Stress Management: 5 Ways to Relax at Work

Last Updated Mar 31, 2011 6:30 PM EDT

Almost by definition, work is stressful -- that's why God (and/or HR) created vacation days. And these days, workplace anxiety is being felt at record high rates. "People, no matter what income levels, are feeling pinched," says relaxation expert Darren Zeer, who has worked with companies like Maidenform and Del Monte Foods to ease employee stress. "Between the bad economy, smaller staffs and employment insecurity, it's a brutal combination."

From crazy clients to time-consuming conference calls, it's easy to get worked up at work. Here are some great tips that will help you instantly feel better on the job, so you'll be healthier and more productive:

Sip Chamomile Tea
A coffee break might put a pep in your step, but herbal tea will keep you calmer - and chamomile extract, in particular, has been shown to reduce anxiety. Bonus points if you take a quick walk to the corner deli to pick it up while getting some fresh air.

Clear Out Clutter
How clean is your desk? An organized workspace can keep you focused. "Having a clutter-free workspace means there's no stress hunting down needed items, so time is spent more productively," says professional organizer Sally Allen, CEO of A Place for Everything. Her advice: Keep the things you work on daily on top of your desk, the things you work on weekly in your desk, and the things you work on monthly around your desk. Everything else? Toss it.

Do a Desk Stretch
You can treat tension instantly with office yoga -- but no need to go straight into Downward-Facing Dog. Zeer says a client favorite is his "Kick-back Log-on Pose." To try: Interlace your fingers behind your head. Relax your elbows and shoulders. Smile, breathe, and stretch your elbows back. Let the tightness release slowly, and repeat throughout the day.

Feng Shui Your Bag or Briefcase
At a meeting and looking for your notes? If your bag is filled with old receipts, wrappers and other refuse, you are more likely to get distracted and make mistakes -- and that's certainly stressful. It's time to start thinking of your purse or briefcase as a field bag, says Zeer: "Make sure you are well equipped for your meetings, and have your briefcase fully stocked with extra cell-phone batteries, a snack, and water. Empty out old material that is not needed," he says. Another way to stay relaxed and motivated? "On the inside of your briefcase you can tape a picture of loved ones or an inspiring message for reassurance on the road," he says.

Watch a Silly YouTube Video
Remember when The Office's Michael Scott called himself the "King of Forwards"? That might actually have been good business sense, say some experts. Laughter -- like the kind that comes after watching a dog skateboarding on YouTube -- can improve mood and immune function and even lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, according to researchers from Loma Linda University. "Go online and look up jokes for a minute or two. This allows for a change in your physiology," says study author Lee Berk, DrPH.

Have any other suggestions on lowering office stress? Please sign in below and share. And for more career advice, follow @MWOnTheJob on Twitter.
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    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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