The pandemic blurred the lines between personal and professional, adding stress to our lives as we “lived at work.” The workforce responded by doubling down on mental health education. Stress management was one of the top trends according to Udemy’s 2021 Learning Trends Report. And now with employers discussing their plans to return to the office, workers are feeling new concerns about this transition. 

Whether you’re firmly in the “working from home” camp, all-in on returning to the office, or somewhere in between, finding ways to manage stress at work is essential. Udemy instructor and Harvard Business Review contributor Deborah Grayson Riegel emphasizes the importance of being open about mental health in the workplace — and offers tips for taking care of mental health. “There are resources we all have around us that help us de-stress,” says Deborah.

Preview of how to destress at work

While there are lifestyle changes we can take to manage our overall stress levels, there are plenty of simple things we can do throughout the workday to ease stress. The following ideas will help you destress quickly at work — whether you’re at home, in the office, or anywhere else.

1. Breathe 

It sounds obvious, but many of us forget to breathe deeply during the workday. Taking a few moments to breathe fully and intentionally can increase oxygen flow throughout your body. Take a few seconds throughout the day to focus on the feeling of your breath flowing into and out of your body.

2. Take a walk

Regular exercise helps relieve acute stress and builds up our resilience against future stress, says Udemy instructor Gregory Caremans. Taking a walk also gives you an opportunity to be present in the moment and appreciate your surroundings. Notice which flowers are blooming, say hello to a neighbor or friendly dog, or spend a moment feeling gratitude for the sunshine or fresh air.

3. Talk to a trusted colleague or friend

Talking about your problems with a sympathetic friend or coworker stimulates the release of oxytocin, which is excellent for releasing stress. To keep these sessions productive, it helps to set a time limit for venting, look for humor in the situation, and troubleshoot different solutions. 

4. Stretch

Take a quick stretch break to loosen up your body, release tension, and increase blood flow. There are plenty of stretches you can do without even leaving your desk, such as rolling your neck, shoulders, and ankles or gently looking up and down. Add some simple stretches to your daily routine with a 15-minutes yoga challenge

5. Inhale a relaxing scent

Essential oils are shown to interact with neuroreceptors the same way anti-anxiety medications do, according to Psychology Today. Some of the scents that reduce stress include lavender, yuzu, and jasmine. To enjoy these effects, light a candle, add a few drops of essential oil to your wrist or a diffuser, or use a scented lotion. 

6. Repeat a mantra 

A mantra is a word or phrase that you say out loud repeatedly. This practice helps quiet your brain and keep you focused on the present. Get a few ideas for mantras to try here.

7. Cuddle with a pet 

When we hug a close friend or family member or cuddle with a pet, we release oxytocin and decrease stress. So if you’ve got a furry friend nearby, take a moment to give them a snuggle. 

8. Get fresh air

We’re sensitive to our surroundings. A noisy, chaotic environment can easily contribute to your sense of stress. Stepping outside to get some fresh air (even if you’re not going for a walk) can help you hit the reset button.

9. Put on a playlist

You probably already have specific playlists you use to calm down, energize yourself, or get your body moving. If not, now’s a great time to compile a few, so you have them handy next time you want to boost your mood instantly.

10. Clean up your space

Physical clutter has been linked to procrastination and stress. So take a moment to clean up your workspace and reap the benefits of a clearer, more focused mind. 

11. Meditate

According to the Mayo Clinic, the benefits of meditation include gaining a new perspective on stressful situations, increased self-awareness, and the ability to focus on the present moment. Not sure how it works? Check out guided meditation courses for practical tips on how to get started.

Pick up even more stress-busting tips 

Finding moments of wellness in your workday helps to lower stress levels and promote mental well-being. If you’re a manager, consider how you might introduce more awareness of wellness and stress reduction into your team meetings. Play a guided meditation at the start of a meeting, for example. 

Is the idea of discussing stress in the workplace itself a source of stress? It doesn’t have to be! Deborah Grayson Riegel wants to make mental health as easy to discuss as physical health. Learn more stress-busting tips from Deborah in her course, Talking to Your Employees About Stress at Work