The stress free guide to stress management at work

August 2, 2021 - 18 min read

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Why is stress management so important?

4 benefits you will obtain once you learn to manage stress

3 risks associated with excessive stress

4 ways to deal with stress at home

4 stress management techniques at work

4 ways to deal with stress in relationships

4 ways to deal with stress quickly

4 ways to start managing stress in the long-term

What not to do when managing stress

When should you see a doctor?

Stress management techniques can change your life

Our stress levels are at an all-time high.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 67% of Americans report feeling increased stress since the COVID-19 outbreak began. 

And 78% say the pandemic is a major source of stress in their life. This is on top of the daily stressors we already experienced before, such as work, health, finances, family, and relationships.

If you need to know how to relax fast and reduce stress, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve rounded up a comprehensive list of 20 stress management tips. 

They will help you:

  • Overcome stress quickly
  • Reduce stress in the long-term
  • Cope with stress in different situations, such as at work and in relationships

 

Why is stress management so important?

It’s normal to face stressful situations in life. The stressors of daily life include everything from the daily commute to paying your taxes.

None of us are excluded from dealing with stress. The important thing is to learn to manage it so that your stress levels don’t become overwhelming.

A little bit of stress can be healthy. But chronic stress can negatively affect your mental health and physical well-being.

According to the APA, people experiencing increased stress in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic report that stress:

  • Caused unexpected mood swings
  • Negatively affected their behavior
  • Increased tension in their bodies
  • Caused them to snap out of anger

4 benefits you will obtain once you learn to manage stress

Learning to manage stress effectively is crucial for your long-term health and well-being. Here are four of the main benefits of using stress management techniques:

1. It strengthens your immune system

Stress weakens the immune system and makes you more vulnerable to illness. Relaxation and stress reduction help strengthen your natural defenses.

2. It helps you maintain a healthy weight

Stress can cause us to eat, and it doesn’t usually have us reaching for the salad. Instead, we go for junk food loaded with sugar, saturated fat, and salt. 

This reaction to stress can cause weight gain. But reducing your stress levels can help control your appetite and cravings.

3. It helps you sleep better

Stress makes it difficult to sleep due to the excess adrenaline it releases into the bloodstream, causing muscle tension.

Stress management can increase endorphins, which help with muscle relaxation and promote sleep.

4. It improves your mood and relationships

Stress can cause you to be moody and irritable. This affects the way you react to those nearest to us. 

As a result, it can put a strain on your relationships. Reducing your stress levels can help restore balance.

3 risks associated with excessive stress

You probably already know that excessive stress is associated with poor physical and mental fitness

One study even found that stress can be as bad for you as smoking five cigarettes per day. Let’s take a closer look at three of the main risks associated with stress.

1. Burnout

Burnout is a result of prolonged stress. According to Gallup, 8 out of 10 employees experience burnout at least some of the time.

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But while we tend to associate burnout with work, it can also be caused by other extended stressful situations, such as caring for an elderly parent.

2. High blood pressure and heart disease

According to the American Heart Association, stress can have serious long-term health consequences. 

When your stress response activates, your heart rate is higher than normal. This is not a problem if it only lasts a short time. But when your everyday life is characterized by stress, it can put pressure on your heart.

3. Poor physical health

Being in a state of fight or flight reduces your body’s capacity to function properly. It detracts vital energy from processes and systems, such as the digestive and reproductive systems. 

It can also affect your endocrine system, which is responsible for your hormonal health. This can create imbalances in your body that lead to health problems and disease.

4 ways to deal with stress at home 

Home should be a sanctuary. But they can actually be one of the biggest sources of stress in our lives. 

For example, you might struggle with a relationship with a family member or neighbor, financial problems, or your daily routine. 

Here are four ways to reduce stress at home:

1. Speak up for yourself

If you feel that someone in your home is treating you unfairly, speak up for yourself. Let them know how their behavior is affecting you. This will help you find a solution and reduce your stress.

2. Take action

If you are stressed about a problem, the best strategy is to look for a way to solve it. 

This will reduce the stress the problem is causing you. Humans love to problem-solve, so it will also give you a sense of satisfaction.

3. Get organized

If your outer world is chaotic, it can create disorder in your mind and make you feel more stressed.

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Having a clean and tidy home helps maintain mental balance and reduce stress by giving us a sense of control over our lives. 

4. Create your own space

If possible, find a space in your home where you can be alone and dedicate time to yourself. It doesn’t need to be big, but it should be somewhere that others won’t disturb you.

4 stress management techniques at work 

For many people, work can become a principal stressor in their lives.

In fact, workers’ daily stress levels reached a record high in 2020.

And because it can affect your work performance and other areas of your life, reducing stress at work is more important than ever. You can use these four stress management techniques at work:

1. Understand the expectations

Knowing what is expected of you is fundamental for fulfilling your role at work successfully.

Being unsure of the requirements can cause stress. Ask for clarification from your supervisor whenever you need it.

2. Avoid multitasking

Multitasking reduces your effectiveness at work. Not only that, but it makes us feel more stressed and more likely to drop the ball on something.

Doing one task at a time is less stressful and will help you achieve better results.

3. Minimize conflict

Workplace conflict can be a major source of stress. Minimize potential conflicts by avoiding controversial topics such as politics, religion, or gossip.

