6 Ways to Reduce Stress at Work Right Now

Learn 6 ways to reduce stress at work

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Sometimes, work can be stressful, and we have all been there. If you are looking for some ways to reduce stress at work right now, quickly, and possibly easily, you are in the right place. In this article we will see how to reduce stress at work effectively.

This guide is designed for people who are generally highly productive and feel they went a little bit beyond the edge and start having some stress.

Before we start, an important disclaimer. To some people, high levels of stress may feel so overwhelming they really struggle to deal with it. If you feel this represents you, then you may be better of counseling with a professional. This article may help you reduce stress nonetheless, but it does not constitute medical advice.

To Reduce Stress at Work, Start by Understanding It

Stress vs. Pressure

The word we hear the most often is “stress”, and this is what drove you here looking for ways to reduce it. However, before we can actually reduce stress, we need to understand what it is – and what it isn’t.

People tend to say “I am stressed because I have too much to do”, or “I am stressed because my boss is a jerk”, or many other reasons that depend on the circumstances they are experiencing. If you are generally highly productive, the “I have too much to do” can resonate with you, perhaps “I am dealing with more than I can handle”.

All of that is not a source of stress in itself, it is a source of pressure. Pressure is a word to represent external circumstances that can be tough on you, at least potentially. Pressure is like a heavy object. It is heavy, and it can attempt to crush you under itself.

How to reduce stress at work? First, distinguish it from pressure
Pressure and stress are not the same thing. Pressure is what happens outside (the boxes), stress is how you feel about it.

But that’s not stress. Stress is intrinsic, it comes from within. It is your reaction to pressure, or other adverse circumstances. Again, since we are focusing on reducing stress for the hyper-productive person, we will consider mainly pressure. Stress is your ability, or lack thereof, to hold the weight of pressure comfortably and without sweating.

To reduce stress from too many things to do, you can either reduce pressure or reduce stress itself. We will touch the benefits of each approach, but most likely you can apply a combination of both.

How to Reduce Pressure

Pressure leads to stress, so if you reduce pressure stress will curb down consequently. But how do you go about reducing pressure?

To reduce pressure, you need to change your external circumstances. This might be feasible sometimes, while sometimes it isn’t. To reduce pressure, you need to identify the external circumstances that causes you stress and try to remove them.

For example, if your boss is a jerk, try to move to another department or change job. If you are overwhelmed by things to do, identify those who are less important and either delegate them or drop them altogether. If you work on a project with tight deadlines you are not comfortable with, ask to be removed from the project.

The benefit of reducing pressure is that, when possible, is relatively easy. You know what is “the problem”, so you know how to remove it. However, it has two major drawbacks. First, it is not always possible to reduce pressure, you might know the problem but be unable to remove it. Second, it relegates to the passenger seat in your life. If you can’t cope with a situation, you just avoid it with this approach, even if the payoff can be potentially high. You miss a lot of opportunities to grow.

This is why I feel you should focus most of your efforts on reducing your stress, rather than pressure.

How to Reduce Stress at Work, in Brief

To reduce stress at work, you need to focus on your reaction to external circumstances rather than on the circumstances themselves. Reducing stress at work, if we can’t or don’t want to change the circumstances, means “making the best out of a bad situation”. In fact, it may even mean interpreting a potentially bad situation as a good one.

This can all sound like cheap talk: after all you can’t just think “okay this is actually good” to make the stress disappear. Even if this is extreme is unrealistic, you might be surprised that you actually can.

In this brief paragraph, we gave you the idea, the concept that helps you reduce stress at work. Now, we can continue with some good practical tips that you can put in place along those lines. Once again, these tips are designed to help you cope with huge pressure at work, and reduce the stress that comes with it without altering the pressure.

Practical Tips to Reduce Stress at Work

1. Set time boundaries

One of the most common types of stress is feeling overwhelmed by having too much to do. If this is what you are feeling, or if you feel you are not in control of what you are doing, this tip can help you out.

The idea is simple, define some time boundaries and enforce them like they were martial law. For example, a great time boundary can be “no work beyond 7pm”. Then, no matter what, never work beyond 7pm.

This is effective because feeling overwhelmed often comes by doing more than our body can handle. It is something that happens slowly, and very subtle to see because in reality we don’t have strong time boundaries. We might have dinner at a certain time, but we are willing to shift it or even skip it now and then. We go to bed at the same time, but we don’t have any problem to pull in some night hours to work just for today. Except it is not just for today. One day after the other, you will consume all your available time and more than you can actually sustain on the long run.

Set time boundaries to reduce stress at work
Set time boundaries to reduce stress at work.

Work, like many things in life, is about the long run and not the short burst at a speed you can’t sustain. If, even with this extra speed and extra hours, you are feeling overwhelmed, you are probably not completing all the tasks that you wanted to. So, even if after you set the boundary you don’t complete everything, remember that is not that different from the situation of being overwhelmed – except it is better for you.

