Even if you love your job, every career comes with its fair share of stressors. Between tight deadlines and high-pressure projects, job-related anxiety can come at you from all angles. And on those days when things are particularly tense, it's important to know how to instantly de-stress at work in order to keep your cool — and ultimately, progress your career.
Whether your daily to-do list is rapidly growing, an unresolved conflict between you and a co-worker is filling you with dread, or you’re in a position with an overwhelming amount of tasks and responsibilities, the fact remains: With so much time spent at work, it's crucial to learn how to manage stress. Otherwise, it will ultimately interfere with your overall happiness and quality of life. Luckily, there are ways to battle it quickly, nay, instantly.
Ahead, career and anxiety experts weigh in on the best ways to manage work stress, both in the moment and off the clock. From techniques on maintaining composure when tensions run high to advice on what to do when you're about to burn out (and how to know before it's too late), knowing a few de-stressing strategies can help you manage a better work-life balance and prevent eventual burnout.
If A Colleague Is Getting Under Your Skin ...
When a particular person begins testing your temper, the first order of business is to remove yourself from the situation so you can regain your composure. Sure, it may seem awkward to excuse yourself mid-conversation, but it's not as awkward as losing your patience in front of the whole workplace.
Have a mini-meditation session
After finding a quiet place to collect your thoughts — find a private room, an empty hallway, or even head to your car — Avery Roth, a career change coach, recommends practicing some simple meditation techniques. "Take a few deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth, sighing your tension out," she instructs. "Close your eyes and slowly place your attention on each body part, starting with your right thumb. Breathe oxygen and space into that body part, and as you exhale imagine the tension melting away."
Change your perspective (literally).
If the issue at hand isn't pressing, Charlene Rymsha, a millennial burnout expert, suggests leaving your surroundings for a much-needed breather, whether that's heading out for a coffee or taking a quick walk outside. "Changing your environment, even for a short period, enables your body to discharge pent-up energy as [the negativity] moves through and out of your body," she explains. Not to mention, removing yourself from the situation can help you gain a little perspective.
Try some stress-reducing products.
On those days when you're feeling especially tense, consider keeping a stash of CBD gummies or herbal pastilles in your desk to help take the edge off. You may also want to try adding adaptogens to your diet for their overall stress-reducing abilities.
If Your Everyday Work Routine Is Weighing On You ...
Plan a positive morning routine
Whether you're working on a project and the anxiety is keep you up at night, or you're in a position that comes with lots of pressure, your days will be better if you begin them on a positive note. "Start each morning with a five to 10-minute body scan," says Rymsha (you can download her free six-minute guided meditation here). "Use of a mindful app that guides you through each body part is recommended to get started."
Jennifer Silvershein, LCSW and the founder of Manhattan Wellness, a boutique psychotherapy practice specializing in working with millennial women, agrees. She adds that other uplifting morning routines can include "having coffee without any distractions, walking an extra subway stop to get some clear air, and arriving 10 minutes early so you're not rushing to make your first meeting."
Practice an attitude of gratitude
Once you arrive at the office, "make a list of three things you're looking forward to in your day," says Silvershein. "At the end of the day write down three successes. The ability to recognize things that are good will help reduce the feelings of stress and negative anxiety an individual may feel in a given day." You can even treat yourself to a beautiful journal to help inspire your reflections and affirmations.
Once you're off the clock, it's so important that your head is clocked out, too. Take a relaxing bath, read a book, and unplug from your emails; giving yourself a break will allow yourself to recharge and feel refreshed for the next day.
If You're Burning Out ...
Recognize the signs
Is stress making it harder and harder to function at work? "Get help!" says Rymsha. "Full-blown burnout literally means you cannot get out of bed, your whole mind-body system has shut down, and [that] requires time to recover."
She continues, "The body is wise, it gives you signals along the way in the form of symptoms, such as tension headaches, increasing exhaustion, slower response time to actions you do everyday, losing interest in things you once loved ... And the longer you ignore these signals, the 'louder' they get."
Consult with a career coach
Seeking guidance from a career coach to help you clarify your goals and prevent you from doing something drastic, like quitting your jobor changing careers (then finding yourself wildly unprepared). "Working with a career change coach facilitates access to [your inner] wisdom by guiding you to ask the right questions, interpret the answers, and put the insights into action," says Roth.
Take time to recharge
"Burnout is real, no matter the job," says Silvershein. "I believe that if an individual is feeling burnout, they are not taking enough time for themselves. I encourage individuals to think of themselves as a cell phone: What charges their battery, and what depletes it? When we're able to recognize what makes us feel good and energized, we're then able to add more of this into our lives and reduce what makes us feel exhausted or depletes the battery."
Roth's advice for the ultimate recharge? Try getting out of town. "Solo vacations are wonderful ways to quiet your mind so as to access your own wisdom," she points out. "When we gain perspective on what we want and can create a goal, it eases the sense of burnout."
If Your Workspace Needs More Positive Vibes ...
Add some green
Promoting positive vibes in your workspace can create a general sense of wellbeing and keep stress pangs at bay. "There is some amazing research on the effects of nature and stress relief," Rymsha shares. "Studies have shown that simply looking at a photograph of nature activates the parasympathetic nervous system, triggering the relaxation response."
"Fresh flowers are an instant reminder that we are alive and that our existence extends beyond the confines of our cubicle," adds Roth. "This perspective is critical for tapping into our whole selves."
Create ambiance with aromatherapy
Lavender is well-known for its ability to calm nerves, and inhaling this floral scent can help keep you feeling serene. Use a lavender candle or scent diffuser if your work environment allows, and if not, simply dab some lavender essential oils on your skin, or take a whiff straight from the bottle.
Deck out your desk
Silvershein suggests personalizing your workspace to make it more relaxing. "I recommend things that make us happy," she says. "This could be photos of loved ones, a mug from your university, a back pillows."
You can also pick up a soothing desk toy or two (fiddling can be a great way to ease anxiety), and don't underestimate the positivity power of pretty office supplies.