Stressed at Work? Try These A-Z Tips to De-Stress and Get More Done

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: January 17, 2012

It's the rare person who doesn't feel frazzled at work these days. The threat of layoffs seems to be churning around most offices, and employees who do survive the cut often end up doing the work of their colleagues who left.

No matter what's going on around you at work, these tips will help you stay calm -- before, during and after the storm.

A: Ask for help
If you're the type of person who insists on taking on every little task, even when there is no room left in your schedule, you're headed for trouble. Don't be afraid to delegate or call in favors.

B: Breathe
Regularly practicing deep breathing exercises can calm you and also slow the aging process. Sit up straight. Inhale through your nose while slowly counting to six. Exhale through mouth, counting to eight. Repeat several times. Instead of raising your shoulders while inhaling, let your abdomen expand with air.

Check the Internet for many variations on this basic technique.

C: Communicate
How many times do you do work that ends up being unnecessary either because someone else already did it or that project was cancelled?  You can avoid a lot of frustration with just a little communication

D: Decaffeinate
Sure, coffee may give you quick energy, but that buzz could be adding to your stress. And if you're getting enough sleep and eating healthy food, you should be fine without the caffeine. It may take a couple days to get past the headaches, but it's worth it.

E: Eat right
Eating small, healthy snacks throughout the day will keep you energized and maintain your blood sugar level, which is key to avoiding irritability and anxiety.

Consuming a rainbow of fruit and veggies is important. And try to pass on sugary and high-fat carbs and opt for healthier choices, like pretzels, whole-grain bread and crackers and brown rice.

F: Fuhgeddaboudit
When something's bothering you, especially if it's something that can't be changed, usually it's best to just let it go. Focus on the things you can control and put in your best effort.

G: Go out for lunch
Leave the office and meet a friend for a quick change of pace and scenery. Eat something light so you don't go back to work feeling sluggish and unmotivated. And avoid alcohol -- it is a depressant, after all.

H: Hike or bike your cares away
Give stress a one-two punch by getting out and working out. Communing with nature is a natural mood booster and the endorphins produced by vigorous exercise will have you feeling on top of the world. 

I: Ignore negative vibes
Stay away from Debbie Downer and Ned the Naysayer. They will only bring you down. And it doesn't do any good to gripe endlessly. If you have a complaint about something, be positive and proactive, don't act like a victim.
 
J: Just say "No way"
Stop being such a people-pleaser! They don't appreciate it and it's killing you! Okay, maybe that's a bit dramatic, but you get the picture.

If you're the one co-workers constantly call on to do extra work, start declining their invitations (politely, of course).

K: Know your limitations
There's nothing more stressful than getting in over your head. Before you accept a meeting or take on a project, check your schedule and evaluate the scope of what you're being asked to do. Only take on what you're sure you can manage -- and manage well.

L: Laugh it off
Studies have found that laughing can reduce stress and actually strengthen your immune system.
So, get crackin' (up, that is).

Take a coffee break or have lunch with funny co-workers and instead of griping about office politics or your workload, tell a few jokes. Once a few laughs come out, more will follow; it's contagious! 

M: Massage your feet
Keep a golf ball or bottle under your desk so you can roll your feet on it when you feel stressed out. This not only soothes tense muscles, but can also relieve mental and physical stress, fatigue and headaches.

N: Nap on the job
According to NASA, a 26-minute nap can boost workplace performance by 34 percent. Daytime sleeping improves mood, creativity, and focus, all of which may make us better employees.

Many companies are actually embracing the idea and installing nap rooms. If yours doesn't, you can always hunker down under your desk a la George Costanza.

O: Organize your life (or at least your desk)
Clutter is a common stressor. If you can't find the files you need, either on your desk or in your emails, you can waste lots of precious time and energy.

Take some time to clean up your act and organize your files. It will soothe your soul.

P: Plan something fun
Knowing you have something wonderful to look forward to can bring a ray of hopeful sunshine into the most stressful day.

Make dinner reservations, order a great pair of shoes or a cool gadget, or plan a fabulous vacation (actual or fantasy) and your mood is sure to lift.

Q: Quit obsessing
Stop letting those nagging worries into your brain. You know what you need to do and you have a plan for doing it.

Shake off those doubts, even if you have to physically stand up and shake your hands and arms to symbolically ward them off.

R: Rethink that email
Instead of returning your co-worker's phone call or email, why not walk over to his or her desk and have a person-to-person conversation?

People are social beings who thrive on human contact. And, as a bonus, meeting face-to-face also reduces the risk of miscommunication. 

S: Stretch it out
Besides reducing muscle tension, stretching increases blood circulation, which increases energy.

Try these easy stretches: Clasp your hands above your head and stretch upward for a few seconds. Next, roll your head down and around a few times. Then, stand up and reach for the floor. Don't overdo it. Stretching should feel like a gentle tug, not an elastic band snapping.

T: Take a tea break
Try some chamomile tea, known for its calming properties. Or, sip an aromatic cup of antioxidant-filled green tea -- it's a wonderful way to take a few minutes for yourself, unwind and realize you're being kind to your body. 

U: Unload your baggage
Feel like venting? Don't bother your co-workers unless it's a work issue that you can discuss constructively. Unleash any negativity on a sympathetic friend. That's what they're there for. Just be sure you're available for them when they need to let off steam.

V: Vitamin up
If you're not already taking a daily multi-vitamin, start now. Particularly helpful for relieving stress are B-complex vitamins, vitamin C and calcium. And don't forget fish oil.

You may also want to research which herbal remedies are recommended for stress reduction

W: Walk it off
Getting away from your desk for a little bit helps you relax, refresh and refocus. If there's no place to walk near your office, try walking the stairs a few times.

X: X out excess meetings
Is your calendar screaming for mercy? You know, you don't have to accept every meeting. Some people "meeting happy" and some meetings are huge time wasters.
If your commitments are leaving you no time to do your own work, cancel or postpone some of the worst offenders.

Y: Yoga your way to inner peace
Whether you practice poses during lunch or before or after work, the wonderful calming effects of yoga linger to carry you peacefully through a potentially stressful day.

Some offices offer yoga sessions during lunch, but beware: Seeing the boss’s downward facing dog might defeat the purpose.

Z: Zone out
When pressure is building up, let out steam by virtually escaping. Look out a window and daydream or put on your headphones and listen to whatever music takes you away from the turbulent office environment. Just be careful you don't start singing along with Britney. It's louder than you think.

Now that you've got the skinny on de-stressing, you're ready to be the office guru and rise above the fray. In the spirit of your newfound knowledge, why not share the wealth (and this article) and help your co-workers find serenity too? Namaste.

Related Salary.com Content