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Stress at Work? Take an Office Vacation


stress at work

Feeling stressed at work? Take an office vacation.

If you work in an office, you know that this is the type of environment that is supposed to be meant for productivity. Yet somehow, we cannot escape the distractions and stress at work.

Workplace stress can have an adverse effect on your overall performance and might lead to you considering other job offers, since no one wants to work in a high-stress environment permanently.

This stress can come in a variety of different forms, as you might become anxious, notice an increased heart rate or start sweating.

Of course, everyone has different stress triggers, so it is a good idea to figure out what is causing your stress and take the necessary steps to prevent it. After all, the better job you do of managing your stress levels, the more enjoyable your job as a whole will become.

If you live in the real world, you probably aren’t in a position to leave your office job for your dream job of writing on a beach in Bali, so dealing with stress at work becomes a necessity.

What are the types of stress at work?

  • Annoying co-workers – these are the folks who always pop in and ask if you are busy, then talk your ear off. We call them “time bandits,” because they are always looking to steal a few minutes of your day.
  • Ringing telephones – if your job requires you to field inquiries, you know that phone always seems to ring right when you are in the groove on a project.
  • Email notifications – these are those annoying popups that let you know your reply to a reply was received. Most of these are unnecessary “thanks” or “will do” messages that mess up your focus.
  • Interrupted meals – when you finally settle down for your in-office lunch, someone pops in to ask you what you are eating and to critique your food choices.
  • Bullshit projects – probably the biggest cause of stress at work. There’s not much you can do about these, except quit.

Fortunately there are some ways to reduce stress at work. They simply require you to find a new mindset: part of my day here is going to be mine only.

This might sound a bit selfish, but you control your life and environment. If you can get yourself to the point where every day, no matter what is going on, you take an office vacation, you will do wonders to reduce your stress levels.

If you work in a cubicle, most of these tips will not work for you. I know because I worked in a cube for five years before getting an office with a door.

How to Deal with Stress at Work and Reclaim Part of Your Day

Think of the following steps as your daily vacation. Though they can be practiced throughout the day, I’ve found that it’s best to just make them a part of your lunch ritual. That way if you get called out, you can say it’s part of your lunch break.

1. Close the Door –

Does your office have an open door policy? I’m not talking about an explicit rule that you can’t close your door, though I suspect some offices have this draconian rule.

Even if most people leave their doors open most of the day, it is possible to close your door for lunch. I like to eat in privacy without interruption or worry that I have food on my face.

2. Turn Off Overhead Lights –

To be honest, I don’t ever turn on my overhead fluorescent lights. I find them to be too bright and that they suck the life from me. Instead I brought in a desk lamp for those days when the natural light isn’t enough.

3. Take Off Your Shoes –

With your door closed, it’s time to get comfortable by taking off those shoes. This will help you get into relaxation mode and help combat stress at work. It might be possible for you to spend most of your day without shoes, but people in the office might think you are weird, espeically if your feet stink.

4. Turn Off Your Computer and Phones –

This is pretty self-explanatory. If you must, log off of your computer and unplug your desk phone and shut off your smartphone. This is your time, and there’s nothing worse than feeling like you must answer a call when your mouth is full of lunch.

Remember, every worker should be entitled to a peaceful lunch.

5. Meditate –

After you eat, take 20 minutes to meditate. I’m not talking about slipping into a robe and reciting mantra chants on your office floor, though I’m cool if you want to do that.

I simply set a 20 minute timer on my phone (the only excuse for leaving it on!), fold my legs up in my office chair, sit up straight with my hands clasped in my lap, and focus on breathing and clearing my mind of all work and life-related thoughts.

Don’t open your eyes for 20 minutes. You will start to slip into a super-relaxed, almost nap-like state. Once your timer goes off, you should find yourself clear and relaxed. Some people repeat this right before they leave the office for the day as a way to make a clean break from stress at work.

6. Take a Walk –

If you ate and meditated, you may have another 20 minutes left on your lunch break. Why not go outside for a 20 minute walk? Many studies recently have showed that even if you exercise, sitting for hours every day is basically a slow suicide.

How Was Your Vacation?

Most of these tips are geared towards those who don’t want to leave their office every day for lunch. Leaving, though, is the ultimate vacation. Some people do it simply to get away, even for a half hour. Sometimes I quickly drive home, eat fast, then take a quick nap or near-nap.

