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The best ways to manage your workplace stress

Workplace stress can be a serious threat to your health.

Your clock radio alarm goes off on a Monday morning, but you have no desire to go in to work. Your day is packed. You have meetings back to back all morning. In the afternoon, you have to prepare for your upcoming business trip, dictate letters to your administrative assistant and read dozens of e-mails. Who knows if you'll even have time to eat lunch. You are feeling so stressed that you're contemplating calling in sick.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the federal agency which researches work-related illness and injury, defines job stress as the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of a job do not match the capabilities, resources or needs of the worker. The consequences of such workplace stress are serious. Studies have found that work stress increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, psychological disorders and other health problems.

Signs of job stress vary from person to person, according to the duration of stressors and intensity of the stress, but some symptoms are:

• insomnia

• loss of mental concentration

• absenteeism

• depression

• extreme anger or frustration

• physical illnesses

Such stresses are caused by an array of workplace factors, but some common ones are:

• job insecurity

• adjusting to workplace culture

• mental, physical or sexual harassment

It's important for the sake of your health to try to reduce workplace stress. Here's how.


• It's hard to focus at work when you can barely keep your eyes open, so try to get at least seven or eight hours of sleep a night. Don't have the time? Build more rest into your life by a) going to bed 10 to 15 minutes earlier and b) maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, even during vacations and on weekends.

• Start the day off right with a healthy and energizing breakfast. If you are short on time, pack a yogurt, fruit or other foods, and munch at your desk.

• It may be hard to schedule exercise into your day, but it's a proven stress reliever. Participate in some form of exercise to give yourself an extra burst of energy. Try activities like yoga, aerobics or working out at a gym.

• Don't smoke, drink or abuse other substances to reduce stress. They will only make things worse.

• Relax in a way that works for you. Pick up the phone and call a friend. Turn on some soothing music. By making time for pleasurable activities, you can help your stress levels subside.


• It may sound like a New Age technique, but aromatherapy can reduce stress. Apply calming oils of scents like rose, lavender or nutmeg to pulse points for a calming sensation.

• Sit straight and comfortably in your seat. Try breathing in and exhaling to relax your nerves and muscles.

• Encourage your colleagues and human-resources staff to take time out to celebrate accomplishments. Host a retirement party. Go out to celebrate a coworker's birthday.

• Give yourself a break from work. Try to take that full half hour or hour for lunch. If you really can't, small breaks can do wonders. Go for a short walk around the office or outside.

• Increase your water intake and don't overindulge on caffeine, which will only make you crash later on.

If you still suffer from chronic stress, mental and physical burnout or other feelings that aren't changing, consult a healthcare provider.

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