5 ways to reduce stress at work (that actually work)

Be honest with yourself; how often do you say, “It’s been such a stressful day!” or “jeez, what a shitty week!”. But how often do you actually admit to yourself that you’re stressed? Or even that stress is becoming a problem? A study by Perkbox found that 79% of employed people commonly experience work-related stress; that’s kind of staggering. In fact, several studies suggest that work stress has a bigger impact on a person’s life than relationships, finances and health.

It’s clear that stress is a common phenomenon in today’s fast-paced work culture. Work-related stress can have a significant impact on our physical and mental well-being and can even lead to burnout if not managed properly. In this blog post, I’m going to give you five effective ways to reduce stress at work. And before we get going, I’m willing to bet that at least 80% of you (not a proper stat!) will read this and do nothing. So I’m challenging you now to take 1 thing you read below and make a real effort to give it a try today.

Lastly, we need to recognise that not all stress is bad. We shouldn’t avoid stress completely. Stress can stretch us in healthy ways. We grow as people and as employees and build resilience. But when it becomes chronic or causes problems, that’s when we need to tackle it, ideally before that.

OK, let’s do this.

Prioritize and Organize

One of the primary reasons for workplace stress is the feeling of being overwhelmed by too many tasks and responsibilities. Prioritizing and organizing your workload can help alleviate this stress. There are 2 ways you can do this, or just do both. The first is to make a to-do list for each day and prioritize your tasks according to their importance and urgency. This will help you focus on the most critical tasks and ensure that you meet your deadlines without feeling overwhelmed.

The second is if you have a big, intimidating task that feels too daunting, take a few minutes to plan out the steps required to achieve that thing and then take those steps as a checklist. Personally, I tend to go a step further still and then break down each of those steps, so what I end up with are really simple, easy wins where I can see that I’m making progress towards the big goal.

Take Your damn breaks!

Seriously, If there’s one thing that used to annoy me when I was employed, break martyrs. Those people who opt not to use their break but then complain about not having a break. Now, don’t get me wrong, If you’re in a job like healthcare or hospitality, this can be easier said than done, and life can get in the way sometimes, I’m guilty of the odd 8-hour day without a break, but it’s rare and it’s for a specific reason. You are legally obligated to have and take breaks. Taking short breaks during the workday can help reduce stress and increase productivity. Studies have shown that taking regular breaks can help improve focus and cognitive function. Take a 5-10 minute break every hour to stretch, take a walk, or simply step away from your desk. This can help you recharge and return to your work feeling refreshed and energized.

Top Tip: Sometimes I would take my break in my car where it’s quiet, away from distractions or people looking to pick your brain on something (spoiler: That’s called working, not taking a break). When I’m in the car I would…

…Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a technique that involves being present at the moment and aware of your thoughts and feelings. It has been shown to be effective in reducing stress and increasing well-being. Practising mindfulness at work can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths, meditating for a few minutes, or being fully present in the task at hand. There’s no need to sit cross-legged in the lotus pose chanting mantras that make you feel like someone/something is about to be sacrificed. If you do that stuff, that’s cool; more power to you. But if you’re just getting started, then a simple 5 minutes just watching your breath come in and go out is enough.

Don't do this, it's not going to decrease anyone's stress

Maintain Healthy Habits

Your physical health and mental health are intrinsically linked. If you look after your body, your brain will follow and vice versa. Maintaining healthy habits outside of work can help reduce stress and increase resilience. Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly can all help reduce stress levels. Make sure to take care of yourself outside of work so that you can bring your best self to the workplace. I’m not suggesting you become an example of physical health, have the damn takeaway and enjoy it, but it’s about a balance. Definitely focus on moving more. Personally, I love walking whilst listening to an audiobook or music, and before I know it, I’ve done 12,000 steps.

Get some help.

I don’t care whether you’re the CEO, the highest qualified doctor in the world or the King of England; at some point, you will need support, and nobody is above it. Sometimes, stress at work can become overwhelming, and it may be necessary to seek support. Talk to a trusted colleague, friend, or family member about your stressors. Consider reaching out to a mental health professional like NHS therapy, a private therapist via the counselling directory or a charity like Samaritans, Mind or Shout if you are experiencing chronic stress or burnout. It’s important to remember that seeking support is a sign of strength, not weakness.

In conclusion, reducing stress at work requires a combination of strategies that prioritize self-care, organization, and mindfulness. By incorporating these five strategies into your daily routine, you can reduce stress and increase well-being both inside and outside of the workplace.

If you would like to learn more about what employees and employers can do to reduce stress at work, I’m running a free webinar on the 13th of April at 1 pm BST. You can reserve your spot here.