How to combat stress in the workplace

-Dec 8, Jenny Paul, Mind -

If you’re feeling forgetful at the moment, it could be down to the stress of the past year, compounded by family issues and juggling your workload. With everyone readying for Christmas, that means more stress – whether it’s financial burdens or worrying about social distancing while travelling to see family. We’ve asked several wellness experts for their top tips on how to reduce your work stress – which will free you up to focus on everything else. 

Is your inbox full again? Just been given another deadline? Spilt your coffee? Is the best part of your day really when you log off for the day? Well, you’re not alone, because research from the Trade Union Centre has shown that over an incredible 70% of workers say that stress is a problem in their workplace.

But, as we know, stress causes premature ageing and serious illnesses, so if you can’t change your situation at work, it’s worth changing your reaction to it and having some office stress busters up your sleeve.

Do Pilates in your home office

Sometimes when you feel stressed you can feel it rising in your neck and shoulders all you want to do is feel your muscles relax. Lynne Robinson, Founder of Body Control Pilates and author of ‘Pilates for Life’ says that you can do Pilates at your desk:

“To keep yourself feeling fit and healthy, why not set yourself the goal of doing 5 minutes Pilates at your desk whenever you get a break? If you’ve time for coffee, you’ve time for Pilates.

“Even though you are only doing 5 minutes, you need to focus, and do the exercises mindfully. Then try to retain what you’ve learnt with you as you move around the office.”

You can do this exercise from the comfort of your desk chair

Twister: A fabulous exercise for the spine, this will also work your waist. For this exercise to work, you need to be sitting at your desk on a swivel chair.

Starting Position: Sit tall on your swivel chair, with your weight evenly balanced on both sitting bones. If feasible, place your feet together resting on the legs of the chair (this will depend on the type of chair – you may have to improvise and hold your feet together just off the floor – if this is the case, you will have to use your abdominals more).

Hold the desk in front of you with your hands just wider than shoulder-width apart, palms down.

Use your core connection (internal zip) as, when and if you need it to control your alignment and movements.


  • Breathe into the ribcage and lengthen up through the spine.
  • Breathe out keeping your upper body still and facing the front, rotate your lower body with the chair. You may twist as far as you are comfortable, as long as your upper body remains squarely facing forwards.
  • Breathe in and slowly, with control, twist back to the starting position.
  • Repeat five times each way.

If you fancy trying yoga at your desk instead, we’ve put together five moves you can do in your office. Or setting aside ten minutes to do this happiness workout before work will work wonders for your stress levels.

Minutes of mindfulness

With the abundance of mindfulness apps on the market it is easy to take a quiet 5-minute break with a little bit of meditation. If you can get a Himalayan salt lamp to have at work it’s like having an open window – a softly glowing natural source of fresh, clean air – on your desk, or anywhere you choose to put it. And, it will also help when you decide to quiet your mind and body for five minutes if you set aside time for meditating and mindfulness.

“Meditation is now gaining mainstream recognition through scientific research for its ability to reduce stress. Those in stressful jobs or situations can benefit enormously from meditative practice. It can be done anywhere, such as on the bus or train into work and even 5 minutes can be helpful to clear your mind and feel refreshed” Shona Wilkinson says.

It’s worth bearing in mind the staggering results that meditating has had on children in schools, it has been proven to be better for their mood than time outs. So if it works for mini adults then it should help older ones as well. During breaks at work, it’s tempting to log on to Facebook to chat to your friends for a bit of distraction, but research shows that social media is making people feel anxious and depressed. Instead, go outside if you can and take a walk in the fresh air.

Brighten your office environment

A gloomy office space lit by fluorescent lighting isn’t the most inspiring place to work, and studies show it can lower productivity levels and heighten stress. Try and let as much natural light into your office, as not only will these keep you more alert and focused, it will lower your stress levels. If you can, open the windows when you start the work day and let as much fresh air in as you can. Air-conditioning and central heating make us feel tired, and a blast of fresh air can work wonders.

Integrating plants into your office environment has also been proven to lower stress and inspire a positive attitude. Buying a bunch of flowers for yourself on the way to work will make you feel happy whenever you look at them as the day rolls by. If you put an amethyst cluster on your desk, as well as looking pretty, believers swear that they help keep the atmosphere in the workplace clean and positive.

