100 employee stress and relaxation busters for HR
Millions of people suffer from everyday anxiety and stress – and surprise surprise, it seems to hit hardest while you’re at work. According to VeryWellMind, workplace anxiety has a number of unpleasant consequences, including:
Reduced performance and work quality
Relationship breakdowns with colleagues
A feeling of isolation
A tendency to turn down opportunities
An avoidance of innovation
The list goes on. But this article isn’t a doom and gloom piece – quite the opposite! In fact, we’ve compiled 100 effective employee stress and relaxation busters for HR, to help you and your employees wave goodbye to those nasty side effects, and say hello to a more fulfilling day at work!
Ready to dive in from the top? Then start scrolling. Want to skip ahead? Then here are the links you need:
– Part one: laying the right foundations
– Part two: ways to handle your stress and find your calm zone
– Part three: team activities that support a stress-free lifestyle
– Part four: one-minute meditations to keep you calm
– Part five: removing the source of your stress
Part one: laying the right foundations
An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. So if you really want to eliminate workplace stress, then there are some changes you can make to your lifestyle that will help you keep the Stress Monster at bay. Of course, if you’re suffering from stress RIGHT NOW and you want to get rid of it? Don’t worry, we got you – just skip right ahead to “part two: ways to handle stress and find your calm zone.”
1. Get a good night’s sleep
If you’re not getting a good night’s sleep each night, then you’re asking for trouble. Getting enough sleep is one of the best ways to reduce your stress and anxiety levels, with most experts suggesting that adults should be aiming for between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night.
According to SleepScore Labs, if you follow a regular sleep routine then it will calm and restore your body, improve your concentration, regulate your mood, and sharpen your judgment and decision-making. You’ll also become a better problem solver who is better able to cope with stress – so make a start tonight and get to bed at a reasonable time!
2. re-organize your morning routine
If your regular morning routine involves squinting at your phone screen and trying to blast a few emails off before you’ve even opened your curtains, then you’re setting yourself up for a pretty stressful day from the get-go. Your morning routine should ease you gently into the day – so it pays to spend time putting a good routine together. Consider an old-school alarm clock, so that you’re not tempted to pull your phone into bed with you – and make sure the first thing you do when you get up, is something that’s good for your body and mind. A meditation or yoga sequence might be the best way, or you might respond better to a morning jog to get your blood pumping. Introducing a healthy eating component is a great ingredient, too – a morning ritual of making a fruit smoothie, for example, will quickly add structure and nutrition to your day.
3. Start the day with a stretch
Even the simple act of introducing a morning stretch to your day will work wonders on your stress levels. According to Healthline, a morning stretch can energize you for the day and send you to work with increased levels of confidence – they even suggest 7 awesome stretches that are easy to learn and try!
4. Plan your daily diet
If your daily diet consists of “whatever the local fast food franchise is selling during your lunch break”, then it may not surprise you to learn that the food you eat can have a surprisingly intense impact on your stress and anxiety levels. A senior researcher at Abbot, Matthew J. Kuchan PhD, says that a healthy diet can reduce stress. “A healthy diet has a cascading effect on brain health” he says “because as it improves blood flow, the delivery of key nutrients to the brain is also improved.”
5. Switch to decaf coffee
Perhaps the most simple change to your regular routine, is switching your morning coffee for a decaf – after all, the impact of caffeine on stress levels is phenomenal. You may think that a coffee is what takes your stress away, but that’s just the chemical dependency talking. According to VeryWellMind, caffeine and stress can both elevate cortisol levels – with high amounts of caffeine leading to the negative health effects associated with chronic stress.
6. Drink 2 litres of water (not all at once!)
The Mayo Clinic recommends 2.7 litres of water per day for women, and 3.7 for men. However, not all of this needs to be consumed directly by drinking water – we obtain a good percentage of our fluids from other food and drink throughout the day. But to keep hydrated – and support a stress-free lifestyle – most experts recommend drinking around 2 litres of water throughout the day, at least. Remember that it won’t work if you down it all in one – sips throughout the day is the way to go. Why not buy a 2-litre flask and fill it at the start of your day, with a goal to finish it before you go to bed?
7. Create a motivating playlist for the commute
The right soundtrack can make or break your day – so make sure you have a dedicated, hand-picked playlist of your favorite motivational anthems to play during the commute to the office. And if you’re working from home, no problem – stick your playlist on at full blast while you work through your morning routine. Of course, be respectful of your !
8. Write down your worries at the end of each day
At the end of each day, you’re probably carrying a ton more worries than you started with – which doesn’t help your stress or anxiety levels! But many people find it helpful to keep a “worry journal” – a place where they write down their worries right before bed, in order to de-clutter their mind and sleep more soundly. Health and wellness website Shape says that writing your worries down before bed can reduce stress and anxiety, and give you a more relaxing night’s sleep. Who’d have thought a simple pen and paper could be such an effective tonic?
Part two: ways to handle your stress and find your calm zone
So, you’re feeling stressed, huh? Well don’t you worry – we’ve got you covered. Here are dozens of the best quick-fix stress-busting suggestions that you and your colleagues can try right now for instant relief. Or, if you’re looking for new habits or team activities to introduce to your life, then you can just skip ahead to “part three: team activities that support a stress-free lifestyle”.
9. Grab a stress ball
Stress balls come in all shapes and sizes, but any will do – and the experts suggest they actually work! According to mental health counsellor Michelle Hunt, “as stress builds in our bodies, it needs a way to be released.” She says that stress balls give a point of release, and help calm the nervous system by assisting with processing. So what are you waiting for!? Grab that ball and give it a squeeze!