This tip may sound hard to apply, but it isn’t really. You don’t have to drop off in the middle of a Zoom call at 7pm because you defined such schedule. Instead, try to make things easier by defining a schedule where you can just stop without interacting with others. In other words, ensure your time boundary is set at a time when you usually are working alone.

Any time boundary will do, but have one and stick with it. Personally, I tend to use dinner time (7-7:30pm), so that I can put the dinner as a buffer to decompress between work and leisure activities.

2. Develop a Routine

This other tip is important to reduce stress at work, and goes hand in hand with setting time boundaries. In fact, it is an extension to it. The idea is simple, try to develop a routine for the tasks that you do every day or week so that you do them always at the same time every day.

You can do this on paper or using a calendar app, like Google Calendar which I use. Wake up always at the same time (possibly also on weekend), then have breakfast always at the same time every day, have a set day and time for getting your groceries, doing your laundry and so on.

If you stick with it for long enough, generally about a month, it will become natural and you won’t have to think about it anymore. You will execute all your chores on autopilot, which means you don’t have to worry about them that much. They will just get done. Even if you don’t like some of your chores, this approach ensures that they do get done consistently, and that procrastination does not get in the way and messes other things in your schedule.

3. Reduce Decisions

To reduce stress at work, we need to reduce the decisions we face, particularly in the morning. Having to decide about something consumes our willpower and mental energy, so we need to choose wisely which decisions to focus on.

Even more importantly, our brain power is stronger in the morning after we slept so here we can tackle the most challenging decisions, so it is important we do not waste that “enhanced” mental energy by decisions that do not really matter in the long run. Even Jeff Bezos, the multi-billionaire Amazon’s founder, constrained himself to have important decisions only in the morning.

One quick win you can have here is to plan your meals ahead. Define a schedule of meals on a one-week, two-week or even one-month basis (depending on how much variability you want) and then follow it. This way, you don’t have to think every time about what you need to eat, and you don’t have to think about what to buy the next time you go to get groceries. As a side benefit, this can also help you lead a healthier lifestyle.

Another quick win can be to prepare your clothes for the day the night before. If you do that, in the morning you just need to grab them and put them on, without needing to think much and wasting your enhanced mental power. Some people like Mark Zuckerberg go as far as having just one single outfit they wear everyday so that they remove decision-making in this part of their life altogether. Along the same lines but less extreme, you could make a schedule for your outfits just like you could do for your meals.

If a decision can be automated with a schedule, or removed from your life, then do it. This will help you a lot reduce stress at work, because now you have more brain power to deal with complex work decisions.

4. Let Your Mind Roam Freely, or Meditate

To effectively reduce stress at work, you need to set aside some time for your mind. Have you ever had that feeling of mind race when you go to bed and you would like to sleep, but your mind is so busy thinking? This is probably because it didn’t have time enough time to do it during the day.

Ensuring your mind has enough time to process the events of your life is an important tool to reduce stress at work and lead a better life. Setting aside this time is simple to do, but sometimes it is not easy. It just means having a few minutes every day (10-15mins ideally) when you just sit and do nothing, letting your mind think. If you prefer, you can meditate, which is just focusing on an object such as your breath to sharpen your focus, nothing spiritual or hipster.

Meditation is an effective way to reduce stress at work
Meditation can be good to manage your stress. You can do as little as 10 minutes a day, and it does not have to be something spirtual (althought it could if you want).

You may feel that you don’t have those 15 minutes every day, except you actually do. This is because the cost of not dedicating these 15 minutes to this are much higher. To put it in another way, if you don’t do that you will waste way more time in the long run.

Think about airplanes, that go through routine checks every time they land before they are ready to depart again. If you just skip the checks, you could save time and do more flights, except at one point the plane will break with an extremely high cost (in human lives, loss of the aircraft, and environmental damages). Skipping those checks would be insane, and no one would dare to even think about it. Yet, if our life is the airplane, we often tend to operate it without skipping such checks. These 15 minutes every day are your safety checks. Don’t skip them. You will be able to do many more flights in the long run.

5. Exercise

This is probably not a surprise, but if you want to reduce stress at work you need to exercise. You need to do some physical activity to be in shape, it can be any sport or just going to the gym or doing some exercises at home.

You can generally pick between two types of exercise: cardio, which increase your heartrate and then to burn more calories, and strength which are about building muscle. Both can work to reduce stress, so experiment with what you like most.

Exercise can be a great way to reduce stress in general, but particularly to reduce stress at work
Going to the gym can be a good way to reduce stress.

