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De-stress at work
17 · 01 · 2020

How to De-Stress at Work

Written by Gavin Humphreys

We’ve all been there. Work can be stressful.

You might work in an office, on the factory floor, in a submarine, in a classroom, on the beach... one thing you can guarantee is that at some time your work will stress you out.

That pressure could be from work itself, other times it’s from your workmates, and you might even get stressed with yourself on occasion!

This blog will give you a few top-tips for how to overcome that stress - and some tips on how to avoid that stress in the first place.

Overcome the stress

Gone are the days of liquid-lunches, the whiskey bottle in the desk, and smoking in the office! Nowadays, we tend to look for healthier and more sustainable ways to relax and de-stress. When things are getting on top of you, give these a go:

Go for a walk

Pen down, close the laptop, and go for a walk. Stroll around the block, or wander a local park. The idea is to get your mind off work. There’s no point in burning yourself out. Also, contact with nature can help you see the world from the bigger perspective, and the problems of work might seem less significant.

Leave it for later - do something else

A change can alleviate stress, especially when you reach an impasse. This could be a mental block, or it could be seemingly irreconcilable differences in opinions with your co-workers or clients.

Leave the task, work on something else. When you return to the task with new eyes, you might just find that things seem different.

Listen to music

If you have your own office, get the tunes on. If you are in an open-plan office, headphones will do.

It will keep you in a good mood, and can help your creativity flow. If it’s all getting too much, you can ‘switch off’ for a couple of tunes - just sit back and enjoy the music. A great way to disconnect.

Destress with Music

Talk to your workmates

Get up from your desk and go and sit beside a colleague (make sure they aren’t too stressed themselves!). Catch up. Ask how they’re doing, see if they have any plans. Maybe they want to go for a walk too.


As my old gym teacher used to tell us - “KISS! Keep It Simple Stupid.”

Very often our stresses come from pushing ourselves and our workmates too hard.

I heard a great piece of advice the other day: “It’s only a problem if you decide it’s a problem.”

In other words, although it’s good to have high standards, don’t let this get you stressed. Sometimes you can just let things go. You have control over whether you let things stress you out.

Don’t send that angry reply

We all get emails that annoy us. Often we write a response that might be angry, or condescending, or sarcastic. Don’t send it - it will just make the situation worse. Leave it for a couple of hours, or a couple of days, and then go back to it and re-evaluate.

Often you will find that it really wasn’t worth getting annoyed about. The thing might have passed. You might have realized it was a misunderstanding. Maybe you read it wrong because you were in a bad mood! You might just have realized that other things were more important.

Time and perspective help when you are stressed, and emotions are running high.


If your head’s about to explode, it’s time to take the mother of chill pills - meditation.

This is actually a great daily practice to get into. Spending ten minutes meditating every day can clear the mind of stresses and work-related problems.

It’s best to find a quiet spot to do this. Perhaps a meeting room, or even out in the park under a tree. Or, if needs must, the bathroom stall.

You can also meditate at your desk, as you work - and think of every stress as a beautiful opportunity to practice peace and compassion. The more stressful the day, the more fortunate you are!

Make a cup of tea

Drinking a cup of tea is a great way to relax. It could also be herbal, if you want to avoid caffeine.

The simple act of getting up, filling the kettle, saying hi to your workmates, choosing the teabag... it all distracts your mind from the stress.

If you want to take this to the next level, use loose tea leaves or fresh herbs. Take a nice teapot to work and make this a ritual. Focus on the tea, and breathe.

Destress with Tea

Don’t engage with arguments

Avoid arguments like the plague.

If somebody else is pissed, and seems to be looking for an argument - don’t let them drag you down. Let them rant, and smile.

Try to find middle ground - if somebody else has a strong opinion about something, they are likely to have legitimate reasons. Try to find out what they are, and see if you can’t work things out.

Play a game

It could be on your phone, but even better is a board game, like chess.

Games on your phone distract the mind and help to de-stress a little. But if you are looking at a screen all day in your work, you should avoid more screen time!

A board game will get your brain working in a totally different way, and give you some needed human interaction.

Look out the window

This is a simple one, but just look out the window. Watch people walk by. Look at the weather. Let your mind wander.