10. Read a short story
While reading a good book is a great way to calm the nerves and relax, you might not always have the time to get through a full novel when you’re feeling stressed in the moment – especially if you’re halfway through a super busy day! So where’s the harm in treating yourself to a compilation of short stories that you can keep on your desk, and dive into when you need to take a few moments to yourself?
11. Pick up a magazine
If books aren’t your thing, then pick up a magazine instead. Whether it’s an interview with your favorite sports personality, or the latest gossip column – taking a few minutes to remove yourself from a stressful situation and read something simple and relaxing can really help you hit the reset button.
12. Take a music break
Did you know that listening to music has been scientifically proven to reduce stress levels? If you can feel the anxiety building up, then step away from the chaos, put your headphones in, scroll to your favorite song, close your eyes and hit play. Listen to it twice if you need to!
13. Build a stress-busting playlist
Another great activity when you’re feeling stressed, is to work on your own stress-busting playlist. While listening to music is great stress relief, the actual building of the playlist is a largely overlooked therapeutic activity in its own right! So the next time you feel stressed, what’s stopping you from opening your special playlist, and finding a new song to add to it? You’ll feel like you’ve achieved something, and you can even have a cheeky listen to reward yourself for your efforts.
14. Go for a walk
According to VeryWellFit, walking is a great way to relieve stress. It not only gives you time to think away from the things that are stressing you out, but it also fuels your body and mind with fresh air. A study from 2018 showed that even a walk as short as 10 minutes can improve the mood when compared to no activity at all.
15. Take a nap
Many people swear by the benefits of a power nap – a short nap to relax, recuperate and recharge. They may not be for everyone, but if you’re going to do it then at least do it right: The ideal length of time for a power nap, according to The Sleep Foundation, is between 10 and 20 minutes – long enough to provide benefits, but short enough that you shouldn’t feel too grouchy when you wake up.
16. Try a one-minute meditation
Many people see meditation as a strange and mysterious activity that can only be performed on the top of mountains or within holy retreats. But actually, there are a ton of meditations that you can do from home, or even in the workplace – and many of them can deliver benefits in as little as one minute. For more ideas on short meditations with a powerful impact, skip to “Part four: one-minute meditations to keep you calm.”
17. Have a chat with a friend
Simple conversation has many healing benefits, and even a 5-minute natter with a friend can help us feel more relaxed, less stressed, and more motivated. So if you’re feeling stressed, consider calling a friend and blowing off some steam.
18. Clean your workstation
Some people find it helps to perform a routine such as cleaning their workstation – the repetitive motions are therapeutic, while the end result can make you feel better about your situation. So if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, grab yourself a duster, a waste paper basket and a packet of screen wipes, and get to work. You’ll feel super organized once you’re done, and you’ll have taken a break from whatever was bothering you.
19. Learn something new
Harvard Business Review suggests learning a new skill as a way to relieve stress. Not only does this contribute to your overall skillset and knowledge base, but it can help you develop feelings of competency and growth – which can help to settle stress. If you’re an employer, you should consider giving employees plenty of opportunity to learn new skills and develop themselves professionally – especially if you’re serious about helping your workforce keep stress at bay.
20. Make your favorite hot drink
One of our favorite ways to relieve stress and relax, is to step away from our work and put the kettle on. Whether it’s a milky latte, a strong black tea, or even a hot chocolate with whipped cream, hot drinks are comforting, familiar, and reassuring.
21. Try a chamomile tea
If you’ve never tried chamomile tea before, then hear us out for a second. It may not be everybody’s, well, cup of tea… but if you can adapt to the unique taste, then the wellbeing benefits are amazing. Not only does chamomile make it onto Healthline’s list of 20 best teas for anxiety, but one 2016 study even found that long-term use of chamomile extract had a significant impact in reducing severe symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. Now if that isn’t a sign of an ultra-relaxing super-brew, then we don’t what is!
22. Book yourself in for a massage
It might seem a little excessive, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with treating your mind and body to some dedicated “you” time, and booking yourself in for a massage is one of the best ways of doing this. Whether it’s a mini-massage on your lunch break, or a full-on affair at the weekend, massages are a great way to bust stress and unwind. And there’s a massage for every type of stress, too – from Indian Head Massages, said to relieve anxiety and depression, through to a full body massage that loosens, relaxes and re-invigorates. Go on, treat yourself!
23. Focus on your breathing
The NHS recommends this breathing exercise as a regular part of your routine – but you can also use it to help relieve you from short-term symptoms of stress or panic. Quite simply, you should let your breath flow deep into your belly (without forcing it) – in through your mouth, and then out through your nose. Many people suggest counting from 1 to 5 as you breathe in, and then 1 to 5 again as you breathe out. Repeating this exercise for 3-5 minutes can eliminate many of your stress or anxiety symptoms.
24. Pour yourself a glass of water
You already know that staying hydrated is a great way to keep stress at bay. But did you know that the simple ritual of pouring a glass of water can help you break free from your cycle of stress, and focus on what’s really important? And not only can this activity snap you back to reality, but drinking water can also improve your productivity and reduce your chances of developing a headache.