4. Get comfortable

The discomfort caused by inadequate chairs or desks, annoying noises, and even clothing can make you feel stressed. 

Adjust your work environment and clothing to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible.

4 ways to deal with stress in relationships

Interpersonal relationships are complicated and can be a huge source of stress. Let’s take a look at four ways to deal with stressful relationships:

1. Remove external stressors

High levels of stress in one or both partners can affect their ability to communicate effectively and manage conflict. This causes stress in the relationship.

Try to remove external stressors if possible. If not, look for ways to manage stress individually in order to not let it affect the relationship.

2. Get to the root of the problem

When there is a problem in one aspect of a relationship, it can start to affect others and become a source of stress. It’s essential to talk to each other to get to the heart of the issue and take action to resolve it. 

3. Save time for yourself

It can be hard to find time for yourself in a close relationship, which can cause you to feel suffocated and stressed. It’s essential to dedicate quality time to yourself and the things you enjoy.

4. Improve your communication skills

Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings, arguments, and stress. 

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Learning to communicate effectively and constructively can reduce conflicts and stress.

4 ways to deal with stress quickly

Sometimes you need to find a way to reduce your stress levels quickly. Keep these four stress management techniques in your back pocket for the next time you face a stressful situation:

1. Take a walk

Exercise of any kind can be an effective stress reliever. 

Taking a short walk has the advantage of removing you from the source of your stress — whether that’s a demanding boss, an argument with your partner, or a problem you can’t seem to solve.

This allows you to clear your head, calm down, and approach the situation from a different perspective.

2. Breathe deeply

Taking a few deep breaths can help instantly relieve stress. Make sure you breathe into your belly as shallow breathing signals to the body that the stress response is still required.

You might find it helpful to learn some breathing exercises from an experienced teacher. Keep these exercises on hand and use them whenever you feel stressed.

3. Use aromatherapy

Research suggests that certain scents — such as those found in essential oils — can decrease the levels of stress hormones in our bodies.

Whether you prefer a scented candle, a diffuser, or fresh flowers, try using scent to calm you when you feel stressed.

4. Get a hug from a loved one

Hugging is a surprisingly effective way to combat stress. It releases oxytocin, which is the “love hormone” that’s responsible for bonding. 

It also reduces blood pressure and the stress hormone norepinephrine. This activates the relaxation response.

4 ways to start managing stress in the long-term

Prevention is better than the cure, and stress is no exception. Use these preventive strategies to reduce long-term stress.

1. Exercise regularly

Physical activity is a powerful short-term stress reliever. It releases endorphins, the feel-good hormones that give us natural stress relief.

But in the long-term, exercise also helps combat the physical effects of stress. It keeps your heart healthy and improves your overall levels of wellness.

Whether it’s running, yoga, or Tai Chi, the key to maintaining a regular exercise routine is to find something you enjoy doing.

2. Eat well

Eating a poor diet can aggravate your stress response. Stress can cause us to reach for highly addictive, highly processed foods loaded with salt, sugar, and fats. 

But these foods cause your blood sugar to spike. This releases more cortisol, the stress hormone, making you feel more anxious and stressed.

Eating a balanced diet has a variety of health benefits, including mitigating the effects of stress. 

3. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness practices such as meditation are proven to be effective stress management techniques.

Practicing gratitude is another effective technique for managing stress long-term. It helps you transform negative thoughts into positive ones.

4. Try relaxation techniques

Relaxation techniques such as guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation can lower stress.

These techniques activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the part of your nervous system responsible for the relaxation response.

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What not to do when managing stress

When trying to manage stress, there are some wrong turns you may take. Here are four things you should avoid doing when trying to manage stress:

1. Minimize stress in your environment

Manage your environment by avoiding people and situations that cause you stress, to the best that you can. For example, if you work from home, make sure you have a quiet place to work where the people around you don’t disturb you.

2. Don’t overload your to-do list

Time management is an essential skill for dealing with stress. Time blocking can help you meet deadlines more easily and show up for meetings on time. Make sure you allow for unforeseen roadblocks.

3. Don’t neglect self-care

When dealing with stress, make time for a daily self-care routine that supports your physical and mental fitness.

4. Don’t believe you can’t cope

A big part of successfully dealing with stressors is believing that you can overcome them. This positive mindset shift is essential for lowering your stress levels.

If you feel overwhelmed, try to reframe the issue. For example, instead of thinking of your to-do list as things you “have” to do, reframe it as things you “get” to do.

Consider adopting a mantra such as “I can handle this,” and repeat it to yourself daily.

When should you see a doctor?

Stress affects different people in different ways. Consider seeking medical advice if you notice:

  • Changes in your eating or sleeping habits, such as insomnia or loss of appetite
  • Headaches, nausea, or vomiting
  • Chest pains
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Feelings of depression 
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • A decline in your performance at work 
  • Deterioration in your relationships with loved ones

Stress management techniques can change your life

Stress management techniques can help you improve every area of your life — from your health to your work to your relationships. 

Over time, daily acts of self-care can lead to reduced stress, improved sleep, and better overall health and well-being.

But sometimes, you can use a little extra support to reduce your stressors and stay committed to daily stress management. 

Reach out to one of BetterUp’s expert coaches to discover how they can help you.

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Published August 2, 2021

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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