Stress at work

7 practical tips on how to cope with stress at work

Experts told how to cope with it in order to maintain health and productivity.

Reload with the help of breathing exercises

Lyubov Bogdanova, psychologist and respiratory therapist:

– The simplest and most recognized by experts to combat stress at work is breathing. It is always with you, it can not be forgotten, like pills, and it does not need electricity, as gadgets with applications.

Note – not everything you encounter about stress breathing really works. For example, breathing slowly and calmly is soothing, and it may seem like it is stress relief. But calming down is only “mending,” all the stress remains.

To get rid of stress is to get the tension out. You feel what nature is telling you, don’t you? Shout, bang, throw, break something. So don’t go against your instincts, but use nature’s principle to release tension. Plus, calming breathing takes a few minutes and anti-stress breathing takes 10-20 seconds!

To cope with stress at work, the following exercises will help:


Take a deep breath – you’ve drawn the bowstring. With a “px” sound, release the arrow to which your worries are attached, the muscle tension in your body. “Px” – fly away. Emotional tension – several arrows: “px,” “px,” “px,” – leisurely, one at a time. Tension in thoughts “I am bad, people are bad, the world is bad, life is bad” – “px”, “px”, “px”. Watch the flight of each arrow, take your time.

“Snake Breath.”

Take a deep breath, and exhale with an effort to make a “ssssssss” sound. Repeat several times.

“Energy Shower.”

The most powerful breathing exercise for dealing with stress at work. Find a secluded place – an empty meeting room, a spare staircase, even the office bathroom will do. You’ll need to take 20-30 breaths and exhales in a row, connecting your breath with the movement of your hands. This will “remove” the inner tension.

Inhale and exhale through your nose. Close your eyes. Starting position: standing, hands in soft fists near your shoulders, as if you were holding a barbell on your chest. As you inhale, your hands shoot upward, your fingers open sharply. As you exhale, they relax and fall back to the starting position against your shoulders. Exhale freely, occurs by itself. Again active inhalation with throwing arms upwards – and relaxed free exhalation with falling hands. Repeat 20-30 times.

Be ready for a powerful result: humming, heat, vibrations in the hands and body, emptiness in the mind and emotions! This exercise “nullifies” the psycho-emotional load. Caution: it raises the pressure!

After the anti-stress breathing, it is useful to do calming exercises as well, which will allow you to resist stress at work in the long run. This is a kind of “defragmentation of the disk.”

“Breathing Square.”

Inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts. Repeat 10 times.

“Coherent Breathing.”

Slow breath in – smoothly for 6 seconds, free exhale for 6 seconds, then inhale again for 6 seconds, exhale for 6 seconds and so on. Breathe this way for 5 minutes. Ideally the exercise should be done three times a day for 5 minutes, or one approach of 15-20 minutes.

Turn every situation to your advantage

Even being fired can be a positive thing. This is an opportunity to start over, to find a more interesting job, and even better – to find yourself. Or just rest.

Do not be lazy to rest.

For the prevention of stress in the workplace business coach Vladimir Yakuba recommends:

– Rest whenever possible. If you go to a meeting by the art gallery, and before the negotiations another 40 minutes, go look at drawings. Switching gears is important.

Sports, sports, sports

Svetlana Mustaeva , MD, PhD, is the head of the Center for Sports Medicine, Physical Therapy and Physical Therapy:

– As a practitioner, I regularly work with patients who have neglected reasonable physical activity, that is, who have not engaged in prevention. My advice to anyone who wants to get rid of stress at work: exercise at least three times a week.

How does sport help? It promotes the production of endorphins – hormones that mobilize blood flow. Improved blood supply, in turn, increases efficiency, eliminates congestion, increases microcirculation in the blood vessels. Especially in the brain, which is so actively used by programmers. IT professionals have a sedentary job, and this can cause congestion in the pelvic area. The result – decreased libido, prostatitis in men, reproductive health disorders in women. Sports and fitness can help avoid these troubles, which are themselves stressful.

“I’m good.”

