9 Ways to Beat Work Stress

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: January 18, 2012

Going to work can be stressful enough on its own. But throw in the stock market's rollercoaster ride of late and you have a host of people ripping their hair out and getting closer and closer to the proverbial ledge.

Whether you work on Wall Street or you're agonizingly watching the value of your investments ebb and flow with each shift in the market, there is no escaping the fact that this is a period of tremendous stress and uncertainty.

Even if you're not on Wall Street and you don't have a portfolio to worry about, work stress affects nearly all of us. So how do we deal with it?

Stress is a lot like Michael Jordan in his prime---you can't stop him. You can only hope to contain him. So even though we can't totally eliminate stress from our lives, Salary.com is providing a list of 10 simple ways you can help reduce it while you're at work.

Let's Get Physical

Exercise produces endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.

Go for a run during the day, or if running is too much just take a brisk walk. Even a few loops around the office building might help you relax and refocus. And if you can't get out, find an empty conference room or corner of the office where you can perform some basic stretches. Anything to get the blood pumping so you can turn that stress into something positive.

If you're feeling a little more ambitious, join a gym near work and hit the treadmill, elliptical or yoga class during your lunch hour. A little sweat and endorphin rush could be just what you need to de-stress.

Out to Lunch

How many of us have come to work, gotten bogged down in projects and suddenly realized we've been in the office/cubicle for an untold number of hours while the walls suddenly start to close in?

You're busy. We know that. But while it's tempting to eat yet another lunch at your desk taking bites in between emails and creating a PowerPoint presentation, sometimes you just need to get away. So either go by yourself or grab a co-worker and head out for a change of scenery at lunch to recharge the batteries.

Even a short break like that will help retain your sanity and may even boost your productivity into the afternoon.

Get Remote

Sometimes it's not so much the work but the atmosphere that is stressful. So ask your boss if you can occasionally work from home.

Whether you're a super-commuter stressed out by the never-ending traffic you encounter each day, or you're just bothered by an chaotic office environment or co-worker who makes your workday miserable, working from home could be just the thing that provides you peace of mind while improving your work performance and productivity level.

Get Caught Napping on the Job

We know the idea of napping at work is foreign to many workers. But there are benefits and some major companies are recognizing them.

A short nap of 20-30 minutes can help improve mood, alertness and performance, according to the National Sleep Foundation. A brief nap can restore alertness, enhance performance and reduce mistakes and accidents as well. A NASA study performed on military pilots and astronauts found a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness by 100%.

Show some of these studies to your boss so he/she won't think you're a total space cadet when you ask to implement a company-wide naptime policy.

Meditate On It

Don't be scared off by the word meditation. You don't have to be a practicing Buddhist to benefit from it. After all, meditation is basically just calming yourself down through a series of deep breathing exercises in order to refocus and reenergize.

If you're really that hung up on the word meditation and all that comes with it, then think of it as "zoning out" instead. Find a quiet place at work and try to block out as much noise as possible. Then, when you're calm, visualize a peaceful image in your mind and focus on it while controlling your breathing.

Even 10-15 minutes can greatly ease your stress and bring some much-needed balance and peace of mind in the face of chaos.

Let It All Out

While meditation and inward reflection might be the way to go for some people, others just need to vent.

"When things are stressful at work it helps me to yell at someone. Usually it's my husband," said one of our female readers. While we don't condone taking out your frustrations on your undeserving spouse, talking about things can be helpful. So find a friend, loved one or trusted co-worker (just be careful who you pick if you're discussing office woes) and put everything on the table.

Most of us have benefited from getting things off our chests from time to time, so a good kvetching session could be just what the doctor ordered.

Get Some Answers

Sometimes uncertainty and a lack of answers causes the most stress in our lives. And as the nation gets a collective ulcer watching the stock market yo-yo, there is a lot of uncertainty about money. Especially our savings.

That's why one of our male readers said "A visit from the 401K representative would be nice." While it may not be good news he/she is delivering, at least employees have the opportunity to get advice and ask questions such as "should I decrease my 401K contribution in this volatile market?"

Sometimes merely staying proactive can be a big-time stress-reducer.

Soothe the Savage Stressful Beast

Whether you like The Beatles or Lady Gaga, there's nothing quite as relaxing as getting lost in your favorite music.

Whatever you're into, if you feel work stress creeping in through your pores and preparing to overtake you, just slip on your headphones and turn on some music. The emergence of Internet radio sites like Pandora and Spotify makes it easy to listen to the perfect songs that will help calm you down and get you through the day. Enya and Kenny G eat your heart out.

And if music isn't your thing, try a funny comedian who is bound to make you laugh. Or check out whatever water-skiing squirrel is going viral on YouTube at the moment.

Go to Your Happy Place

Maybe it was that week you spent hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Or your Hawaiian honeymoon where you saw the perfect sunset to end all sunsets.

But whether it was that feeling of total bliss while on vacation or a Kodak moment from your youth, grab a reminder of that moment and place it prominently on your desk. Then, when the office gets crazy and the stress is killing you, take a moment and look at the picture (or whatever memento you picked) and let yourself drift back there. Even if it's just for a few minutes, it'll have a calming effect that will help get you through the day.

No snapshot to put on your desk? Start planning your next vacation in your mind and use that visual to soothe your nerves.

You Can Get Through It

At work, as in life, things are bound to get pretty crazy sometimes.

But hopefully by using some of these tips or coming up with methods of your own to cope with tough times, you'll be able to avoid office stress as much as possible and deal with it effectively when it does rear its ugly head.


Recommended Reading (try an ebook)

Work Stress: Helping individual workers cope with job stress

The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook: Self-assessment tools & calming techniques to overcome daily work stress

Five Good Minutes at Work: 100 mindful practices to help you relieve stress & bring your best to work

The Everything Stress Management Book: Practical Ways to Relax, Be Healthy & Maintain Your Sanity

Stress Management: A Comprehensive Guide to Wellness

The One Minute Manager Balances Work & Life: How to manage stress & make a lifetime commitment to your well-being

One Year to an Organized Work Life: From Your Desk to Your Deadlines, the Week-by-Week Guide to Eliminating Office Stress for Good