Unfair treatment, unmanageable workloads, and unclear communication are the top three reasons daily workplace stress has skyrocketed to new heights, according to Gallup. Lack of manager support and unreasonable time pressure follow.
As an HR or benefits leader, you know that tackling these causes of workplace stress may require company-wide manager training and changes to company culture led from the top. (See how Ogilvy implemented a mindful manager program to reduce stress and improve employee mental well-being.)
In parallel, however, employees need help managing day-to-day stress stemming from myriad sources. In addition to overwork and unrealistic expectations, a wide range of challenges can create stress, affecting employee well-being, productivity, and performance.
Doing too many things at once, self-doubt, and perfectionism are common sources of stress, for example. Conflict with co-workers and feeling disconnected are too. It’s important to help employees manage acute stress when it arises to prevent it from becoming chronic and escalating into more serious mental or physical health conditions.
Five ways employees can reduce stress
Here are five ways employees can reduce stress in the moment and build resilience while you work with leadership to address systemic issues. Starting this Mental Health Awareness Month, encourage employees to follow these practices:
1. Take a break
It’s easy to believe that there’s no time for a break, especially when feeling overworked or facing a deadline. But pushing through without a break can backfire or even be dangerous, depending on the job. When we focus our attention too long, we exhaust our mental fuel and wear ourselves out, according to psychologists. And without adequate mental fuel, our decision-making ability and performance suffer.
By contrast, even taking a short break of five minutes can improve attention and performance as well as mood. Research shows that relaxation techniques in particular can reduce stress, and taking a break to do something you enjoy can result in fewer physical health symptoms such as headaches, lower burnout, and higher job satisfaction.
To quickly reset and relax, employees can explore the Quick Breaks section in the For Work Carousel in the Calm app. Here are some of the programs:
- 60 Second Reboot, Let’s Unplug, and Step Away from the Computer by mindfulness coach Chibs Okereke
- Refresh the Mind by Megan Reitz, professor of leadership and dialogue at Hult International Business School
- Breathe into Relaxation by Jay Shetty, former monk, best-selling author, and award-winning podcast host of On Purpose
2. Focus on one thing at a time
Multitasking can give us a sense of accomplishment, but in reality, switching among tasks slows us down. Just the sheer act of stopping and starting different tasks undermines our efficiency. And worse, trying to do many things at once overloads our working memory, increasing stress that can ultimately lead to burnout.
On the flip side, focusing on a single task allows us to work more efficiently, which can help keep stress at bay.
Calm programs in the Get Focused section in the For Work Carousel are designed to help employees regain focus, work productively, and control their stress. For example, in Settle Down by Single Tasking, Jay Shetty helps listeners focus on the simple act of breathing as an exercise in doing one thing at a time. Other “Get Focused” programs include the following:
- Finding Focus by mindfulness teacher Jeff Warren
- Deep Concentration and Productivity by Tamara Levitt, Head of Mindfulness at Calm
- Scattered Attention by mindfulness coach Chibs Okereke
3. Seek relief in the moment when feeling overwhelmed
It takes just 90 seconds for stress hormones to flood and clear our bodies if we don’t continue to fuel the negative emotions that triggered them. In moments when employees feel overwhelmed, encourage them to proactively seek relief.
In Slow the Swirl in Your Mind, Jay Shetty helps listeners connect body, breath, and mind to ground themselves and find some calm in the storm. This program can be found in the Managing Overwhelm section of the For Work Carousel in Calm, along with other sessions, including these:
- Calming Anxiety, Tamara Levitt
- Reframing Difficult Thoughts and Reducing Work Anxiety, Chibs Okereke
- Working with Thoughts, Megan Reitz
- Break the Stress Cycle, Jeff Warren
4. Practice care and compassion toward others
Friction is a normal part of workplace collaboration. It can be frustrating to work with others, whether there’s a lack of agreement, miscommunication, or simply different working styles. It’s important to manage frustration with co-workers before it escalates or turns into persistent stress. Practicing compassion and kindness toward others is an effective strategy.
In Frustration with Colleagues, Jay Shetty walks listeners through an exercise to extend care and compassion to others, even where there are differences or difficulties. Other programs in the Navigating Relationships category in Calm’s For Work Carousel include the following:
- Navigating Difficulty at Work, Jeff Warren
- Keeping Afloat, Non-Judgment, and Mindfulness at Work series, Tamara Levitt
5. Practice care and compassion toward self
When things go wrong at work—a mistake is made, a deadline is missed, or a conflict breaks out in a meeting, for instance—it’s common to get down on ourselves. A much better response is to practice self-compassion, according to studies. Self-compassion helps us feel better and also promotes a growth mindset.
No matter the source of stress, employees can benefit from practicing care and compassion for themselves. But it’s particularly helpful when struggling with self-doubt or self-esteem issues.
Calm’s Confidence and Self-Compassion series in the For Work Carousel include resources to help employees extend kindness to themselves in difficult situations:
- Perfectionism and Sing Your Own Praises, Jay Shetty
- When Things Go Wrong, Chibs Okereke
- Relationship with Self series, Tamara Levitt
- Kindness for Yourself, Jeff Warren
Work-related challenges are the primary source of stress overall in the U.S., according to Calm research. This Mental Health Awareness Month, encourage employees to take steps that can break their cycle of stress and help them find relief so they can move forward productively.
For more information on supporting employee mental well-being, connect with our Calm specialist today.