25. Put yourself on a social media ban
OK, OK, hear us out – we know this sounds extreme. But sometimes, the biggest cause of stress is the constant bombardment of online drama we receive from our various social media channels. Scientifically speaking, research tells us that using social media leads to higher levels of awareness of stressful events – and that awareness of stressful events can increase our own personal stress levels. So whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, TikTok or Snapchat, putting yourself on a social media ban – whether that’s for 5 minutes or 5 days – can really soothe the soul.
26. Draw some silly doodles
It might seem a little childish or immature, but did you know that doodling has some serious benefits for the brain? If you have a pen and paper nearby, drawing a few silly doodles can help to take your attention away from the things that are causing you the most stress. And because doodling stimulates some of the most creative areas of your brain, you may even find it helps you take a different approach to whatever challenges you’re facing! Remember that true doodles are drawn with very little thought, zero planning, and no real aim – whether it’s random faces or squiggly lines, there’s no right or wrong way to draw a silly doodle.
27. Complete a task that requires you to leave your desk
Sometimes, getting away from whatever is making you feel stressed is enough to break the cycle and stop it from getting any worse. So if you’re finding yourself suffering from meeting madness, or simply going crazy at an email chain that doesn’t seem to end, then why not think of a productive task that you can complete which requires you to leave your desk? It could be gathering the garbage from around your computer and taking it to the trashcan, or printing some important documents off. It could even be delivering a message to a colleague in person, instead of using email, Teams or telephone!
28. Practice mindfulness at work
Mindfulness is all about lifting the lid on your own brain, and truly understanding the unique way in which you think. And practising mindfulness at work can help you combat stress, because the better you know yourself, the easier you’ll find it to remove stressful triggers, or practice stress-busting remedies. Mindfulnessatwork.com has a number of programmes to help you practice this, including a free 3-minute mindfulness routine, and a regular newsletter with extra hints and tips.
29. Try desk-based yoga
Did you know that there are a whole bunch of yoga poses that you can practice right from your desk? Yoga is a well-known stress buster, so if you work from home – or if you feel confident looking a bit silly in front of your colleagues – then a few desk-based yoga poses could be just the tonic you need. Adventure Yogi has 10 great exercises that you can try right now!
30. Take a fully-fledged yoga break
And while we’re on the topic of yoga, why limit yourself to desk-based yoga? if you’ve got the space and the time to take an actual yoga break, then you should give it a go. The Mayo Clinic reports that yoga is proven to reduce stress and anxiety, and can increase feelings of wellbeing. So get ready, set, and downward dog!
31. Take some time to get to know your stress
Stress is different from person to person. What drives you wild with frustration may be a walk in the park for one of your colleagues – so it may be a good idea to do some reading and begin to understand the core principles of stress, where it comes from, and how to manage it – and then apply what you learn to your own unique situation. Calmer has a great article outlining some of the main causes of stress, and ways to cope with each.
32. Create a self-care plan
Creating or working on your own personalized and tailored self-care plan, is a great way to take a few minutes away from your stressors, and will give you a super practical end product that you can use in future to manage stress and boost your wellbeing. A good self-care plan will consider all areas of your life, including emotional, mental, physical and professional. There are some excellent tips on how to get started with a self-care plan here.
33. Immerse yourself in a happy memory
Think back to a time that makes you really, really happy to remember. Maybe it was your favorite birthday party as a kid, or perhaps the first time you ever drove a car? Whatever it is, it doesn’t really matter – it’s likely going to be unique to you, after all. But the experts suggest that by focusing on a happy memory, you can actually shut down your body’s stress response! Incredible, huh?
34. Use a relaxation spray
Speaking of happy memories, did you know that our sense of smell is closely linked to our memory function? If you’ve ever got a rush of excitement when you smell freshly-cut grass, you’ll know what we mean! So if you’re feeling stressed, then perhaps you’d like to give a relaxation spray a try – something to fill the air with your favorite, most nostalgic scent.
35. Try a rollerball
If you don’t want to spray chemicals into the air around you, then you can always try an essential oils rollerball – a very popular de-stressing technique, which once again harnesses the power of scent and aromatherapy to help you find your happy place and calm down. Glamour Magazine recommends a number of excellent rollerballs for stress, which you apply directly to pulse points during times of need.
36. Read a selection of inspirational quotes
There’s a reason inspirational quotes get shared on social media so often – and that’s because they generally contain a very powerful message, which we can apply to the challenges we face in life. One of our favorites comes from actor and comedian Ricky Gervais: “Relax. Nobody else knows what they’re doing, either!” – but you can find a ton more in places like this.
37. Flick through the “this is calmer” book
If you’ve never heard of the “this is calmer” book, then we suggest you put that right, right away. Written by Tania Diggory, the book is a ‘pocket mentor’ that helps you nurture your mindset and personal growth. This book is an especially good stress buster for anybody trying to run their own business, or even start their own side hustle.
38. Have a conversation about your mental health
There’s been a lot of campaigning over the last few years to reduce the stigma associated with talking about mental health – with notable taglines including “it’s OK to not be OK”. But did you know that talking about your mental health can have an instant impact on the levels of stress you feel? Talking to a close and trusted friend or family member about your mental health can really help you to take a weight off your chest. If you’re struggling on how to get started, UK mental health charity Mind has some great advice.
39. Join the reignite project
If you found the Calmer book helpful, then you’ll love the Reignite Project – delivered by the Calmer Project. This 10-week online wellbeing course is totally free, and can teach you how to identify and prevent burnout, while reigniting your passion for work and life, while helping you find the right balance between the two.
