9 ways to reduce work stress

Did you know that the average Canadian clocks up over 1,700 hours at work a year? That’s a lot of time, especially for those coping with stress on the job.

And there are a lot of Canadians doing just that. Each week, at least half a million people in Canada miss work due to mental illness, and most companies now identify work stress as a top risk issue.

You can’t control everything in your workplace, but there are simple strategies you can take to reduce stress and feel great on the job. Here are nine ways to improve your well-being at work.

  1. Understand your requirements
    One of the most common causes of work stress is unclear direction. If you’re not sure what you’re supposed to do, or if requirements are constantly changing, have a conversation with your supervisor. They can clarify expectations and help you develop a plan to meet them.
  2. Organize your calendar
    Chances are, if you leave your work calendar wide open, it won’t take long before it’s filled with meetings and other events. But you need time to get your own work accomplished, too. Make sure you block enough time to finish your tasks without rushing; this includes putting breaks in your calendar as well.
  3. Keep a clean workspace
    A cluttered workspace hurts your ability to concentrate. Take a few minutes to tidy up at the end of each day so you can start the next morning off in a fresh, clean workspace. Not only can this reduce stress, but it can also improve your productivity and creativity.
  4. Mingle more
    Enjoying close social ties and interacting with others brings both mental and physical benefits. Research suggests that social interaction generates dopamine, the “feel-good hormone”, and releases oxytocin, which lowers cortisol levels and stress. So make sure you’re there for the next team-building activity, outing or birthday celebration.
  5. Get up and move
    Exercise is an excellent remedy for the over-capacity, stressed mind. Regular workouts can help you feel better and sleep better, but it’s also important to move around as much as possible during the workday. Go for a walk at noon or, if your workplace has fitness facilities, take a class or participate in a wellness activity. A change of scenery helps produce fresh ideas and leads to efficient problem solving, further reducing stress.
  6. Eat well
    Making the right nutritional choices and eating a balanced diet can have a positive impact on your mental health. Often, it’s more economical and healthier to pack a lunch for work instead of buying one. Try to get away from your desk and eat with a friend; shared mealtimes provide an important opportunity to socialize and relax. And make sure you’re drinking plenty of water (not just coffee).
  7. De-stress your commute
    Improve your commute by planning ahead. Check traffic reports or apps before leaving, so you can choose the least congested route. Acknowledge your lack of control in situations like weather and traffic jams. You can also try carpooling or integrate walking or cycling, if possible.

    After a long day, listening to your favourite music on the way home can relieve stress. Make sure you have a pre-set playlist and drive distraction-free.
  8. Take vacation
    Two thirds of Canadians don’t take all their vacation time, and more than a quarter take less than half. Burnout is a real consequence if you don’t switch off or disconnect from work. Taking vacation can increase your creativity, productivity and quality of work, as well as improve your personal well-being.
  9. Track stressful situations
    Stress is personal and affects us all differently. You may find a situation stressful, but a co-worker may not (and vice versa). That’s why it’s important to track situations that stress you out on the job. Keeping a log of these events for a few days or weeks can help you identify stress patterns. You’ll find that stress is a lot easier to deal with if you understand the root cause.

These tips were created for informational purposes only based on readily available guidance and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, as circumstances will vary from person to person. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and treatments.