Reducing stress at work is completely in your hands.

No matter what your boss throws at you, whether or not you can claim a part of your day for yourself will determine if you are able to reduce office stress.


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stress at work


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  1. This is really good. I also know people who just go to the parking lot and sit in their car for 20 mins or so just to recharge after a stressful meeting.
    BusyExecutiveMoneyBlog recently posted..It’s called “irrational” exuberance for a reasonMy Profile

  2. Great tips John. I will have to keep these in mind when I go back to working a daytime job. It can get a little stressful if you don’t take some time to yourself. The route I prefer is to take a nice walk. The time away from the office is nice and the exercise makes it easier to relax for the rest of the day.
    Jeremy @ Modest Money recently posted..Mid March 2012 Blog UpdateMy Profile

    • I’ve been enjoying walks lately, especially with this great weather. Sometimes I just sit in the sun. It really helps.

  3. I find turning off the lights, taking off my shoes, and making sure I wear something (still dressy but) comfortable to work really reduces stress.

    These are great tips. I also like going for a quick walk around the office every once in awhile to get the blood moving to my brain.

  4. I really need to try the meditation. Might be something I can do to START the day with a clear, stress-free mind!

  5. This is a big reason why I left the traditional work place to work at home – office politics and drama just wore me down. I didn’t even have an office – just a cubby in the middle of a crowded newsroom – and it was like standing next to the speaker at a rock conference nonstop all day. It came to be where the bathroom was the only place I could find peace and quiet.
    Elizabeth @ Broke Professionals recently posted..Five Simple Work FixesMy Profile

    • That sounds pretty rough. Awesome that you are able to work at home – nobody to get annoyed at except yourself :)

  6. I remember a few months back when I still had my office job. It was so stressful sometimes that I just had to go out for a walk. That really worked wonders for me. Even today, whenever I feel a little too stressed out I just get up and go for a walk.
    Sabrina Sabino recently posted..The Blog Challenge: April GoalsMy Profile

  7. I try to just go outside for a little bit. Now that the weather is great, even just a couple of minutes feels nice.
    Michelle recently posted..He makes less money, so what?!My Profile

    • That’s my go-to as well. Going outside is a great way to recharge.

  8. Oh, I wish I’d had this article handy at my last job before I bailed and started my own business.

    You see, I had to share an office with one other, and he was great. Respected my privacy, never distracted me, never pestered me with questions, etc.

    Then he left.

    The next guy was a polar opposite. Not only did he want to talk *all the time*, he’d stop at my desk and rub my shoulders every day. Hints weren’t effective and since I wasn’t an actual employee (I was a contractor) I couldn’t even file a harassment complaint.

    I probably still would have had to leave but maybe I could have prolonged my stay if I’d had a few peace-and-quiet breaks during the day.

    Anyway, thanks for a much-needed post.
    Charleen Larson recently posted..A Sunday morning stroll through FiverrMy Profile

    • Sounds like it was a good thing that you were able to start your own business, Charleen!

      About to check out your site, as I’m on Fiverr too.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  9. when I am stressed out at office I go for a walk and have a cup of tea. I also award myself with an ice-cream when I finish the task assigned

    • Is the ice cream just for difficult tasks, or do you get one every day? I could be down with that.

  10. Thank you very much for suggesting the idea of switching off the cell phone during lunch. I really can’t stand the irritation when someone (except my loved ones) calls me during my lunch time. But, no more worries. Now I know what needs to be done.
    Get Rich Point recently posted..Top 10 Books That Unfolded The Secrets Of The MillionairesMy Profile

    • I hate when my desk phone rings when I have a mouthful of lunch because I can’t turn the ringer off. I’ve been putting in earplugs lately, and they drown most sound out.