Take five minutes, or maybe the length of time it takes to drink your cup of tea, and observe. You can even converse with your co-workers about the funny things you see (engaging your creativity and humor will help stresses disappear).

Goof off

Doing some silly stuff will help things seem a lot less serious and worry-worthy!

Take your pet to work

Many modern workplaces allow you to take your pet to work. Even big companies like Amazon have pet day-care rooms, as well as kiddy day-care.

Pets are a fantastic stress-relief. They are conversation starters and great distractions. Dogs just never seem stressed, certainly not about your deadline!

Take them out for a walk, or just play with them a little.

Destress with animals

Only complain if it’s something that can be fixed

Complaining can become a habit. It can stress you and stress others. Make it a rule to only complain about something which can be fixed.

For example, if you complain about the door which always squeaks when people go through it, try to think about how you can fix it. If there is a lack of communication in the office, suggest how this could be improved.

If you are stressed about your workload, talk to workmates or your boss and try to work something out.

Occasionally we all need to get things off our chests, for example the boss who doesn’t listen to you, or the customers who were really nasty, but make a conscious effort to limit it to a short rant and let it pass. Talk about other, happy, things.

Why stress about it if it isn’t going to change?


Hunger is probably one of the biggest causes of stress and conflict. Nibbling on something can make you feel less anxious. Or wait until after lunch to have that awkward meeting or tackle that job you don’t like.


I’m sure everybody’s mothers have told them to count to ten when they’re angry. It really has some basis.

When you are annoyed and stressed, focus on your breathing. There are several techniques, but why not try simply observing.

Breathe in through the nose, and out through the mouth. Observe how it feels, and how your belly moves up and down. Allow all your muscles to relax and just focus on your breathing.

You can count ten breaths. Your mom was right after all!

Bring in a plant to care for

Having a plant on your desk can help you stay calm. It gives you a distraction, and helps you think about things that aren’t going to get you down or tense.

Seeing it grow or flower gives you a feeling of joy and achievement. As projects come and go, it stays there - giving us an awareness of the bigger picture and life beyond the office walls.

Burn off energy

Playing a quick game of basketball, or ping-pong, or going to the gym, or swimming pool, at lunchtime, burns off energy, and helps stress disappear.

Avoiding getting stressed in the first place

Sometimes the best defense is prevention of the stress in the first place. Rather than reacting when it happens, fortify yourself against stress before it knocks on the gate. You will find that what you do outside the office has a massive effect on how you feel inside it.

Plan your workload to avoid last-minute rushes

Resist the urge to crack on, because you ‘have it all in the head.’ A few minutes to write what you need to do in a journal, on a calendar, or on an online organizer, can really save the stresses.

If I have several tasks, I like writing them down on a notepad. It makes it easy to prioritize. It stops you forgetting something until the last minute (or altogether!). Having it beside your computer, or in your pocket if you’re moving around, means you are constantly reminded. And it gives you that feeling of satisfaction when you can strike it out - done!

Feng shui the office

This can really make you and your workmates feel more at peace. Feng shui might seem like mystical mumbo jumbo, but a lot of it is good common sense.

For example, making sure your desk is tidy, you are in a position to see what’s going on, you aren’t going to trip up on things when you are walking around - it all leads to less stress.

If you can’t feng shui the whole office, at least feng shui your desk or cubicle.

Destress with plants

Sleep well

Sleep is essential for stress reduction. If you sleep well, you will be ready for the tasks of the day. You will be less grumpy and irritable, so something or somebody who might stress a tired-you might not seem all that bad when you’ve had a good night’s sleep.

Make sure you have a bedtime ritual, and the your bedroom is a temple for sleep.

Have a hobby outside of work

Hobbies or sports give you something to take your mind a hundred miles from the workplace. They also get your mind and / or body working in ways they don’t in the 9 to 5.

Not only this, but they can also mean you are more creative and switched on once you get back to the (not-so) stressful world of work.

Look for a job that you enjoy

One final option is to quit your job! This is always an option - don’t stick in a job which isn’t for you, look for something you enjoy. If you love what you do at work, it will never feel quite so stressful.

Voila, no more stress!

There are many other techniques to calm down and get over the pressures of work - what do you do? Have you any tips for us?


Brandon Jan 22, 2022

This is one of the greatest articles I’ve ever read about de-stressing!

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