7 Ways to Loosen the Grip of Work Stress

Tips for de-stressing from a busy 9-to-5.

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In Pictures: 7 Tips for Conquering Work Stress

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Many of us experience trying days on the job. From projects that force us to labor into the wee hours to recurring arguments with co-workers, work stress surfaces in our lives now and then.

The good news is that relief from your pressure-filled workday might be more attainable than you think. Here are seven ways to alleviate job stress:

1. Treat yourself. Finally put that huge budgeting project to bed? Why not dine out? Check out a movie at the local cinema, or maybe spring for an hour-long massage at that spa you've always wanted to try. Not looking to spend much money? Treating yourself to an ice cream cone or picking up the latest novel from your favorite author might also do the trick.

2. Call a loved one. Everyone tackles stress differently, says Brandan DuChateau, executive director for the National Wellness Institute. Some prefer to sort through their problems alone, while others depend on the help of friends and family members. The latter can prove beneficial in the long run, DuChateau says. "The research shows that social wellness is very important. So, even if you don't want to recoup with a group, it's important to have that group so when you are recouped, you can have fun with them so you have that social network," she says. "That group is so essential to people's overall happiness." Try bouncing a concern or two off of a good friend or acquaintance. It just might be your job-stress cure-all.

3. Exercise. Yoga, Tai chi, or even a 15-minute walk can help ease your mind. Meryl Rosenthal, chief executive officer and co-founder of the agile work solutions company FlexPaths, says exercise plays a crucial role in relieving work stress. "It's hugely important to be able to exercise and clear your mind and take care of yourself," says Rosenthal. "All those health issues help people be more engaged at work and help them be more patient in managing people."

4. Go to sleep earlier. Try heading to bed before midnight. This simple move gives you sufficient time to recuperate from the day's frustrations and rejuvenate your strength for what lies ahead.

5. Set boundaries. When the clock strikes 5 p.m., leave heavy workloads and frustrations with co-workers behind at the office. Setting boundaries between work and family time can significantly reduce stress. "I call it work-life integration, because really there is no balance," Rosenthal says. "It's really the integration of both and how you navigate them." She also suggests keeping a calendar to help organize your life better, lessening scheduling conflicts and reducing worry.

6. Negotiate a more flexible schedule. Maybe you're a new mom or dad who's uneasy leaving your newborn with a nanny five days a week. Wishing you were at home with your child while you're stuck at work can compound stress. But negotiating telecommuting hours and other flex benefits with your supervisor can provide genuine relief. Rosenthal says having an open, trusting dialogue with higher-ups inherently reduces stress. "Because [then,] a person at least knows they can have that rapport with their boss, and furthermore, if that supervisor says, 'Hey, you can talk to me about this and it won't impact your career mobility,' it's a huge thing for people," she says.

7. Organize a post-work seminar. If you're experiencing stress on the job, chances are, you're not alone. Companies that allocate time and space for their employees to discuss conflicts and concerns in a group setting foster a psychologically sound workforce, DuChateau says. "We actually see an enormous growth in the number of businesses recognizing that the health and well being of their employees is essential to the productivity of their company," she says. As a result, many companies are now hosting in-house stress-reduction seminars and workshops, because "they recognize that a stressed person is going to be a less-productive person," DuChateau explains. DuChateau also encourages employees to initiate lunch-and-learn sessions about ways to positively reduce job stress.