13 Quick Stress-Busters You Can Do At Your Desk

Even if you love your job, you probably feel overwhelmed at work from time to time. Your email inbox demands constant attention, managers and coworkers are asking for updates, you’re searching for the information you need to get things done, and new priorities are always being dumped in your lap. Even the lighting and temperature of your office can add to your stress levels. All these stressors build up and before you know it, you’re nursing a tension headache, stress eating, and tossing and turning at night. 

The good news is, just as stress can easily build up in little ways throughout the day, you can just as easily combat it—without ever leaving your desk. Try out these 13 easy techniques to eliminate stress and improve your workday: 

1. Write down your worries

Whether you’re anxious about a big presentation or the results of an upcoming project, the simple act of writing down your worries can alleviate stress and boost your performance. Worrying about a situation actually taxes your working memory, using up your brain’s processing power. Expressive writing helps you stop ruminating on the situation and pinpoint the real source of your stress, so your working memory has the resources it needs to perform better when the actual situation arises. 

2. Watch a funny video 

A good laugh not only clears your mind, it actually activates and then relieves your body’s stress response. It lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, stimulates circulation and muscle relaxation, and releases endorphins in the brain. And it not only relieves stress, it boosts creativity and productivity too. 

3. Turn off your monitor for 10 minutes

Computer monitors, smartphones, TVs—most of us are staring at a screen from the moment we wake up to the minute we go to sleep. As a result, Computer Vision Syndrome has been linked to eye strain, head and neck aches, nausea, and increased anxiety and depression. So make a conscious effort to unplug—literally. Instead of taking a break by catching up on social media or texting a friend, turn off your monitor, close your laptop, and give your eyes a break. Read a book or magazine, take a walk (without playing Pokemon Go), or make yourself a cup of coffee and chat with a colleague. 

4. Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This relaxation technique calms your body’s fight or flight reflex, which is triggered when you’re stressed. You focus on tensing and then relaxing each major muscle group in your body for 5 seconds at a time. As a result, your heart and breathing rate decrease, blood pressure stabilizes, and muscles relax. 

5. Pet the office dog (or visit a nearby dog park)

Petting or playing with a dog can lower blood pressure, release feel-good hormones like oxytocin, and decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol. In my experience, dogs are also great listeners, making them the perfect outlet for unloading anxieties and worries without fear of judgment. 

6. Enjoy a snack—just don't scarf it down

Stress eating

“Don’t stress eat” is a common warning (and good advice), but indulging in a treat isn’t always an unhealthy way to combat stress. In fact, the right snack can give your blood sugar and your mood a quick boost. Just step away from the box of doughnuts and reach for proven stress-fighting foods like berries, nuts, dark chocolate, and oatmeal instead. There are even snacks that specifically help you be more productive. And make sure you slow down and enjoy it, instead of swallowing the snack in one gulp. 

7. Practice deep breathing

You don’t need to be in a yoga studio to reap the benefits of deep breathing, which can lower blood pressure, promote relaxation, and help calm your central nervous system. Plus, it’s a quick and easy way to de-stress that no one else will notice, even in a crowded office. Simply inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four. 

8. Listen to music 

Music, especially quiet classical, is a powerful tool to de-stress, slow your heart rate, lower blood pressure, and decrease levels of harmful stress hormones. It can also improve your self-esteem and mood. (This is my personal go-to playlist for fighting stress. Share yours in the comments below!) 

9. Try guided meditation

Just a couple minutes of daily meditation can have a significant impact on your stress levels, according to recent studies. It also has the added benefit of improving attention and cognitive performance, and actually increases grey matter density in the brain. You can download a free meditation app, like Calm, listen to guided meditation podcasts on iTunes, or follow along with a video on YouTube to find a few moments of peace without leaving your desk. 

10. Look out the window

Take a few minutes to gaze out the window and let your mind wander. Looking at nature (the real thing, not your screensaver) helps relax your body and slow your heart rate, and daydreaming is a powerful way to boost creativity and problem solving. 

11. Reconnect with what matters 

Do you keep a gratitude journal? Don't be too quick to dismiss the idea—writing in a gratitude journal reduced stress levels by 27% in a group of students at Stanford, and recent studies at Yale and Columbia say gratitude journals result in greater alertness, attentiveness, and energy while boosting the immune system and reducing anxiety.

12. Call a friend

Being around your closest friends actually reduces your body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol, and talking to a loved one can trigger your body’s “relaxation response.” So next time you’re worrying about pitching a new client, give your best friend or your mom a call.

13. Indulge in a relaxing hobby

Do a sudoku puzzle, spend 10 minutes knitting, read a chapter of a mystery novel, tend to a bonsai plant you keep on your desk — whatever your hobby, taking a break from work and focusing on something you enjoy can be a great way to relieve stress and anxiety. 

The Ultimate Stress-Buster

Instead of combating work stress, eliminate it where you can by staying organized and in control of your work. Learn an easy way to get organized and productive with this 20-second intro to the GTD method, then start a free two-week trial of Wrike to put it into action. 

Comments 0

Oops! This content can only be shown if you consent to cookies.

Find out more