Natalia Zholudeva, a clinical psychologist, graduated from the psychology department of Lomonosov Moscow State University and the Moscow Gestalt Institute:

– To prevent workplace stress, every time you do something useful (even just closing your Facebook tab and opening your code editor) say to yourself, “I did great!” If no one is giving you feedback, arrange it for yourself! In our culture, alas, this is not customary, but don’t repeat this vicious practice ad infinitum. And if you have subordinates – do not be stingy with gratitude and praise. This will allow you to delegate more, and to make them feel successful. Remember: at any moment you can stop – and always find something to praise yourself for. You will always have time to be scolded. If you suddenly do not find a reason to praise – do something productive and say to yourself, “I’m good”!

Negative feedback is also valuable and can reduce stress levels. It’s just important to rate things and actions, not people. Compare being told, “You’re an idiot, how could you do something so stupid!” to being told, “You’re a good worker, but the mistake cost us and I have to admonish you.” Feel the difference?

Practice mindfulness.

Elena Kruzhilina, head of internal control at ICL Services:

– Scientists have confirmed the positive effects of mindfulness practices on the nervous system. Make them a habit and they will help you overcome stress at work:

1. awareness of pleasurable experiences. Immerse yourself completely in a pleasant moment: what are your thoughts and emotions, bodily sensations? You can write it down in a diary. This practice can be something quite simple: lying in bed in the morning, looking at clouds, listening to a child’s laughter.

2. mindful breathing. Whatever you’re doing, be aware of your body: the posture, the support under your feet and your hips. Take a deep breath in and out and watch your body move as you breathe. To calm down, the exhalation should be two to three times longer than the inhalation. You can do this absolutely anywhere without attracting attention.

3. Daily Awareness. During simple daily activities, observe every bodily movement and sensation, catch a glimpse of objects, and smell and taste tastes. For example, when you shower and brush your teeth, make tea, wash the dishes, or go for a walk.

Learn to understand people’s motives

A few tips from psychologist Tatyana Poritskaya will help you survive stress at work:

– A person can harm you for two reasons: either he sees it as beneficial for himself, or he is defending himself. Your task is to identify the motive and eliminate it.

For example, the boss scolds you. Why? Because he thinks that the only way you can influence the employees and improve their credibility. You need to explain to him that when you yell at you, you are lost and can not do anything.

Or the client begins to make claims. It is obvious that he is defending himself and wants justice. In this situation, calming phrases that show that you understand the person, that you are serious about him or her and that you’re doing the best you can help. By doing so, the client will stop using the attack as a defense.

How to minimize stress at work and deal with burnout

We publish an excerpt from the book “RBC Pro: Executive Practice. How to keep your team in tune and not burn out yourself. It is devoted to the personal development of top managers, flexible skills and leadership qualities.

  • Ivan Maurakh, leading business coach and coach at Business Relations;
  • Vladimir Gerasichev, founder of international company Business Relations;
  • Arsen Ryabukha, leading business trainer and coach at Business Relations.

The UN considers stress in the workplace a “plague of the XXI century”. According to insurance companies, one third of employees at least once thought of quitting solely because of stress.

Stress is a reaction of the human body that occurs in response to the action of an irritant. When a person is constantly exposed to stressful situations, his or her body wastes a lot of strength (energy). This leads to a rapid depletion (burnout).

Stresses can be divided into:

  • positive and negative – according to the degree of emotional coloring;
  • short-term and long-term (or acute and chronic) – by duration;
  • physiological (illness, trauma) and psychological – by cause. Psychological, in turn, are divided into informational and emotional;
  • external (caused by external factors) and internal (a revision of vital values and beliefs, a change of personal self-esteem, “imposter syndrome,” and so forth) – by the source.

Causes of short-term (acute) stress can be:

  • a new project;
  • a strong emotion;
  • a conflicting conversation (arguments);
  • force majeure;
  • noise;
  • fatigue;
  • failure of a deadline;
  • lack of sleep or hunger.

Long-term (chronic stress) can cause:

  • lack of rest;
  • endless succession of stressors – factors provoking the appearance of stress;
  • inefficient planning of time and tasks;
  • a large number of tasks that need to be solved simultaneously;
  • Anxiety of the manager and his/her mistrust of the employees (distrustful atmosphere in the team);
  • inability to delegate;
  • pressure of deadlines;
  • authoritarian leadership (fear of not meeting expectations);
  • problems in personal life.

