Let’s face it: A lot of our go-to stress-management tools—think: taking a bubble bath, binge watching our favorite Netflix shows, hitting the gym, or drinking a glass of beer or wine—aren’t exactly office-appropriate or possible. So how can we deal with serious stress on the job? For the answer, we turned to expert who gave the following seven de-stressing ideas.
1. Incorporate “distress breaks” into your workday.
If you can, schedule five minutes for every work hour in which you can take deep breathes, stretch, or even meditate, suggests Gloria Mitchell, personal crisis and performance coach. To breathe deeply, “inhale for five seconds, hold, then exhale for five seconds,” she says—and recommends YouTube for guided stretches and meditation you can do at your desk.
2. View, smell, and touch a potted desk plant. (Or just look out your window.)
“OK, this may seem odd,” John La Puma, M.D. board-certified internal medicine specialist, warns, “but many office plants are not fragrant. But those that are—especially herbs, such as chamomile—may be relaxing.” So, add a fragrant plant to your desk—and when you feel stressed, take a sniff. If you already have a non-fragrant plant on your desk, don’t worry. It can help you de-stress, too. “Feeling their leaves lets you use a different part of your brain, and restores your attention to something natural—instead of lists and demands,” he says.
No plant? No problem. Puma says looking out a window at trees or greenery can help, too.
3. Grab a healthy snack or drink.
Hunger and dehydration play a huge role in agitating and exacerbating stress, says Mitchell. So, when you feel stress, ask yourself if you’re hungry or dehydrated. If you are, head to the water cooler for a glass of water—and pack healthful snacks you can nosh on at your desk.
4. Hang a nature poster.
Puma says that “views of nature in hospitalized patients improve satisfaction, lower stress levels and the need for pain-killing medication, and shorten hospital stays.” By hanging a nature poster by your desk, similar results can be achieved in the workplace. “In the work setting, they lead to more kindness between co-workers, and better focus,” Puma explains.
5. Use your lunch break to your advantage.
If you can, spend your lunchtime doing more than just eating, says Mitchell. (But be sure to eat, no matter what!) “That could mean walking, reading a book, or even watching a funny comedy on your phone,” she says. “The main goal is to get away from your desk, preferably out in the fresh air, and focus on something other than your work during your lunch hour.”
6. Listen to relaxing nature sounds.
Rather than play your party playlist at work, consider switching to a soundtrack of nature sounds, which will soothe you and help to release your stress, Puma says. The sounds can be water, forest, meadow, wind, or leaves, he says. But no matter which sound you choose, this white noise “can lower blood pressure, pulse rate, and cortisol levels, all of which are elevated in people acutely and chronically stressed,” he says. (Spotify offers nature tunes.)
7. Turn off your notifications.
From the buzz of your phone to your computer’s alerts when you’ve got incoming mail, you are barraged with notifications all day long—and that can cause stress, Puma says. “But switching off notifications for a few minutes allows you to appreciate that there are things in life more important than them,” he says. Of course, you need to turn them back on—but there’s nothing wrong with a five-minute break from notifications while you simply relax.