If you really aren’t into exercising much, I suggest starting out with a cardio exercise you can do on a machine where you can put a screen or tablet so that you can watch something while you do that. I have an indoor rowing machine that I use in that way, and it is fantastic. Treadmills also have similar setups in most modern gyms. If this is not possible, go running with some music in your head.

Exercising will help you discharge stress and consume your physical energy in a good way. You will feel the benefits immediately after your training session, but also in the long run as you become healthier and able to cope with higher levels of stress.

6. Prioritize and Delegate

All the other tips so far were about on increasing your mental capacity so that you are better at coping with high pressure at work. But what to do when you are already at the peak of your capabilities?

You make the most out of your capabilities by focusing on what matters to you. Approach everything you do with priority in mind, do the thing with the highest priority first, and the less crucial ones later – so that if you are too busy, nothing too crucial is getting dropped.

Most people like to prioritize based on importance and urgency. If it is important and urgent, do it now, if it is only urgent delegate it to someone else, if it is only important plan it for the future, and if it is neither important nor urgent just skip it. Of course, this is easier said than done. In reality, realizing what is important and what isn’t is not a simple task. Importance is not a binary measure that something is either important or isn’t, but it is a spectrum where the degree of importance vary along a continuous line.

To reduce stress at work, you need to prioritize your tasks effectively

Prioritize to reduce stress at work.

Nonetheless, make an effort to try to prioritize and delegate activities to other when possible. Of course, to delegate you need to have someone to delegate things to. If you just raised to a managerial position and feel overwhelmed because of it, you might have some direct reports. However, most people don’t have people they can delegate activities to. But, truth to be told, we always have someone we can rely onto.

The easiest way to delegate tasks everyone can do is to just push back tasks other people load onto us. Sometimes, people ask us to do something on their behalf, but they might do that by themselves actually. Don’t be afraid to say “I just can’t do that at this time, can you please do it yourself?”. It is not as good as having a secretary do delegate things to, but it is a start.

Reduce Stress at Work in a Nutshell

To reduce stress at work, you need to preserve your mental power so that you can dedicate it to the decisions that matter. Do that by removing unnecessary decisions from your life by using schedules you can repeat on autopilot and grow your mental power through meditation and physical exercise. Ultimately, make a critical assessment of what is important to do, what can be avoided, and what can be delegated.

I hope this article on how to reduce stress at work can help you get back on track with your careers. If so, you can continue learning more with this guide on referent power. It will help you understand how you can grow your ability to delegate to others in the workplace. SEO Opportunity

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This tip may sound hard to apply, but it isn’t really. You don’t have to drop off in the middle of a Zoom call at 7pm because you defined such schedule. Instead, try to make things easier by defining a schedule where you can just stop without interacting with others. In other words, ensure your time boundary is set at a time when you usually are working alone.

Any time boundary will do, but have one and stick with it. Personally, I tend to use dinner time (7-7:30pm), so that I can put the dinner as a buffer to decompress between work and leisure activities.

2. Develop a Routine

This other tip is important to reduce stress at work, and goes hand in hand with setting time boundaries. In fact, it is an extension to it. The idea is simple, try to develop a routine for the tasks that you do every day or week so that you do them always at the same time every day.

You can do this on paper or using a calendar app, like Google Calendar which I use. Wake up always at the same time (possibly also on weekend), then have breakfast always at the same time every day, have a set day and time for getting your groceries, doing your laundry and so on.

If you stick with it for long enough, generally about a month, it will become natural and you won’t have to think about it anymore. You will execute all your chores on autopilot, which means you don’t have to worry about them that much. They will just get done. Even if you don’t like some of your chores, this approach ensures that they do get done consistently, and that procrastination does not get in the way and messes other things in your schedule.

3. Reduce Decisions

To reduce stress at work, we need to reduce the decisions we face, particularly in the morning. Having to decide about something consumes our willpower and mental energy, so we need to choose wisely which decisions to focus on.

Even more importantly, our brain power is stronger in the morning after we slept so here we can tackle the most challenging decisions, so it is important we do not waste that “enhanced” mental energy by decisions that do not really matter in the long run. Even Jeff Bezos, the multi-billionaire Amazon’s founder, constrained himself to have important decisions only in the morning.

One quick win you can have here is to plan your meals ahead. Define a schedule of meals on a one-week, two-week or even one-month basis (depending on how much variability you want) and then follow it. This way, you don’t have to think every time about what you need to eat, and you don’t have to think about what to buy the next time you go to get groceries. As a side benefit, this can also help you lead a healthier lifestyle.

Another quick win can be to prepare your clothes for the day the night before. If you do that, in the morning you just need to grab them and put them on, without needing to think much and wasting your enhanced mental power. Some people like Mark Zuckerberg go as far as having just one single outfit they wear everyday so that they remove decision-making in this part of their life altogether. Along the same lines but less extreme, you could make a schedule for your outfits just like you could do for your meals.

