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How to Reduce Job Stress


Don’t freak out: You don’t need to make sweeping change all at once to manage your stress better at work. Studies show that small changes do indeed make a big difference. This article contains some small steps you can take to reduce job stress, so you can relax, clear your mind, and get more done at work.

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Job Stress by the Numbers

Percent increase in stress for men since 1983.

Percent increase in stress for women since 1983.

Percent greater likelihood of having positive relationships with co-workers for those with high levels of stress but strong spousal support.

Percent higher rates of concentration levels at work for those with high levels of stress but strong spousal support.

Percent of women who work 9 or more hours a day, compared to 41 percent of men.

Percent more likely men are to take personal breaks at work compared to women.

Simple Tips to Manage Job Stress

Start the day with a stress-free commute.

A long commute can wreak havoc on your body and mind. The stress of dealing with traffic combined with being hunched over a steering wheel can spell trouble even for those dedicated to maintaining the proper mindset, nutrition, movement, and recovery. Here are a few ways to make the daily grind of commuting more tolerable:

  1. Use your armrests to take the tension out of your upper body, especially the trapezius muscles. Don’t view your car seat like a lounge chair; aim for the same posture you’d have at the desk. Having a hard time not slouching? Consider the rear view mirror. Adjust your mirror to where it should be when you have perfect posture. That way you’ll have to maintain good posture to be able to see out of it. It’s an effective reminder.
  2. Here’s another tip for better body position, especially for guys: Take that fat wallet you’ve been working so hard for out of your back pocket before getting into the car. Sitting on your wallet tends to cause your hips to tilt to one side, and that can create or exacerbate muscle imbalances.
  3. Change into more comfortable shoes for the drive home. It can give you that mental transition you need to leave behind any stress from the day.

Clean your desk to stress less.

An organized workstation can cut stress and improve productivity and energy levels. Here are some ways to cut clutter:

  1. Set aside a block of two to four hours to make the initial purge of the desk or workstation. Don’t think you should be doing more important things. Organization is an integral part of reaching your goals, not an afterthought.
  2. Start with a small pile. Tackling a small pile or inbox might seem tedious, but it actually can energize you. Go through that pile from top to bottom, whether it’s making calls, writing checks, and dealing with leftover odds and ends. When you cross those off, you’ll see your energy take a leap and have less stress. If you put yourself on that regimen for one month, you’ll be able to see that things come into your space that you wouldn’t otherwise have the room to receive.
  3. Find a new filing system that works and corresponds to your activities and projects you're working on. Everyone has heard the advice of making files, not piles, but an effective filing system is even more important in the digital age. With our computers, we rely too heavily on the search/find button. Your digital filing system needs to be just as organized.

Take more frequent breaks.

Research by McKinsey & Company found that women are more likely to burn out and less likely to climb the corporate ladder than men. One reason cited is women's tendency to take fewer breaks.

  1. Find 10 minutes a day to clear your mind, even if you just grab a drink from the cafeteria, make tea, or get a snack.
  2. Plan lunch once a week with a co-worker or friends to make sure you get out of the office.

Read more about the study >

Don’t let your boss stress you out.

It’s tough enough to succeed in business without feeling like your manager is an adversary. So when you’re exposed to an abusive boss, your career can become significantly sidetracked. While no employee should have to cope with tantrums and rudeness in the office, such characteristics aren’t uncommon.

Seek out any available employee assistance programs, such as counseling or stress-management workshops. In addition, remember this tip from a recent Stanford study, which found that you can better swallow stings by repeatedly telling yourself, “It’s not me; it’s you.” This approach is called “reappraisal” and it has been found to significantly lessen the psychological impact when being confronted by an angry person.

Hit the gym.

Physically active workers are less likely to burn out at their jobs than their sedentary co-workers, according to a small study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. Researchers from Tel Aviv University studied 1,632 workers and found that those who exercised at least four hours a week were half as likely to suffer from depression or burnout. The study authors also noted that just 150 minutes of exercise a week correlated with significant health and work benefits. Browse workouts >

Can’t get to the gym during the day? At the end of the day, go to a yoga class, lift weights, run, bike, or try another physical activity you enjoy to de-stress from your workday.

Tags: Stress, Work


1. Carnegie Mellon University

2. Florida State University

3. theFIT Report on Workplace Culture survey