40. Take an intimacy break with your partner
Hear us out. Studies have shown that physical intimacy can actually decrease the physical symptoms of stress – and that maybe we need to do more of it. And we’re not necessarily talking about getting down and dirty between the sheets here – although, of course, that is known to release all sorts of stress-relieving hormones. But it can even be a simple act of physical intimacy, like a hug or a kiss! Reuters suggests that couples who hug and kiss frequently actually have fewer stress hormones coursing through their bodies!
41. Cuddle with a pet
You don’t need a romantic partner to enjoy the benefits of a stress-relieving cuddle – almost any furry friend will do. Whether you’re a dog person, a cat person, or even a hamster mommy, cuddling up with your pet for a few minutes can really help you relax and release some of your pent-up stress.
42. Walk a rescue dog
If you don’t have your own pets, but you still feel a sense of closeness to the animal kingdom, then don’t despair – you can still spend some quality time with a cool canine to help you relieve some of your stress, by volunteering as a dog walker for a shelter! Dog shelters take in thousands of unfortunate animals every year, but often struggle to make sure each of them gets the love, the attention and the exercise they need while waiting for their forever home – and this is where you come in. You can simply fill out a form, and apply to be a dog walker – you’ll be helping a great charity, getting your furry fix, and benefiting from some decent outdoor exercise at the same time! For more help on how to volunteer as a dog walker with a shelter, the RSPCA has some great tips.
43. Make a healthy snack
There’s no better way to distract yourself from your feelings of stress, than by raiding the kitchen for a tasty snack. Or is there? You can actually go one step further, by preparing yourself a healthy snack instead of reaching straight for the chocolate or the chips! Not only does this give you a great break from whatever is stressing you out, but the health benefits of what you prepare will double your reward.
44. Sit in your garden
Did you know that being out in nature can reduce feelings of anger, fear and stress, while boosting our happiness levels? If you’re lucky enough to have a private garden, or if you work close to a public park or nature reserve, then going and spending a few minutes surrounded by the sounds and smells of nature could be a real tonic. But if you can’t access nature in person, then don’t despair – according to Taking Charge, even viewing scenes of nature has an impact on the way we feel. So make sure you surround yourself with plenty of nature-themed artwork, or have a nice nature-themed picture back close to hand.
45. Find a body of water
It’s not a coincidence that most dental surgeries have fish tanks in their waiting rooms. Water is known for its calming properties, and according to Universal Rocks, the best type of water is running water – the mere sound of running water has been proven to have a positive impact on our minds. So whether you decide to sit by a river for a few minutes, or even buy a water feature for the room where you work, being in the presence of water can be a real soother for your soul.
46. Run a bath
There’s nothing quite as relaxing as running a nice hot bath, lighting a few scented candles, and slipping into the calming depths of tranquillity. If your work schedule and situation allow it, take a bath break – set yourself a time limit, perhaps an alarm so that you don’t need to clock watch, and then really go to town pampering yourself. You’ll feel as good as anything once you’re dried and dressed again!
47. Take a shower
Not got time for a bath? Take a quick shower instead! Not only can the sound of the running water help to calm your nerves, but the way a shower can help you feel refreshed, reinvigorated and re-energized is powerful. Why should you restrict showers to only the morning or the evening? We’re keen advocates of using them as stress-breakers at any time of day.
48. Laugh loudly
Laughter is the best medicine. No, really! According to the Mayo Clinic, good hearty laughter has real medical benefits on the body, and can relieve all sorts of short-term, and even long-term, symptoms of stress. There are even full laughter therapy sessions designed around this very principle. Give it a try! Find something funny to laugh at, or even just force one out – the big loud belly laughs are the best. And while it may feel unnatural at first, you may soon find it’s your most positive go-to stress relief activity.
Part three: team activities that support a stress-free lifestyle
If you’re concerned about the stress levels of not just yourself, but of those around you, then we thought you might appreciate a bunch of suggestions for activities you can do as a group, which consequently support a stress-free lifestyle. These activities bust stress and support relaxation in different ways – sometimes, it’s the physical exertion that blocks the stress signals; at other times, it’s the mental or emotional distraction. But either way, these activities are great to do with friends, family or colleagues – especially if you tend to share stressful experiences together. And the social side of each activity will support your stress relief goals, too – as long as you actually like the people you’re doing them with!
49. Lift weights together
Why not join a local gym, and do some weight training together? According to the NY Times, weight training can be a good way to beat anxiety and stress. Or, if you’ve got the space for it, buy some shared weight training equipment for the office.
50. Aerobics class
We already know that exercise is a great stress buster – and aerobic exercises focus specifically on your cardiovascular conditioning. The American Heart Association recommends around 30 minutes of cardio per day, so you might as well multiply the benefits and do it as a group! Don’t forget to warm up and cool down before and after each aerobic exercise session.
51. Dance party
There’s no real right or wrong way to throw a dance party at work… but according to Management 3.0, it helps to have a goal, choose good uplifting music (that people can actually dance to!), and of course, to provide food. And hey, if your team is adventurous enough, there’s no harm in proposing wild costumes or formal dress codes before you actually hit the dance floor!
52. Synchronised swimming
You might think that synchronized swimming is exclusively for athletes competing at the Summer Olympics, but actually, it’s a surprisingly enjoyable sport that anybody can try! While it is traditionally seen as a “women’s sport”, there are no real gender boundaries – and a good instructor will be able to host a beginner session for any nervous first-timers. What better way to try something unique that incorporates water, relaxation and a fun and quirky way to exercize!