In response to the irritating factors of the external world, biochemical processes are triggered in the body, the purpose of which is to cope with the extreme situation. Over time, the effects of stress add up and accumulate, and stress levels increase.

When a stressor persists or is repeated, the body goes through three stages:

  1. Anxiety stage is the stage of activation of all body systems.
  2. Resistance stage (resistance, resistance) – the organism begins to adapt to the action of the stimulus.
  3. The exhaustion stage occurs during prolonged exposure to a stimulus. The energy necessary for adaptation ends, and the overall resistance of the body drops dramatically. If the person is not helped during this period, he or she may fall seriously ill.

During stress, the body produces adrenaline, which makes the person look for ways to solve the problem. Thus, stress in small amounts (in stages 1 and 2) is useful, because it makes us think and develop.

When stress affects a person negatively

Some of the most popular reactions of the body to stress include:

  • Unreasonable and frequent attacks of irritability, anger, dissatisfaction with others, the environment, the world;
  • lethargy, weakness, depression, passive attitude and unwillingness to communicate or do anything, rapid fatigue;
  • insomnia, restless sleep;
  • inability to relax, constant tension of the body and nervous system;
  • poor concentration of attention, lethargy, difficulty in understanding ordinary things, diminished intellectual capacity, problems with memory,
  • stuttering;
  • lack of confidence in oneself and others, fidgeting;
  • depressed mood;
  • increased interest in alcohol, drugs, smoking, computer games and other substances/occupations that previously were not of particular interest.

Thus, the detrimental effects of stress consist of two components: the pressure of external circumstances or people and the perception of what is happening.

Methods of dealing with stress

There are three approaches to working with stress.

The first approach is based on working with external stressors. Its essence is simple – remove external stimuli, if you have such an opportunity. Disconnect. Stop being a slave to your phone or laptop when you are not at work. Don’t watch or listen to things that make you feel uncomfortable. Delegate tasks to employees, relieve yourself. Plan your work day and alternate intense work with meaningful rest.

The second approach is based on recharging your inner resource – physical and emotional. Evolution has made it so that positive emotions are always short-lived, but the negative ones are chronic. The brain studies dangers with great bias, so as not to miss the real threat to life. The physical and emotional state extends to all systems. So you need a boost: look for sources of energy, increase dopamine, decrease cortisol, get your body interested in working and increasing strength, not faltering.

Where to get a boost?

  1. Give up bad habits. Don’t smoke, drink coffee, alcohol or other stimulant drinks. Start small, set yourself a goal of going without them for 14 days.
  2. Give up harmful “sugar.” Replace it with fructose for 14 days.
  3. Limit your fatty and fried food intake. Add fruits and vegetables to your diet. Ideally, vegetables should take up half of your plate at each meal. Eat often and in small portions.
  1. Drink up to two liters of water a day.
  2. Every morning, pour cool water on your body or at least take a contrast shower. If some day you feel tired in the evening, relieve fatigue not with sweets, alcohol or overeating, but with a bath with sea salt.
  1. Add physical activity and walking, preferably outdoors, to your daily routine. Walking, running or swimming every day will make you feel a burst of energy.
  2. Take at least seven minutes a day to exercise. You can install a special app on your smartphone, such as Seven, “7 Minute” or 7 Minute Workout.
  1. Get seven to eight hours of sleep a night.
  2. Aim to go to bed and get up around the same time.

Think about how much time you spend sleeping, when was the last time you were outdoors, and how much time you spend at the computer. With prolonged use, the computer can be a strong motivator of fatigue. The quality of rest plays a critical role in combating fatigue. For example, the purchase of a ping-pong table at one prominent medical facility improved the quality of clinical thinking of physicians by a factor of 1.5. Take more time to relax. But even if you only have an hour a day, spend that hour in a way that the body will thank you in full. Some people can relax with a favorite book, others – a visit to a museum or a soccer game.

On what depends the positive emotions?

