Reduce stress at work with these 7 easy (and fun) activities!
Stress is a leading cause of illness, poor employee experience, and employee churn.
Our minds & bodies are capable of handling a fair amount of stress. Beyond a certain level of stress though, we start to see signs of burnout, anxiety, depression, and fatigue among some of the common ways stress manifests itself.
A certain level of stress is inevitable in any high-performance environment, however, it must be managed to maintain that high level of performance over a long period of time. Otherwise, the employees’ productivity decreases along with their health.
We’ve compiled 7 easy activities to perform at work to keep stress levels in check.
Are you a team leader looking to support employees in the workplace during Mental Health Awareness Month? We’ve compiled a full guide including how to raise awareness, bond with your team, and promote wellness through everyday strategies in your workplace.
Meditation For Mental Clarity
Knowledge work, by design, has no clear endpoint.
We tend to carry our ever-expanding task lists with us long after working hours are over.
Our minds keep running the things we need to go over and over, unable to shut off that part long after we’ve walked away from our screens and desks.
Taking a few moments, alone, or as a team, to engage in meditation can pay dividends.
Thankfully, there are plenty of easy ways you can take a break and chill out.
Meditation experience is not required. It can be as simple as closing your eyes and taking slow deep breaths for 5 to 10 minutes.
The practice is simple, we invite our minds back to the present to focus on our breathing when we catch ourselves worrying about the past or the future.
Alternatively, consider following guided exercises on Headspace, Calm, or a meditation video on YouTube.
The benefits of meditation are wide-ranging. According to Mindworks, just 10 minutes of daily practice will help improve focus, reduce stress and anxiety, and even make better decisions.
Start by scheduling a 10-minute slot once per week on your calendar and increase as you see fit.
Exercise to Bust Stress
Taking control of our wandering minds and stepping mindfully into our bodies can be the most powerful antidote to stress.
Exercise doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, so long as we are engaging in movement and making a mind-body connection.
Increasing our heart rate above resting levels helps to re-oxygenate our blood levels and promote wellbeing.
Some simple ideas to try include:
- Take a brisk walk outside.
- Do some light stretches for five minutes.
- Stand up from your desk and perform 10-minute circuits of air squats, jumping jacks, and push-ups.
Remember to start slowly, and consult a medical professional if you have any underlying health conditions.
If exercising for the sake of exercising is not your thing, give yourself a reason to exercise:
- Go on a long walk with your pet or family member.
- Take the stairs along the way instead of the elevator.
- Carry groceries back home by walk instead of ordering in.
- Head out with your camera to walk around your neighbourhood and see it in a new light.
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Deep Breathing for Focus and Productivity
Being conscious of our breath is a simple way to take control of one’s stress levels.
Breathing deeply stimulates the body’s vagus nerve, which allows your body to enter a state of relaxation and can counteract increasing stress levels.
Become aware of your breath. Notice how long the inhale, hold, and exhale portions are. Mindful, slow breathing can help reduce stress, which in turn helps prevent a variety of medical problems.
Healthline lists 8 breath exercise options for you to try.
To get started try the following routine:
- Sit or stand in a comfortable position
- Fill your belly (diaphragm) with a slow, extended inhale of 4-5 seconds. Breath in through your nose.
- Hold your breath for 1-2 seconds
- Exhale through your mouth over 4-5 seconds
- Repeat this cycle for 5 minutes
For a guided experience, try this short but powerful routine.
Listen to Calming Music
Music is a sure-fire way to alter your mental state.
Next time you feel overwhelmed, take a moment to step away from the screen and hit play on your favourite playlist.
The tempo of the playlist influences your body’s biological response – it can slow down or speed up your body responses like heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing.
Curate playlists for your different moods.
When you are feeling sluggish and lack energy, pick a playlist that is upbeat to help you gain energy to channel it into your work.
When you are feeling overwhelmed with racing thoughts and are struggling to slow down, pick a playlist with a slower tempo. According to the University of Nevada, picking slower tempo music will promote relaxation.
Simple and effective!
Pet a Dog or Cat to De-Stress
Reach out to a furry friend.
Petting an animal can reduce stress, improve your mood and even increase oxytocin levels according to the Mayo Clinic.
Don’t have a pet of your own? See if anyone in the office has brought their pet into work with them or, better yet, if they would be open to bringing their pooch in every now and again. Pets at work can actually help productivity too!
Coloring to Soothe Your Mind
A little coloring can go a long way toward de-stressing at work.
Research shows that color is actually more effective for relieving stress than activities like knitting, playing sudoku, or crossword puzzles. According to Beaumont.org, coloring can calm the fear centre in your brain (the amygdala).
- Adult coloring book: Coloring isn’t just for kids — buying an adult coloring book with intricate designs might be the most fun you have in weeks. Leave the book on your desk so it is easy to grab during a mini-break. Set a 10-minute timer and go wild with your crayons!
- Plain paper: If you don’t want to pay for a coloring book, no worries! Grab a sheet of paper and start by making basic block shapes of color.
When you engage in this simple activity, your brain is able to pull its attention away from yourself and you allow it to wander which helps you relax.
Clean Up Your Workspace
A clean desk promotes a clear mind.
A cluttered work environment can distract you from the task at hand, so organizing your desk and filing things away at the end of the day can go a long way.
Don’t forget about cleaning up your digital workspaces too – your desktop, inboxes, and notification centers.
Once you get into the habit of getting organized, it will become second nature. Plus, your colleagues will be inspired by how tidy you keep everything!
A fun idea is to create a #desksetup Slack, Discord, or Teams channel for accountability and inspiration.
Taking Breaks at Work Can Help Reduce Stress
Taking breaks is a very important part of being productive and healthy.
Working long hours without breaks actually results in lower productivity.
Small and frequent breaks can boost productivity and reduce stress. A popular working method known as ‘Pomodoro’ can be helpful. A Pomodoro is 25-minute work sprints, followed by a 5-minute break. After 4 Pomodoro’s you take a longer break of at least 30 minutes. The structure is as follows:
- Plan out your tasks for the day into blocks
- Do your first 25 minute Pomodoro block
- Take a 5-minute break (no work allowed!)
- Repeat until 4 work blocks have been completed
- Take a longer break
Studies have proven that taking time off helps people be more focused when they come back to their work due to our limited attention spans.