53. Spa day
Everybody loves being pampered! So why don’t you book a team spa day at a local resort, where you can treat everybody to a massage, a sauna, and maybe even some time in the hot tub? Whatever the flavor of activities, a spa day is sure to be a relaxing hit for everyone involved.
54. Tea parties
If your idea of a tea party looks like the Mad Hatter’s from Alice in Wonderland, then you probably don’t think this is a very relaxing suggestion. But actually, tea parties can be a lot of fun – and a nice way to forget about the worries and the stresses of the week! If the weather is nice, take a picnic and host your tea party somewhere in the great outdoors. And if you think your team can stomach the taste, offer chamomile tea as an option for all of your guests – after all, it has a lot of relaxing properties.
55. Arrange physical meet-ups
We’re all used to the daily grind of online Zoom meetings and Microsoft Teams Video Calls. But CNN reports that our brains still prefer face-to-face meetups. So if you want to help your team bust the stress that derives from loneliness and remote working, make sure to arrange a regular meet-up that takes place face-to-face, in person. It could be work-related, or something totally social.
56. Host a jam session
Do you work with a bunch of musically gifted people? For a musician, nothing beats stress like a good old jam session – so if you work with a few musical folk, then get everybody together with their instruments, and serenade the stress away. Who knows, you might even accidentally form a band that gets signed by a major record label!
57. Host a board game night
For teams with a slightly geekier outlook on life, tabletop strategy or board games are a great way to stimulate the brain and release stress. If you work with your team in-person, how about you stock up a board game cupboard that you can dip into once a week? Or, if you’re working remotely, Board Game Arena hosts more than 450 awesome board games that have been digitalized, and that you can play online – either with friends, or even with strangers.
58. Bring in the foosball table
Most people love a game of foosball. It doesn’t require too much thinking, and it’s a great way to release pent-up frustration in a safe environment. Be careful with this one, as there are many controversial opinions over the rules – are you really meant to spin that handle? You don’t want to accidentally introduce more stress than you’re removing!
59. Create support groups
Some people feel better if there’s a structured group where they can let some of their worries and concerns out – such as a support group. Creating a support group at your place of work is a great way to give people that outlet. Of course, if you don’t have the resources or facilities to create a support group yourself, services like Mind have extensive directories helping you find the best support groups in your local area.
60. Complete a fun run
A fun run is exactly what it says on the tin – a run, that’s just for fun. Fun runs can take different shapes and sizes, but generally speaking, there is no competitive element, they are done in groups, there’s a pre-set route (often cross-country), and they will often allow participants to collect sponsorship money on behalf of their favorite charity. Running is a great way to beat stress – but with the social element and the feel-good factor of raising money for charity, fun runs get the extra special nod from us.
61. Guided meditation
There are many benefits of meditation, but not everybody knows quite how to get started. The best way to introduce a large group to this stress-busting miracle activity, is to bring in a local guide or tutor. The guide will be able to take you and your peers through a number of activities that promote mindfulness and reduce stress. And once they’ve got the hang of it, you can either keep the group going on a regular basis, or encourage people to carry on of their own accord.
62. Team yoga
Team yoga is a great way to break down boundaries between co-workers – they say that sweat pants are the greatest equalizer known to mankind! Alright, so maybe that’s not quite true… but the benefits of yoga are amazing, especially where stress is concerned. The Mayo Clinic says that not only can yoga reduce stress, but it can relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety! So if you can manage it, get a weekly session going with your team.
63. Run a poetry evening
Poetry is one of life’s joyful gifts, and you might be surprised at how many of your colleagues or peers are secretly passionate about the wild wordplay and rhythmic rhyming of poetry. A poetry evening is a great relaxing event you can host for a group of any size – from three people, right up to 300! At busier events, you may wish to nominate speakers to read their favorite poem – but for small groups, you can ask every participant to bring their favorite poem to share. The magic of the spoken word is both liberating and relaxing in equal measure.
64. Weekend barbeques
If you’re part of a team that loves good food, good company and the great outdoors, then a weekend barbeque is sure to help melt the stress of the week away, and give people a relaxing few hours to share stories, fill their bellies and laugh a little. Of course, you should be careful who you ask to do the cooking – especially if you want full attendance again on Monday!
65. Fireside gatherings
Is there anything as relaxing as the crackle of wood as it burns on an open fire? The magic is different for each person – perhaps it conjures up images of old medieval tavern campfires, of songs around a campfire, or even of the grand mansions inhabited by rich relatives. Either way, a comfortable and cosy social evening around a roaring fireplace is a great way to “burn” off the stress from the week.
66. “Speed dating” nights
If you are part of a large organization, you may find that a leading cause of stress and loneliness is actually the fact that hardly anybody knows each other – and everything feels so cold and impersonal. Hosting a “speed dating” night for employees is a great way to introduce colleagues to people they’ve never met before, and give them a potential new friend or ally within the workplace, who they can rely on in times of stress. Consider adding a little structure to the event, by asking people to think of three fun facts about themselves – you could even add a twist, by requesting that one of those facts is a lie! Can everybody work out which statements are true?
67. Movie night Mondays
Many group activities focus on the weekend. Yet moods drop most dramatically when the working week starts – the dreaded Monday Blues. Or, according to the London School of Economics, the “Terrible Tuesday” blues – Tuesday was shown to be slightly more miserable than Monday, in terms of general misery factor. So how about you break up the week with a fun and relaxing activity such as a group movie night? Don’t start too late, and don’t forget the popcorn!
