7 Ways to Reduce Stress at Work

Learn to identify your triggers, for one.

When I’m stressed at work, I feel disjointed, irritable, and sluggish. The most basic tasks become more difficult. Waves of overwhelming anxiety stop me in my tracks. I snap at others over the smallest things. I find myself eventually unable to do much of anything. And the longer I stay stressed, the more zombie-like I become.

As is turns out, there’s a reason for my zombie-like behavior.

Our brains react to stress by releasing stress hormones that kick our brain and body into “fight or flight” mode. They help us act quickly, react out of instinct, and potentially avoid danger. Most of these hormones later dissipate, not causing any lingering issues.

While this kind of short-term stress, also called acute stress, can motivate us to perform at the top of our game, chronic stress, the kind that sticks around, is more dangerous. That’s because it causes an excess of the stress hormone cortisol in your body.

Too much cortisol in your body can contribute to some major health issues: cancer, weight gain, heart disease, osteoporosis, even impaired brain function. Some scientists even believe it indirectly kills brain cells. (Does my zombie metaphor make sense now?)

Here are seven tips to help reduce stress at work. Do it for your career – and your health.

Look at the Big Picture

Are you hung up on the pesky little details? Occasionally, it’s good to take a step back from what you’re working on and take a look at the larger project. Because it’s so easy to get caught up on something minor, you lose focus of the big picture, such as the scope of your work or your long-term goals.

Taking a step back helps you gain perspective and allows you to refocus on what’s important, reducing both stress and performance anxiety.

Find Meaning in Your Work

Do you remember when you were that starry-eyed young person entering the workplace with a goal, a dream, and a desire to make a difference? It’s time to find that person again. Whether you’ve lost sight of your passion or you’re caught in the cycle of a dead-end job, refocusing on your career purpose can help combat stress.

Maybe you’ve outgrown your position. Or maybe you just need a new job. Whatever the motivation, finding meaning in your work life will help you reduce stress.

Examine Your Workload

Take an honest look at your workload. Then ask yourself: Are you trying to do too much? If so, it might be time to have a discussion with your boss about reducing your tasks or delegating work to others so you can better perform at your job.

Reducing your workload leads can cut stress, which will actually improve your job performance, making both you — and your boss — happier.

Take a Break

Are you the overachiever who thinks that working through lunch, rarely taking breaks, or skipping vacations increases your work performance? It doesn’t.

Your brain needs time to rest, not only to increase your work performance, but also to allow your stress levels to drop. By getting away from work for a few days and taking short breaks throughout your day, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can decrease your stress. This also includes taking a break from technology, phones, and social media, which can increase stress levels.

Connect With Coworkers

Do you think that talking with coworkers is just a waste of time? Not so fast. Happy, healthy work relationships can also help keep stress at bay. When you connect with others, you feel more in control and stable because you have a support system.

While it’s tempting to simply vent to coworkers about the job, sharing positive experiences increases workplace morale, boosts your productivity, reduces your stress, and helps make the workplace happier for everyone.

Get Enough Sleep

Shortchanging your sleep not only makes you cranky at work, it also undercuts your work performance and – you guessed it – increases your stress levels.

Aim for the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep or even schedule a 10-minute power nap at work. Cutting back on caffeine and technology close to bedtime are also helpful.

Learn to Identify Your Triggers

Maybe your boss talks down to you, your inbox is out of control, or you just can’t make that one client happy.

Either way, learning to identify what triggers your stress is the first step to reducing your stress levels and improving your workday. Once you understand what produces your stress, you then can help eliminate those stressors – or better prepare yourself to deal with them.

So take a deep breath, sit back, and embrace your new stress-free (maybe?) workday.