  11. What I used to do to get away from everything, was go outside to the trail in the center of the company to go for walks. Three laps later, everything looked better, or at least I had walked off some of the stress. Shutting the door was not an option since I had a cubicle. :)
    Analytical Planner recently posted..Job Search Week 3 & 4: Spring Break and Updating ResumeMy Profile

    • That’s cool that you had a walking trail where you work. I’m in a soviet style office building, but I can walk outside where there is grass. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  12. Wow, great tips. I work at home so some of this doesn’t apply to me, but chasing after 2 under 2 while trying to bang out articles 24/7 is a bit stressful. I’m going to try the breathing/meditating thing!
    Nell @ Housewife Empire recently posted..Internet Marketing 101 for Bloggers: Make More from Your BlogMy Profile

    • Thanks for stopping by Nell! The meditation and breathing is one of the more helpful tips. It’s not easy to master, but you basically are trying to conquer your own mind

  13. ooh this is a good topic. Since I’m a scholar, my career advancement is based completely on what I write (well, 60%). I’ve learned to work out daily, take regular walks, and write like mad without stoping. when all else fails, take a personal lunch at a favorite spot and unwind.
    Economically Humble recently posted..Sign This Petition to Restore Tax Exempt Status of Graduate and Postdoc StipendsMy Profile

    • Sounds like you’ve got it figured out my friend. We have to be active and also inactive. Thanks for stopping by EH!

  14. These sound like good tips! I worked at one of those places that would not let employees close their doors, so I usually took a walk and ate lunch outside. For the first few years I was there, the boss dictated that we all sit at a big table and eat lunch together. I got my freedom back by quitting. :)
    Melissa@PersonalFinanceJourney recently posted..Money Saving Tips when Hiring MoversMy Profile

    • Ha! That sounds awesome (the quitting part, not the eating together part).

      Thanks for stopping by, Melissa!

  15. You got it right with the overhead lights… I’m fortunate to have one large window on the north side of my office. On sunny days, I turn off the fluorescents and work by natural lights. Closing the door and taking off my shoes might be awkward, as I have people knock and come in anyways … some days it’s a high-pressure chaos-management environment.
    101 Centavos recently posted..Rounding Out The Week – Cereal KillersMy Profile

    • Definitely hard to do in an office where people have free rein to come in and out of offices. I hate the overhead lights most of all.

  16. Taking off the shoes, I guess, will work best for me. Perhaps a soft and puffy rug underneath would really be nice for that too. Thanks for the tips.
    Mary @ Buy Sell Funds recently posted..How to Buy Exchange Traded FundsMy Profile

  17. Gave me a chuckle picturing you meditating in your office chair with your shoes off. I do something similar in my truck, except I call it a nap. I leave my boots on, put my feet up on the passenger seat, rest my head on my travel pillow which is propped against my driver side window and take what is known as a truckers power nap. No more than 20 minutes gives me the perfect boost of energy and awareness that I need to get thru the rest of the day.

    One of my former routes was in a town adjacent to Lake Michigan. On occasion I would spend my half hour lunch walking the pier. This was my favorite lunchtime destination and it absolutely felt like vacation at work.
    Matt recently posted..Baby-Boomers, Working Women and Social SecurityMy Profile

    • That’s why I lock the door, otherwise I’d be labeled a true weirdo if people saw me cross legged in my chair with my eyes closed. They would probably think I was sleeping.

  18. I take my lunch break outside. I used to work through lunch and eat at my computer. Then I decided that I would only do personal stuff at lunch on my computer, but by sitting there I was only allowing more co-workers to come in and suck me back into the vortex.

    Now I leave. I get out of the office, and I don’t check my Blackberry. I chill out. I’ve been doing that for almost a year, and I know it’s actually been a healthy move.
    jeremy @ ice dispensers recently posted..Compare Ice MachinesMy Profile

    • Great point – leaving is really the only way to ensure you aren’t “available” to be bothered or worked. Thanks for reading, Jeremy

  19. This blog post is just so timely. I am really stressed! Intermittent net connections, noisy phone calls, aggressive and ruthless clients, stubborn co-workers, malfunctioning air-conditioner, name it..

    What I do is go to my ever loyal Bug Friend. I play Tumblebugs, and after completing four straight levels, I resume work.

    At times, I go out from the office and just gaze at the swinging trees and grasses. Nature “de-stresses” me.
    Karin @ HR Degree Directory recently posted..The 3 Key Functions of the Human Resources DepartmentMy Profile

    • You’ve described my entire day! (just kidding). It’s been a cold week but I’m gonna try to get outside today as well. Thanks so much for reading!

  20. How I understand you. I remember one co-worker who liked to open the window when it was cold outside.
    The only way to solve most of work stresses – have a separate office.
    Alexander Collins recently posted..Understanding Leverage and Margin in Forex Trading and Avoiding DisasterMy Profile

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