68. Regular training workshops
We already talked about how learning a new skill can really help us to de-stress. So it makes sense to turn this into a regular group activity, by putting on regular training workshops. You can work in relevant skills that you want your team to master, but you can also mix things up with personal skills that are a ton of fun. Such as cocktail masterclasses, or creative writing workshops.
69. Cosplay celebrations
Cosplay, anyone? It’s not for everyone, but some people just love to dress up! Whether that’s as their favorite character from a book, movie or game, or whether it’s a magical transformation into a totally different time period. Giving people the opportunity to “dress up” is a great way to give them a break from the mundane, and can be a great stress-buster. You could have a dress-up day at the workplace, or throw a full-on cosplay party out of hours.
70. Start a book club
If you love to read, then why keep your opinions on the latest awesome novel to yourself? A book club is a great way to share common interests, discover new and exciting literature, and – according to Idaho State University – decrease stress! So if your workplace doesn’t already run a book club, then why sit around waiting? Start one yourself!
Part four: one-minute meditations to keep you calm
Meditation is one of the most widely practiced, and most effective, forms of stress relief and relaxation. While often associated with religion, meditation itself is not actually a religious practice – and is simply a technique for focusing the mind. Anybody can learn to practice meditation, and while we’ve selected these techniques based on the fact that you can benefit from most of them in under a minute, some of them do work better if you can spend a little longer.
71. The bellows breath
This technique is designed to stimulate you and increase your energy, but it can make you feel a little dizzy. If this is your first try, aim for no more than 15 seconds, until you’re used to the way it makes you feel. To start, sit up tall and relax your shoulders. Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose with your mouth closed. Make each in and out breath as short as possible – be warned, this can get very noisy!
72. The 4-7-8 exercise
Sit up straight and relax your shoulders. Push your tongue tip against the roof of your mouth towards the front, and hold it there while you breathe. Breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and then breathe out for eight seconds. Repeat three or four times for best effect.
73. Breath counting
Get comfortable, close your eyes, and breathe in and out naturally. Once you’ve found your natural rhythm, focus on your breathing and start counting – in, out, “one”, in, out, “two” – and keep this going for as long or as little as you like – anything from 1 to 10 minutes should deliver a benefit.
74. Diaphragmatic breathing
Also known as abdominal breathing, this is a very effective breathing-based meditation for reducing stress. To try it, lie down (on your back) and bend your knees. Once you’re comfortable, place one hand on your chest and the other on your upper abdomen – then breathe in deeply through your nose, until you feel the hand on your abdomen rise. Then, as you exhale through your mouth, tense your tummy muscles – and if possible, continue this exercise for several minutes.
75. The body scan
The body scan meditation helps you to remove distractions, by focusing on various parts of your body. Get comfortable – sitting or laying – and close your eyes if possible. Then, work your way up your body, starting with your toes or feet, until you reach your head. For each section, tune in and pay attention to what you can feel – and once done, take a nice deep breath through your nose, exhaling through your mouth, allowing that particular area to release its tension and soften up. You can perform a quick scan in under a minute, or spend more time for maximum effect.
76. Progressive muscle relaxation
Similar to the full body scan, progressive muscle relaxation focuses on one part of your body at a time – starting with your feet, and working right up to your head. As you move from section to section, try to tighten each large muscle and hold that tension for around 5 seconds, before gently relaxing them. Once you finish, you should find your whole body feels super calm and relaxed.
The visualization technique is especially helpful if you’re trying to calm and relax your body, and can also aid sleep. But you can apply the one-minute meditation rule here, too – and it starts by closing your eyes and imagining yourself as part of a super relaxing scenario, like a tropical island or a tranquil forest. The trick to visualize/geoip-content] the scenario in as much detail as you can, paying attention to every single one of your senses. What can you see around you? What does it sound like? What can you feel on your skin? What smells do you notice? The deeper you can immerse yourself into each visualisationvisualization, the more effective this technique becomes.
78. The Blackboard Method
The blackboard in this method is an imaginary blackboard, so you can use whatever alternative you like – a piece of paper, a whiteboard, it doesn’t really matter. How you perform this technique, is to close your eyes and imagine a big blackboard – then, you take your chalk, and write a huge number on it. For full effect, you should start with the number 100 – but if you’ve only got a minute to spare, you can use a lower number. Once the number is written in full, take your imaginary eraser, and begin rubbing away the number until it disappears – then repeat this entire process, counting down, until you reach 0. It’s kinda like the opposite of counting sheep, so don’t be surprised if you start to feel drowsy.
79. Focused meditation
This technique is all about channeling all of your focus into a single point, by focusing on a single object. Generally, you should pick something small and simple, like a key or an egg. Close your eyes, and try to imagine this simple object in as much detail as you possibly can – and you’ll find that this can become a great way of calming your nerves, and centering your energy. Many people use this technique to anchor their busy mind, and find a sense of peace. There’s no worrying about things that have happened, or things that have yet to come – there is just you, in the present, and the object you’re giving your attention to.
80. Conscious observation
This exercise is similar in some ways to focused meditation, but instead of focusing on an imaginary object, you remain more present in your actual environment, and turn your attention to an actual object that is lying around. It could be anything – a sheet of paper, an ornament on your desk, a dinner plate. Turn your attention fully onto the object, and take in every possible detail you can. Pick it up. Turn it over in your hands. What does it feel like? What does it smell like? How heavy is it? This is a very conscious form of meditation that helps you declutter your mind, without having to fully “leave the room”.
