7 Ways to Calm Down During a Stressful Workday

If work stress is making you dream of running away and joining the circus, you’re not alone.

Studies show that over 80% of Americans suffer from stress related to work and 25% of this group say that their job is the biggest source of stress in their lives.

Additionally, roughly a million people in the US miss work each day due to stress, and 76% of American employees report that work stress is affecting their personal relationships. 

There’s no denying it. The statistics are frightening

The good news is that, whatever your work demands, there are steps you can take to train your brain to lower your stress levels and stay calm. In doing so, you’ll increase your job satisfaction and boost your well-being. 

1. Reality Testing

There are several signs that companies are creating stressful environments. This list includes high rates of employee turnover and absenteeism, a culture that insists on long workdays and lowered levels of productivity and efficiency. 

To combat this, you can harness the benefits of Reality Testing, an exercise created by Sigmund Freud, the renowned Austrian neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis. 

Reality Testing is a way that you can shift your perspective and combat anxiety. It asks you to locate the thought that is causing you stress and figure out if it’s based on reality or on feelings or fear.

Finding out whether your stress reaction is rooted in the real world goes a long way towards figuring out how to deal with it. If you find it’s not, telling yourself that those thoughts are not real may help. 


Step into your inner detective and challenge your negative thoughts.

  1. Pick an emotion you’re feeling.
  2. Identify the thoughts and beliefs that are causing it.
  3. Ask yourself if there’s any evidence to support those thoughts.
  4. If not, replace them with more realistic and helpful beliefs.

For example:

Emotion: Anxiety
Thoughts: I’m going to fail this test. I’m not good enough. I’m going to be humiliated.
Reality test: I’ve studied hard and I know the material. I’ve done well on similar tests in the past.
New belief: I’m prepared for this test and I can do well.

By doing this exercise, you can learn to see your emotions more clearly and manage them more effectively.

2. Prioritize

Stress can be a sneaky thief that robs you of your joy and productivity at work.

But you can fight back by giving yourself some quality time every morning to check your To-Do List and sort out your priorities.

A paper to-do list works great, but here are some great apps to try out too:

These can help you feel more in control of your work and make the most of your day 🙂

3. The Present Moment Is All There Is

A 2019 study of 1 500+ American employees revealed that over 40% of workers reported stress affecting their productivity. More than 30% report that it makes it more difficult to engage.

Switching between tasks often takes up more time, as it limits your ability to focus. Forget multitasking. Instead, direct your attention to one task at a time. 

Don’t think of anything but the task at hand until it’s completed and watch your productivity soar as your stress levels plummet.

Here’s a great video on how to practice mindfulness while working:

4. The Power of Saying No

The alarming results of a Workplace Burnout Survey revealed that over 90% of respondents have reported that their stress levels are overwhelming them.

They stated that pressure at the office is affecting the quality of their work and negative consequences were occurring as a result. 

One way to offset this is to start setting boundaries. 

How do you set boundaries at work?

  • Set your schedule and stick to it like glue.
  • Don’t let work emails and messages take over your life.
  • Take breaks throughout the day, or you’ll burn out.
  • Delegate tasks like a boss.
  • Say no to unreasonable requests without guilt.

Here are some specific examples:

  • Schedule a meeting with your manager to discuss your work hours and availability. Be clear about your priorities and what you need from your manager to be successful.
  • Set a rule for yourself: no work emails or messages after 6pm or on weekends.
  • Set a timer for yourself to work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute moving break to stretch, get a snack, or pet your dog.
  • If a colleague asks you to do something outside of your job scope, say, “Thanks for asking, but I’m swamped right now. Can I help you with something else?”

Setting boundaries at work can be tricky, but it’s worth it. You might not think it’s possible, but you’ll be surprised how much you can change.

5. Connect With Your Coworkers

We learnt a lot about managing stress during the pandemic and one of those lessons was that human connection is essential. Forming strong connections with your coworkers can be a very effective way to improve your overall job satisfaction.

If you have no contact with anyone at your workplace except when an issue arises, this can have a severely negative psychological effect. It essentially conditions you to dread talking with coworkers and superiors because every time you do, it’s unpleasant.

When you have a team supporting you, you’ll be more comfortable asking for help and giving it.

Inclusion drives collaboration because no one feels like they’re carrying all the responsibility for ensuring a project’s success. 

Reports indicate that more than 70% of employees who felt they were productive had good connections with their colleagues. 

Even if you’re a remote employee, having a daily telephone call or video chat will keep you engaged with your colleagues.  

6. Use Time Management Software

Use time management software to help you determine how long tasks are taking to finish. This will ensure that you don’t have unrealistic expectations when it comes to deadlines. 

You will then be able to determine a finish date for each of your projects based on this information. This will help lessen the chances that you rush important tasks and end up making critical mistakes. 

Here are some great time management tools to try out:

7. Determine Your Stressors

One of the most famous quotes about what causes stress is by Hans Selye, a physician and endocrinologist who is considered the father of stress research:

“Stress is the nonspecific response of the body to any demand.”

Hans Selye

Consider keeping a work journal. Here’s why:

Nearly 90% of people who habitually record their thoughts, feelings, experiences, and ideas report that their ability to focus increases dramatically.

Use this tool to alleviate workday stress by also recording information about your company’s environment or your at-home one. 

Detail whatever circumstances and people trigger a stress response from you and examine how you react. Did you lose your temper? Raise your voice? Burst into tears? Go for a walk? Go get yourself a glass of water?

These notes will help you identify patterns of your stressors, how you react to them, and what you can do to avoid them going forward. 

More amazing ways. to apply journaling are described in this video by Ryan Holiday from the Daily Stoic:

Shifting Your Mindset For Less Stress

There’s been a major increase in people focusing on their health and well-being.

Creating a more balanced, grounded lifestyle is now a priority, as it improves mental and physical health.

Fortunately, working to be more focused, mindful, patient, present, and self-aware is the goal and it’s not as impossible to achieve as you may fear. 

Your search for inner peace doesn’t necessitate a retreat or drastic life overhaul. It requires a mental shift, the mastering of new techniques, and the acquiring of new, healthier habits.

With the right mindset, commitment, and consistent practice, you’ll notice an improvement.

“Stress is not what happens to us. It’s our response to what happens. And our response is something we can choose.”

    Maureen Killoran
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