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5 Easy Ways to Reduce Stress, Written by a Clinician

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

Read on below to find out how you can work on reducing your stress level right away.

Stress in the workplace reduces productivity and can lead to serious mental and physical health issues. 80% of workers feel pressure on the job, nearly half say they need help in managing stress, and 42% say their coworkers need such help. Among the leading causes of job-related stress are workload (46%), people issues (28%), juggling work and personal life (20%), and lack of job security (6%). Left unmanaged or unmitigated workplace stress ultimately translates in loss of human capital through high turnover as employees seek better employment and decline of bottom-line profitability as costs of hiring and training new employees rise.

How can employers respond to this challenge?

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends two main strategies: Stress Management Programs and Organizational Change.

Per NIOSH, Stress Management Programs teach workers about the nature and sources of stress, the effects of stress on health, and personal skills to reduce stress-for example, time management or relaxation exercises. Employee Assistance Programs(EAPs) provide individual counseling for employees with both work and personal problems. Stress management training may rapidly reduce stress symptoms such as anxiety and sleep disturbances; it also has the advantage of being inexpensive and easy to implement.

Also, per NIOSH, in contrast to stress management training and EAP programs, Organizational Change aims to reduce job stress by improving working conditions. This approach is the most direct way to reduce stress at work. It involves identifying stressful aspects of work (e.g., excessive workload, conflicting expectations) and the design of strategies to reduce or eliminate the identified stressors.

Stress management starts, however, with you! Here are five personal skills to reduce stress:


Set Priorities

How many times do you find yourself looking at your to-do list at the end of the day thinking, “This is impossible! I’ve barely made any progress!” or wondering, “Where did the time go?”. These are examples of negative self-talk usually associated with perfectionism or lack of ability to set priorities. To mitigate such self-deprecating statements, which do nothing but increase stress, try placing a few manageable priorities at the beginning of the day. As you do that, allow for flexibility around interruptions or unexpected circumstances.

Make sure that your priorities are in alignment with your higher goals or even values.


Communicate Openly

Many people face challenges when it comes to communicating openly about their goals, boundaries, or expectations. Do you fear that your voice will not be heard or that there may be repercussions to making your needs known? This feeling often stems from negative experiences, sometimes going back to childhood. Holding on to your truth may require going out of your comfort zone and stating clearly and openly your position. When it comes to communication, a few skills are essential, such as using “I statements” as a way of taking responsibility for your feelings and learning assertiveness techniques. Last but not least, it’s good to know your legitimate rights, not only in legal terms but in physical, intellectual, emotional, and interpersonal terms as well.


Use Deep Breathing Techniques

A straightforward approach to reduce stress immediately has to do with something so natural as your breathing. An effective stress-reducing deep breathing exercise has two components: breathing into the abdomen and a longer exhale than the inhale and holding phases of the breath cycle. So let' try it: sit comfortably, close your eyes if you wish. Now, inhale deeply into your abdomen while counting to four, then hold your breath for a count of four and exhale for a count of six. Sometimes, it helps to place your hand on the upper part of your abdomen and watch it rise as you inhale to be sure you are taking deep enough breaths.


Build in ‘Me’ Time for Self-care

Deadlines at work, responsibilities at home, errands to run, things to take care of, and so forth. Sound familiar? And feel the stress level rise even reading this sentence? What is missing from this picture is “Me – time.” In our goal-driven world, we place low value on self-care activities, leaving us depleted and more prone to stress in the long run. Make sure to take time for yourself: do you maintain your physical and emotional health, do you engage in a favorite hobby or activity regularly, how is your social support network, do you take care of your spiritual needs? Take a moment now to list one or two activities you will do to reclaim “Me-time” this week.


Reward Yourself for a Job Well-done

Last but not least, don't forget to reward yourself. Bosses are busy and may or may not acknowledge how well you did with a particular task or a project. Take a quick minute to congratulate yourself on a job well done. What skills did you use to accomplish the task, did you learn anything new, did you create new working relationships in the process, how did it feel to perform this task or be a part of this project, were there any highs or lows in the process, how well did you do troubleshooting? Rewarding yourself could include taking yourself out for a nice meal, buying flowers for your office, sharing your experience with a trusted friend, or it can be as simple as acknowledging yourself internally with a smile.


Transitioning into a new field can be overwhelming if you do know where to start. These five strategies will help you immensely to get started or advance. Treat these strategies as lifelong habits to achieve ongoing professional growth. Every individual is in charge of their professional career and must constantly strategize and learn from others to open opportunities for themselves.

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About HR Lab: Formed in 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, HR Lab is here to make a difference. At HR Lab, we work to strengthen workforce quality by improving the HR system, ensuring its ongoing relevance, and preparing employers, workers, educators, and governments to use it effectively. Our vision is a labor market that relies on the relevance, quality, and value of workforce credentials for opportunities, growth, and development.

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Disclaimer: The information in these materials should not be considered legal, accounting, or investment advice, and it should not substitute for legal, accounting, investment, and other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. It is provided for informational purposes only. If you require legal, accounting, or investment advice, or need other professional assistance, you should always consult your attorney, accountant, or other professional advisor to discuss your particular facts, circumstances, business, personal finance, and investment needs.


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