If you work from home, here’s some easy ways to Feng Shui the space you use to work in, which in turn will make you feel happier and more balanced if you’re working in an uncluttered environment.

Try aromatherapy 

Rebecca O’Connor, who created Beatitude which is a range of high-end aromatherapy bath oils, says that a waft of peppermint essential oil can break anyone out of a mid-afternoon slump. If you’re allowed to light scented candles then one that is infused with an uplifting combination of citrus scents will keep you feeling both relaxed and energised. If not, pop a few drops of your favourite essential oil on a silk scarf and wear it around your neck as you work.

Plan things to look forward to

A great stress-buster is planning things to look forward to; they don’t have to be big expensive holidays, a manicure, a facial, or day out or weekend away somewhere you’ve never been to before but that you’ve always wanted to visit will give you a rush of excitement every time you think about it. With stress management, self-care and ‘me-time’ is key, so try to make sure that your work week is filled with long baths in the evening and time for unwinding with a good book before bedtime. You can try this instant happiness self-hypnosis technique, which will also help get you through difficult parts of the day.

Surround yourself with healthy snacks

Reaching for sugary snacks can leave you feeling more tired and stressed than you were when first started your day at the office. It is important to keep your energy levels up and sustained throughout the day with healthy meals, supplemented by balanced snacks that won’t leave you feeling worse than before.

Taking a couple of freshly squeezed juices with you to work will give you an instant boost, these turmeric recipes are uplifting and energising, or a citrus morning shot will kick-start your day and help boost your immune system.

Shona Wilkinson, who is a nutritionist, explains: “Stick to snacks that don’t raise your blood sugar too quickly such as nuts including almonds, brazil nuts, hazelnuts and macadamia nuts, as these contain some protein and good fats that will reduce your cravings. They are a good source of magnesium, which helps with efficient energy production while also being calming to the nervous system.”

Make sure you keep some desk-friendly snacks on your desk throughout the day to keep you calm. Keep a bag of goji berries by your side to nibble on and give you a morning boost, and fresh fruit in the afternoon. If you’re exhausted a banana will give you an instant lift – which is why professional tennis players keep them with their water at the edge of the court during tournaments.

Shona explains: “Do make sure there is protein in every meal you eat at work. Protein includes eggs (free range & organic ideally), fish, meat, nuts & seeds (unsalted & unroasted), legumes (peas, beans & lentils), soya (fermented is best, such as miso and tempeh), and dairy (organic and grass fed most ideal).”

Keep hydrated

Dehydration is a key cause of migraines, headaches and other aches and pains that will only increase with stress.

“The guidelines are for us to drink 8 glasses of water per day. However we don’t need to get our intake from drink alone – foods can contribute towards our daily intake of water,” says Shona.

If you find it hard to keep your glass topped up, you can make water more interesting with these suggestions from nutritionist and weight loss expert, Lily Soutter: “You can infuse water with cucumber, lemon, mint, strawberries or blueberries overnight for refreshing flavoured water.” Or, switch up your afternoon cup of tea, “Drink iced herbal tea by refrigerating a brew of your favourite flavoured tea,” she adds.

Get a good night’s sleep

We all feel better, less stressed and more productive after a good nights sleep and we all want to look refreshed, instead of exhausted.

Dr Marilyn Glenville, author of ‘Natural Alternatives to Sugar’ explains: “As a society we are sleeping less; the time we sleep each night has reduced from 9 hours to 7.5 hours since the 1900s. Sleep is important for your health because it gives your body time to recharge its batteries and repair cells and tissue. When you don’t get enough or good quality sleep you can feel irritable, with poor concentration and, of course, tired.

“Lack of sleep can have effects similar to those brought on by too much alcohol. Those with sleep deprivation suffer from reduced concentration, memory loss and are more likely to make mistakes and have a slower reaction time.”

To ensure you have a good night sleep, top up your diet with stress-reducing magnesium – an easy way to do this is by taking a targeted day and night supplement. It will help you sleep better, but also give you a steady supply of energy in the morning.

“Try and include plenty of magnesium-rich foods in your diet such as, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, fish and leafy green vegetables,”  Cassandra Barns adds.


How do you fight off stress in the workplace? Let us know in the comments below.

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