If a decision can be automated with a schedule, or removed from your life, then do it. This will help you a lot reduce stress at work, because now you have more brain power to deal with complex work decisions.

4. Let Your Mind Roam Freely, or Meditate

To effectively reduce stress at work, you need to set aside some time for your mind. Have you ever had that feeling of mind race when you go to bed and you would like to sleep, but your mind is so busy thinking? This is probably because it didn’t have time enough time to do it during the day.

Ensuring your mind has enough time to process the events of your life is an important tool to reduce stress at work and lead a better life. Setting aside this time is simple to do, but sometimes it is not easy. It just means having a few minutes every day (10-15mins ideally) when you just sit and do nothing, letting your mind think. If you prefer, you can meditate, which is just focusing on an object such as your breath to sharpen your focus, nothing spiritual or hipster.

Meditation is an effective way to reduce stress at work
Meditation can be good to manage your stress. You can do as little as 10 minutes a day, and it does not have to be something spirtual (althought it could if you want).

You may feel that you don’t have those 15 minutes every day, except you actually do. This is because the cost of not dedicating these 15 minutes to this are much higher. To put it in another way, if you don’t do that you will waste way more time in the long run.

Think about airplanes, that go through routine checks every time they land before they are ready to depart again. If you just skip the checks, you could save time and do more flights, except at one point the plane will break with an extremely high cost (in human lives, loss of the aircraft, and environmental damages). Skipping those checks would be insane, and no one would dare to even think about it. Yet, if our life is the airplane, we often tend to operate it without skipping such checks. These 15 minutes every day are your safety checks. Don’t skip them. You will be able to do many more flights in the long run.

5. Exercise

This is probably not a surprise, but if you want to reduce stress at work you need to exercise. You need to do some physical activity to be in shape, it can be any sport or just going to the gym or doing some exercises at home.

You can generally pick between two types of exercise: cardio, which increase your heartrate and then to burn more calories, and strength which are about building muscle. Both can work to reduce stress, so experiment with what you like most.

Exercise can be a great way to reduce stress in general, but particularly to reduce stress at work
Going to the gym can be a good way to reduce stress.

If you really aren’t into exercising much, I suggest starting out with a cardio exercise you can do on a machine where you can put a screen or tablet so that you can watch something while you do that. I have an indoor rowing machine that I use in that way, and it is fantastic. Treadmills also have similar setups in most modern gyms. If this is not possible, go running with some music in your head.

Exercising will help you discharge stress and consume your physical energy in a good way. You will feel the benefits immediately after your training session, but also in the long run as you become healthier and able to cope with higher levels of stress.

6. Prioritize and Delegate

All the other tips so far were about on increasing your mental capacity so that you are better at coping with high pressure at work. But what to do when you are already at the peak of your capabilities?

You make the most out of your capabilities by focusing on what matters to you. Approach everything you do with priority in mind, do the thing with the highest priority first, and the less crucial ones later – so that if you are too busy, nothing too crucial is getting dropped.

Most people like to prioritize based on importance and urgency. If it is important and urgent, do it now, if it is only urgent delegate it to someone else, if it is only important plan it for the future, and if it is neither important nor urgent just skip it. Of course, this is easier said than done. In reality, realizing what is important and what isn’t is not a simple task. Importance is not a binary measure that something is either important or isn’t, but it is a spectrum where the degree of importance vary along a continuous line.

To reduce stress at work, you need to prioritize your tasks effectively
Prioritize to reduce stress at work.

Nonetheless, make an effort to try to prioritize and delegate activities to other when possible. Of course, to delegate you need to have someone to delegate things to. If you just raised to a managerial position and feel overwhelmed because of it, you might have some direct reports. However, most people don’t have people they can delegate activities to. But, truth to be told, we always have someone we can rely onto.

The easiest way to delegate tasks everyone can do is to just push back tasks other people load onto us. Sometimes, people ask us to do something on their behalf, but they might do that by themselves actually. Don’t be afraid to say “I just can’t do that at this time, can you please do it yourself?”. It is not as good as having a secretary do delegate things to, but it is a start.

Reduce Stress at Work in a Nutshell

To reduce stress at work, you need to preserve your mental power so that you can dedicate it to the decisions that matter. Do that by removing unnecessary decisions from your life by using schedules you can repeat on autopilot and grow your mental power through meditation and physical exercise. Ultimately, make a critical assessment of what is important to do, what can be avoided, and what can be delegated.

I hope this article on how to reduce stress at work can help you get back on track with your careers. If so, you can continue learning more with this guide on referent power. It will help you understand how you can grow your ability to delegate to others in the workplace.

Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded ICTShore.com with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.
Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded ICTShore.com with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.

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Alessandro Maggio

2022-02-10T16:30:00+00:00

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