There’s nothing worse than being at the office and having panic strike—a presentation you forgot to prepare for is in 10 minutes, you hit send on an email that never should have gone out, your coworker is just not playing nice, or maybe you’re just in over your head. Regardless, these situations are all reasons you need to learn how to deal with stress at work so you feel adequately prepared. It’s funny because, when you’re in college, you feel like the pressure will be off once you graduate and find a job—and forgive us for being a tad cynical here, but that’s when the pressure begins.
You see, we rely on our careers for our livelihood, so the stakes are much higher when it comes to feeling anxious at work (which so many of us do). In fact, a working paper from Harvard and Stanford Business Schools found that about 120,000 people die each year from health conditions caused by workplace-related stress (hypertension, compromised mental health, and cardiovascular disease to name a few). In fact, these fatalities are higher than those from diabetes and Alzheimer’s. This means that keeping your workplace anxiety in check to stay healthy is more important than ever. Below find six tips for how to deal with stress at work. Prepare yourself—you’re worth it.
You’re probably not expecting to hear that you need to let stress in, but avoidance actually makes everything worse. “Everyone experiences anxiety,” says Marla Deibler, Psy.D., MSCP, a licensed clinical psychologist. “Let it in when it shows up. Practice acceptance. Rather than trying to push it away (which tends to be futile, resulting in feeling more overwhelmed and less in control), make room for anxiety.” Deibler says that if you make space for stress at work, it won’t seem like such a big deal long-term.
Take regular breaks
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was when my internship coordinator told me that me no matter what, you should always take a 30-minute break from work. Does that always happen? No, but taking a time-out—even short ones—helps to keep you in a better state of mind. (Think of it kind of like therapy). According to Kimberly Elsbach, professor of management at the Graduate School of Management at the University of California at Davis, even having lunch with a coworker can be considered “a recharging break.” Plus, data has shown that people who take regular breaks lasting around 17 minutes at a time are the most productive at work (just one more reason to try it).
Consider a natural supplement
L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea that’s extracted and comes in pill form, has been dubbed the “natural Xanax.” You can find it in any natural food store, and you don’t have to take it every day. Plus, a sense of calmness comes quickly: you’ll start feeling the effects after 30 to 40 minutes upon taking it in pill form, says James Lake, MD, a psychiatrist and the founder of the International Network of Integrative Mental Health. Plus, it generally lasts for about eight to 10 hours. Word to the wise: Keep a bottle at your cubicle for when a particularly stressful moment hits.
Try a calming yoga pose
“Humans are meant to move, so when you sit sedentary all day in front of a desk, one typically can feel anxious and antsy, and there’s a real reason for that—your brain is screaming for you to get up,” Jennifer Saltiel, a licensed clinical social worker at a private practice in Manhattan, has told us. Saltiel says if you’re ever worked up into a total panic, find a quiet room, and lay down, putting your feet up on the wall (move in as close to the wall as possible). Let your legs rest so your body is making a right angle (an “L” shape), and put your hands on your belly, close your eyes, and just breathe. Why does this specific pose work? It helps to drain your lymphatic system and eliminate toxins (seriously, just try it).
Watch the coffee
Most of us can’t start the day without coffee (or get by without it). But when you’re already experiencing symptoms of anxiety, the caffeine can just make things worse. “Keep caffeine consumption to a minimum, as it can increase heart rate and physiological symptoms of anxiety,” Deibler says. Instead, try an herbal tea like chamomile with valerian, which is believed to have a calming effect.
Connect with loved ones
A friend swears by stepping out somewhere private to call her parents and vent when she gets anxious at work. Yes, that may sound childish, but connecting with a close family member or friend will help validate that something is causing you anxiety and that you are right to feel stressed at the moment. And Deibler agrees: “Social support is vital to managing stress … talking with others can do a world of good.”