81. Walking meditation
This is perhaps the most simple meditation technique, is perfect for those who like to walk – and is very effective, too. Based on the guided walking meditation of Jon Kabat-Zinn, you start by finding a peaceful place where you’re free of distraction. Then, you walk for 10-15 steps before stopping, and breathing – for as long as you like. Each time you stop, observe your environment. What’s around you? What’s above you? Tune into each of your senses. The goal here is to learn how to walk quietly and with contemplation – stopping every 10-15 steps forces you to switch your observation mode to ON, but you can continue to contemplate as you walk. Listen to your footsteps, and sense the changes in temperature and smells as you move through your chosen walking spot. And of course it’s nice to get outside, but this technique can even work if you’re stuck inside an office environment – so don’t be disheartened if your 1-minute walking meditation takes you no further than the stockroom!
82. Gratitude meditation
You may have noticed by now that meditation is all about channeling your focus – and this technique is no different. Gratitude meditation is all about reflecting on the things you appreciate in life – things you feel grateful or fortunate to have. This could be the physical things, such as your favorite possessions, but could also be about the people you’re close to, the knowledge you possess, or even the place you live. The key is thinking about the things you’re thankful for – as this takes you away from the negative thoughts that often make stress worse.
83. Breathing buddy
This cute little meditation idea is a popular method in the classroom for younger children, but you can try it too. Quite simply, you lay on the floor, and balance your favorite stuffed animal – aka your breathing buddy – on your tummy. Then, set a timer. It could be 1 minute, 5 minutes or more! During that time, you breathe deeply, paying attention to the way your tummy rises up and falls back down, trying to keep your breathing buddy balanced the whole way through. Don’t worry if they fall off – put them back and carry on!
84. Sound focus
As with many meditation techniques, sound focus is all about channeling your attention to a single focal point – in this case, a sound. There are no hard or fast rules on the kind of sound you should be listening to, although many people recommend a bell, a tone, or even a Tibetan singing bowl. All you need to do is close your eyes, breathe quietly, and listen as carefully as you can to the sound, for as long as possible – paying special attention as the sound fades away. Cling on to the remnants of those sound waves for as long as you’re able!
85. Negative visualization
This method takes a philosophical turn, as it is a form of “Stoic” meditation. It also sounds very counterintuitive – after all, it is designed to mimic the feeling of having lost certain things from your life. However, this is ultimately meant to help you reach a higher level of happiness, by giving you stronger appreciation for the things you have. And it is 100% in line with Stoicism – a philosophy about modesty, compassion and humility. To practice negative meditation, simply close your eyes and visualize/geoip-content] a scenario in which you have lost something important. For example, imagine you lived a life without a home, or how you might feel if a loved one died. You could even imagine having your car stolen, or losing your job. Practice this carefully, but immerse yourself as deeply as you’re safely able – it may feel uncomfortable, but in many ways this is kinda the point. Then, when you complete your visualisationvisualization and open your eyes again, in theory, you should begin to feel happier about the things you DO have.
86. Transcendent meditation
Transcendental meditation is steeped in ancient Vedic culture, and can help you sharpen your focus and “transcend” your ordinary process of thinking. The technique requires you to get comfortable, close your eyes, and repeat a mantra – often a seemingly meaningless noise, or sound. First, you repeat this mantra in your head, and with no particular rhythm. Then, you repeat the mantra out loud. In theory, the vibrations from these sounds affect your state of being and help you to transcend. And while most recommend learning this technique from a transcendental meditation instructor, there are also guides and charts available online to help you learn and understand the different mantras.
87. Quieting your mind amidst chaos
This four-step method is designed to help you quickly find calm, when everything around you feels like it’s going off the rails. First, take a moment to focus on your breath – think about what your breathing tells you about your current mood, and write down how you feel as you go. Then, think of some of the things you’re grateful for – your health, your family, your pets. Write these down, too. Next, set a goal. It doesn’t have to be big or flashy, just something you want to achieve during that day, or even that hour – such as to finish a particular project, or simply to avoid any confrontation. Write it down. Finally, let something go. Something that is causing you unnecessary worry, or perhaps something that you’ve been beating yourself up for too long. Write it down, and give yourself permission to forget about it – it’s not going to bother you today. And by completing these four simple steps, you’ll find you’ve achieved an awful lot – you’ve calmed your mind, improved your mood, added some structure and removed some clutter from your day.
88. Letting go of your story
As we go through life, we build narratives and stories about ourselves, our situations, and the people around us. Sometimes, these can be helpful – they give us confidence and purpose. But at other times, they hold us back or damage our ego. And most of the time, these stories are not accurate reflections of who we are! Being able to let go of the things that hold us back is a key part of many meditations, and in this technique, you should aim to identify one or more of the many stories you believe about your life, and ask yourself how valid they really are. By letting some of your more harmful stories go, you’ll find yourself beginning to discover a new frame of mind that is more empowering, more exciting, and more stress-free.
