A Smorgasbord of Stressbusters

Mar 6, 2024

Even when people enjoy their work, get along great with their teammates, and love their clients, they still have bad days in the office. We all have days when the workplace stresses us out.

This might happen when a project deadline is looming, or when you’re struggling to find a solution to a particularly vexing problem. Perhaps you’re feeling frustrated because the photocopier jammed (again) or irritated because someone just burned a bag of microwave popcorn (again). Or maybe it’s simply the case that a gray and rainy day has put you in a bad mood.

Most of us have techniques for shaking off those negative vibes. Gardening, travel, music making, and other hobbies are great for boosting moods. Some people might feel their stress dissipate when they play sports or get spa treatments or watch movies with friends. There are lots of great ways to alleviate stress when you’re outside the office.

Unfortunately, when you’re still on the clock (and need to get your work done), you usually can’t just leave your workplace if you’re having a bad day. Instead, you need to figure out how to mitigate your workplace stress right here and right now—while you’re still in the office. So what can you do?

Meditate. One of the most effective ways to bust a bad mood is to step outside of your current headspace and try for a “reset.” Meditation is the classic example of this strategy. Taking a few moments to clear your mind and stop thinking about whatever’s bothering you has been scientifically proven to reduce stress (and yield many other mental and physical benefits, too!). There are different types of meditation, but if you’re doing this at your desk you’ll probably want to avoid the versions with lots of movement (such as tai chi) or chanting and instead stick with those that involve being still, closing your eyes, and focusing on your breath for a few minutes.

Shut out the annoyances. If other people’s actions are getting on your nerves, take a break from them. Noise-canceling headphones can silence the sound of your colleague who’s having loud phone conversations a few desks over and make space for the music (or white noise) that can help you focus on your work. And kicking on “do not disturb” mode for an hour can cut out distractions and do wonders for your productivity.

Leave your desk. Sometimes all it takes to relieve stress is a change of scenery. You might not be able to go on a two-week tropical vacation at that precise moment, but maybe you can take your work to a nearby coffee shop or library for an hour or so. If you can’t leave your building, then perhaps there’s a break room or unused meeting space would do the trick. And if none of those options are viable, at the very least you can probably dip out for a brief walk around the office (or even—weather and time permitting—outside).

If you have your own office with a door, that privacy gives you a few more options. For example, you can do some yoga or simple stretches to get your body moving, or find calmness in lying down on the floor for a few minutes. An enclosed space also gives you the ability to ditch the headphones and listen to—and sing along with—whatever music brings your stress level down. (Just be sure you aren’t loud enough to be heard by your coworkers, because that might bring their stress levels up!)

Consider checking in with your colleagues, too. Remember, we all experience workplace stress at some time—so perhaps you can all work together to come up with solutions that have the potential to help everyone. Set up a miniature putting green in the corner of the break room, for example, or a small dart board (one with velcro darts, please—not the stabby ones!) in the meeting room. Sometimes doing a repetitive physical task (such as sinking some putts or tossing a few darts on their way to a meeting) for a few minutes can make people feel more at ease.

If management gives the okay for something a little more involved, try organizing office-wide social events. How about brief soccer matches during lunch in the field next to your building? Or an afternoon coffee meetup once a week: each person brings their own beverage, and management provides cookies or other snacks for everyone to enjoy.

Workplace stress is a reality of the business world. If left unchecked it can cause productivity and morale to plummet. (And on a purely personal level, being stressed out feels awful.) Different remedies work for different people, so find—or invent—the solutions that work for you!

Written by: Employment Enterprises

Subscribe to HR Connection

HR Connection Subscribe