According to the theory of functional systems, developed by scientists Peter Anokhin and Konstantin Sudakov, when we do something, we certainly compare the outcome with our expectations. If the result and expectations coincide, we experience positive emotions, if not – in us accumulates negative. Stress occurs when a person is unable to satisfy vital needs for a long time.

A positive emotional background (what a person subjectively experiences as happiness) is created by three spheres:

  1. Close people, that is, those with whom the relationship is built on love and trust, security and support, rather than on mercantile benefits: “you to me, I to you”. Improve relationships with colleagues, family and friends – strengthen the “ant raft. Especially in a crisis.
  2. Satisfy needs, primarily those that ensure survival. These needs include food, sleep, security, and fulfillment (creativity, sports, perhaps reading, friends, development, relaxation, freedom). Even if one islet in your archipelago of life is submerged, the others are still worthy of being ennobled.
  3. Achieving success (a concrete result). But only in those areas that are truly meaningful to you and related to your life values.

A third approach to dealing with stress is to work with your mindset (perception of yourself, others and what is going on). The stoic philosopher Epictetus said, “It is not things that torment people, but perceptions of them. In fact, we simply resist what is happening and are nervous about it.

We defend stability and predictability, an understandable, though perhaps far from perfect, state of affairs. To manage your relationship to what is happening, and therefore your condition, develop emotional intelligence (EI). This is a person’s ability to recognize emotions, understand the intentions, motivations, desires of others and his own, and manage his own and others’ emotions to solve practical problems.

By becoming aware of your stressful, negative emotion, you can have an intelligent conversation with yourself: “What is my stereotypical reaction based on? Is what I am worried about dependent on me or out of my area of responsibility? Is my reaction really leading to an improved situation or, on the contrary, limiting?”

A character in the movie Bridge of Spies was asked before his imminent death, “Aren’t you afraid?” He replied, “Will it help?” Your goal is not to eliminate resistance completely, but to manage it so that you can maintain your resource state and therefore be more effective in the tasks at hand.

There are a few additional tips to keep stress and burnout at bay.

Set goals correctly.

To avoid stress, formulate your ultimate desired goals based only on what is completely within your control. If we set a goal to achieve an outcome where nothing depends on it, the reptilian brain gets frightened, anxiety and fear appear. We lose our creative agenda and switch to survival mode.

Example: a student sets himself a goal of getting an “A” on an exam. This goal is not within his control. What does it depend on? To prepare the best he can, to get a good night’s sleep, to look good, to work to the end with a dropped ticket, to communicate respectfully and in a partnerly manner with the instructor. These goals are not scary. If the student accomplishes them, he or she will do the best that he or she can.

Goals where other people are involved are not really goals, but desires. Emotions can pose a direct threat to our lives. This is demonstrated by a vivid experiment of the medieval scholar Ibn Sina: he put a wolf and a lamb in two different cages opposite each other. In just a few days, the lamb became very ill from the constant stress of feeling threatened and died, even though it had food in its cage and was young and healthy.

Put meaning into your work.

Think about what value you create for the company’s internal or external customers, for yourself and others. If you have an answer to that question, you’ll do the work with more enthusiasm. Look for projects that are to your liking or look for meaningful goals, value points in “seemingly not to your liking” projects. This increases interest in life and avoids aimless running in circles, in which it is not far to stress and burnout.

Strive for growth and development

Any living being has a tendency to grow and develop or to stagnate and fade. If there is no first, the second is assured. Growth and development is broader than career growth. It can be an improvement in some ability, skill, or competency. Development can include mastering something completely new: an unusual approach to delegation, a modern method of management, or specific skills in professional activities.

What will you master in the next year? What will you learn this month? What new things will you try in your daily work? Try to shift your focus from routine tasks to growth and development. Stop being a soldier fighting for KPIs and turn into an inquisitive explorer. Then the surprises you encounter will cease to be a cause of frustration, anger, anxiety, fear, and stress. You will see them as an excuse to improve your skills.

As combat training instructors say, “In a critical situation, you won’t rise to your expectations, you’ll fall to your training.”

Improve your training. And never compare yourself to others-it’s a sure way to lose your own benchmarks.

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