89. The STOP technique
Invented by Elisha Goldstein, the STOP technique is a highly effective and easy-to-remember method that can help you release valuable thinking space in your troubled brain during times of high stress. You can practice this technique any time, and it’s easy to remember, because the instructions are in the name! S stands for “stop”, and means you need to stop what you’re doing for a moment. T stands for “take”, and means you should take 2 or 3 deep breaths – remembering to take your time, too. O stands for “observe”, and means you should take a moment to consciously observe the way you are feeling. Name the different emotions you’re going through, reminding yourself that your situation is temporary and will eventually pass. And finally, P stands for “proceed”, and means you should proceed with a small activity that will help you in a positive way, such as by making a nice cup of tea or a healthy snack.
Part five: removing the source of your stress
The final part of our guide focuses on ways you can keep stress at bay – by looking at some of the leading causes of workplace anxiety. Of course, we realize that some of these issues are largely outside of your control – but being aware of where some of your stress might be coming from is helpful nonetheless. And if you’re an employer, there may be ways you can tackle some of the items below, in order to make your workplace a less stressful environment for your people.
90. Workplace bullies
If you’re dealing with bullies in the workplace, then there’s no wonder you’re feeling stressed. And they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes! To identify the most common archetypes – and figure out how best to deal with them – we recommend reading HR Morning’s “8 workplace bully personalities”. It covers every type of workplace bully, from The Constant Critic to The Two-Headed Snake.
91. Looming deadlines
Having a bunch of looming deadlines – or even just one big deadline that feels totally unachievable – can be a massive source of stress and anxiety. It may be that you need to reset the expectations of your colleagues – for example, if you think some of the delivery dates are unreasonable. But if you’re just feeling generally disorganized and under pressure, you could always follow some of Cord Himelstein’s excellent advice on Forbes, about better handling your deadlines.
92. Relationships with coworkers
Sometimes it’s the everyday relationships we try to maintain that cause us the most stress. And this doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re dealing with a person who is particularly unkind or thoughtless – it may just be that we’re too invested in trying to make other people happy. It can take a large mental toll, and you need to be careful to set reasonable boundaries with workplace relationships. For example, you may have accidentally gotten into the habit of always doing the coffee run in the morning – which may have been fine when there were only three of you, but is out of hand now that there are 26! Be careful also to keep a line between personal and professional relationships – it’s nice to be friendly, but getting too close with colleagues at work can lead to other problems including missed deadlines due to distraction, or angry colleagues who feel you’re not pulling your fair share.
93. Responsibility for managing staff
If you manage your own team, then the simple responsibility alone can be a common source of stress, especially if you’re the sort of manager who really cares for the people in your team! You may not be able to get rid of your team, but you can certainly take time at the end of each day to wind down and have some good quality “you” time!
94. Long hours
You may think that working extra-long hours is a badge of honour that shows the world how dedicated you are to your job, your family or your team… but working long hours can be really bad for you, and totally stress you out. Many countries even have laws in place to try and prevent burnout from long hours – for example, in the UK there are laws that attempt to limit the working week to a total of 48 hours. But if you really want to find the optimum number of hours in any given work week? There’s a scientific answer, as stated by author Andrew Merle: it’s 38. Are you putting yourself at risk of burnout?
95. Demanding bosses
If you have a demanding boss, this likely raises your stress levels. Demanding bosses come in many shapes and sizes, but will often exhibit traits such as giving you more work than you can handle, reprimanding you too severely for mistakes, hassling you for things you already know you’re meant to be doing, or micromanaging your every move. Nobody likes to deal with an overly demanding boss, but there’s a small chance they don’t actually realize they’re being this way! In some situations, you may feel able to take your boss to one side for a chat, where you explain the way you prefer to be managed, and why some of their behaviors might be getting in the way of you doing a good job.
96. High workload
Whether intentional or not, one of the biggest causes of workplace stress is simply having a workload that is just too much. Maybe it’s too much because you’re one person trying to do two people’s jobs. Or perhaps you’ve been thrown in at the deep end, and you’re a junior employee trying to handle a senior employee’s workload. Just remember that you can only do what you can do – and if you politely draw attention to the issue, good employers should recognize that they need to support you with extra resources.
97. Lack of direction
In some ways, this is the polar opposite to having a demanding boss – but it can be just as stressful. Having a lack of micromanagement can be wonderfully freeing – but when this translates to a total lack of direction, we’re left feeling lost. There isn’t a single solution to finding direction at work – but the job-seeker website Indeed has a bunch of good tips that might be helpful if you’re struggling with this.
98. A feeling of inequality
According to Adams (1965), a feeling of inequality can lead to feelings of frustration or guilt – depending on whether or not we feel the inequality works out in our favor. And yes, in both cases, this can lead to increased stress levels! If you feel like you’re being paid less than your peers, then there’s no wonder you’re feeling frustrated. And if you feel like you’re being paid more than your peers, then you may well be carrying around a secret feeling of shame, causing you to overcompensate in other ways, such as by working extra hours.
99. Lack of control over your environment
When we feel as if we can’t control the variables, our stress levels inevitably rise. And you may find this applies to your workplace, for example, if you cannot choose which desk to sit at, or what temperature to set the thermostat at. If these variables are fixable, then it’s worth raising them with your superiors. Alternatively, try to focus on the variables you CAN control, as this may help you find a sense of inner calm.
100. Low reward
If you’re underpaid, or otherwise under-rewarded, for the work you do – then there’s no wonder you’re likely feeling stressed. A lack of recognition is a miserable thing to deal with, and low pay can cause struggles in your personal life. If you feel under-rewarded then you could consider bringing this up with your employer. And for employers reading this? Australian website WorkSafe puts a very compelling case together for how you can control the risks of work-related stress by properly rewarding and compensating your employees.