Stress Management Strategies in the Workplace to Protect Your Mental Health

Industry Resources
Stress management at work - stressed out employee at desk

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which is a month-long effort to help address the mental health challenges faced by millions of Americans each year. In the fairly recent past, it’s become more common to discuss and be mindful of mental health in the workplace. While many organizations have increased resources to help employees manage their emotional wellness, work-related stress is still a contributing factor to poor mental health among employees. A 2022 study found that 81% of respondents report that workplace stress affects their mental wellbeing, which was up from 78% in 2021. This increase clearly demonstrates the need for stress management strategies in the office, but just what does stress in the workplace entail?

There are two general types of stress that employees can face in their roles: short-term (acute) and long-term (chronic) stress. Short-term stress is typically caused by temporary circumstances, such as a tight deadline on a project, multiple projects piling up, or long hours. Long-term stress can be attributed to job insecurity, a lack of autonomy, boring or heavy workloads, over-supervision, or unsupportive relationships with colleagues and supervisors. Both types of stress can lead to a whole host of mental and physical health problems, including high blood pressure, headaches, fatigue, worsening depression/anxiety, and more.

For those experiencing work-related stress, there are a variety of things you can do to mitigate its effects. Here are eight ways to manage both short-term and long-term occupational stress to protect your mental health.

Short-Term Stress Management

Take Short Breaks

If you’ve been staring at your computer so long that your eyes are starting to cross and you can feel a tension headache coming on, the best thing to do is step away to reset your body and mind. Get up from your desk and take a quick walk around the office; get a drink of water; or watch a short, soothing video. Powering through fatigue and frustration is a recipe for disaster and won’t help you finish your tasks. Taking even just five minutes to calm your nervous system will help you beat your stressors and complete your tasks with a fresh mind.

Do Some Deep Breathing or Meditation

You can also spend your break doing deep breathing exercises or meditating to relax your body and mind. Both options are easy to do anywhere—even at your desk—and have a variety of mental and physical health benefits. Deep breathing lowers your heart rate and reduce the level of stress hormones in your body, while meditation can refocus your attention and reduce negative feelings. Close your eyes, take a few minutes, and relax so you can take on your next challenge with ease.

Write in a Journal

Getting your thoughts on paper can help calm an anxious, tense mind and “leave your feelings at the door,” so to speak. A staple of mental wellness techniques, journaling is associated with lowering symptoms of anxiety and depression and can help you cope with strong emotional responses that may be exacerbating your stress response. Take a few minutes to write down your thoughts and feelings; you may be surprised at how you feel afterwards.

Listen to Music or a Podcast

Music is a powerful art form that can have drastic effects on emotional response. Utilizing music for stress relief is an effective tactic for battling overwhelming feelings. Depending on the type of music you listen to, you can feel more upbeat, relaxed, or soothed in just a few minutes. There are also a variety of mental health podcasts that you can listen to that can help reduce your stress response, such as guided meditation or positive affirmations. No matter what you choose to listen to, pop in your headphones and get lost in the sound for a while.

Long-Term Stress Management

Eat Right, Hydrate, & Exercise

When you’re under chronic pressure, it can be difficult to take a step back and care for your body, but practicing healthy habits is a powerful form of stress management. Eating a balanced diet, drinking enough water, and exercising regularly helps your body battle the effects of stress. Proper nutrition strengthens your immune system and enables your body to fight the effects of stress, while physical activity strengthens your cardiovascular system and can even boost your mood.

Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is another aspect of self-care that tends to go out the window when you’re dealing with chronic stress. Long nights spent working, or worrying about work, wreak havoc on sleep patterns, worsening the symptoms of mental and physical fatigue. While it’s tempting to stay up late to get just one more thing done, put your work away a few hours before bedtime and refrain from using electronic devices at least an hour before you go to sleep. Shoot for being in bed for at least eight hours, as most adults need anywhere from 7-9 hours of sleep per night to be at peak health. Being well-rested will help you battle your stressors more effectively.

Set Boundaries & Say No

In our 24/7 connected world, it can be tempting to answer work emails after hours or check your company group chats on your days off, which only serves to make you more stressed when you should be relaxing. Practice setting boundaries for your work, like not checking your email after 6 PM or saying no to extra projects that you don’t have the current capacity to tackle. It can feel like you’re letting your team or boss down, but if you’re overworked and overconnected, you’ll be less productive and effective on your tasks in the long run.

Ask for Help

Finally, effective stress management cannot and should not be a solo endeavor. If you’re really struggling with work-related pressures, ask your supervisor or colleagues for help with your workload. You may be able to effectively reallocate some responsibilities and, in turn, focus to producing your best work. If stress has taken a toll on your emotional wellness, seeking help from a licensed counselor or other mental health professional can help give you a space to work through your feelings, and develop coping strategies that enable you to better process all of life’s challenges. Your friends and family can also be a ready source of personal support during times of difficulty.

Mental Health in the Workplace

At LCS, we take our employees’ mental health very seriously. Each May, we encourage our team to participate in mental wellness activities throughout Mental Health Awareness Month, and we also implement other well-being initiatives throughout the year to support our employees’ physical and mental welfare in their professional and personal lives.

If you’re looking for a change of pace and a work environment that takes care of its employees, look no further than LCS. Check out our open positions and apply today to join our team.