily stresses in life.”
Overcome That Overwhelm Feeling by Getting Organized
Feeling overwhelmed at work is common. HuffPost reports that 58% of workers are “at least sometimes overwhelmed at work,” compared to 9% of workers who don’t feel overwhelmed at work at all.
When we feel like we can’t meet the demands expected of us at work or that we have too much on our plates, we can quickly feel overwhelmed, which can lead to some serious feelings of burnout. One of the best ways to manage the stress that accompanies feeling overwhelmed is to get your work life as organized as possible.
Use your calendar. Make a to-do list every day and put the most important things you need to get done at the top. If you don’t make it to everything, take what didn’t finish and move it to tomorrow’s to-do list. Make deadlines for yourself and stick to them.
Forget about multi-tasking. Our brains aren’t wired to do many different tasks at once. The human brain simply can’t perform two or more things that require high-level brain functioning at the same time.
Focus on completing one task at a time, making those that need to get done a priority. When you’re finished, cross it off your list, take a short break and move on to the next. You’ll likely find that more actually ends up getting done than when you were trying to do too many things at once.
Form Positive Relationships With Coworkers
Forming and maintaining positive relationships with your coworkers can make a night and day difference in the work stress you experience. Conflict between coworkers is more common than you might think. Forbes once reported that 60-80% of all problems in the workplace are due to “strained relationships among employees.”
Workplace conflict with coworkers doesn’t just make your job feel more difficult; it can lead to poor work performance and cause serious stress. Dreading the idea of coming to work because of that one person who gets under your skin can make your workday seem stressful before it even starts.
Cultivating positive relationships with your coworkers and superiors is vital if you want to keep work stress to a minimum. Don’t engage in office gossip. Speak positively about your coworkers instead. If you have a problem with someone at work, don’t talk about it with other employees. Take it to your boss instead. Initiate conversations with others rather than sticking to yourself. Invite your coworkers to offer input on your projects or activities. Ask a coworker for help and positively support their work when you can.
The more positive our work relationships are, the less stress we end up experiencing. The average person spends 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime. This means that we ultimately spend more time with our coworkers than we do our friends and family. Getting along with the people at the office can seriously reduce the job stress we experience.
Take a Break
As much as you might want to power through each day to finish everything that must get done, it’s imperative to take breaks. Your brain only has the capacity to focus for 90-120 minutes at a time. If you’re pushing through for hours at a time, it’s safe to say this may be a cause for the work stress you might experience.
Work for 90 minutes and then take a 20-minute break. Your brain needs time to rest and reset. Use this time to move your body or eat a healthy snack. Resist the urge to scroll through social media, as it will drain your brain energy even more.
Getting into the habit of alternating between focusing and resting throughout the day will do wonders to relieve some of the work-related stress you feel, especially if it’s caused by feeling overwhelmed. You can get everything done and experience less stress while doing so. It’s simply a matter of changing the way you work to better serve you.
Take a Deep Breath
It might help to know that most Americans are stressed at work, but it doesn’t make it any easier. While work stress isn’t likely to ever go away completely, there are ways to make your workdays less stressful.
Simple changes can make a big difference when it comes to managing workplace stress. We all deserve to feel more joy and live happy, fulfilling lives. When we make the positive changes known to help soothe work stress, other aspects of our lives will become better because of it.
Share Your Ideas on Soothing Work-Related Stress
What are some of the things you do to overcome work stress? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below. And of course, we’re always up for a chat!
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Hannah Smith is Joy Organics Director of Communications. She is driven by her passion for providing clear and accessible wellness and CBD education. In 2015, she received her BA in Media, Culture and the Arts from The King’s College in New York City and before Joy Organics, worked as writer and photographer in the Middle East and North Africa. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Vice, Vox, Denver Post, and the Coloradoan.