12 Best Workplace Stress Relief Techniques for the office - a man sitting in conference room in front of laptop with hands on head stressed

12 Best Workplace Stress Relief Techniques for the Office

Amelia Wilcox
March 8, 2023
October 9, 2022

Is stress disrupting your employees’ lives? Without proper treatment, stress can negatively affect every aspect of life. Luckily, there are lots of ways to keep stress levels in check.

Learn some of the best stress relief techniques and tips for office life! These ideas for quick stress relief at work can help you find some peace, even at work.

Stress relief the office

Sources of Stress at Work

Before we jump into stress management in the office and what you can do about it, let's bring these top sources of stress at work top of mind.

  • Low salaries
  • Massive workloads
  • Little opportunity for growth
  • Not engaging or challenging enough work environment
  • No social support
  • No control over job-related decisions
  • Unclear performance expectations

Prolonged work stress without relief may lead to employee burnout.

Why We Need Stress Relief at Work

We know for many employees, the 9 to 5 lifestyle can be pretty stressful. We all wish it wasn’t, but often there’s just no way around it. You show up, go to a few meetings, respond to emails, and try to squeeze in a bit of actual work before you head straight back into meetings for the rest of the day.

You’re likely always on the go, from home to office, to meetings, networking, video conference calls, and deadlines you have to meet. Perhaps when you get home at night you realize, for the first time all day, that you haven’t had a minute to stop, think, or relax. Maybe, you realize, you’re stressed out.

That’s why we’re here with instant stress relief tips for the office and home, to help you and your whole company start feeling better right now!  

12 Best Ideas for Quick Stress Relief at the Office

As a workplace wellness company, we take a multidimensional approach to wellbeing. The best stress relief from the office comes from taking into account all areas of our wellbeing, including our mental health, physical health, financial health, and more.

Here’s a collection of other stress relief at work ideas that can create a more focused and productive employee.    

1. Morning Rituals

This is one of our favorite stress reduction techniques. How you start your day sets the tone for everything that comes afterwards.

Try to get up early to take time for yourself and set your intentions. It’s important to take a moment for yourself before you dive into your workday as a preventative stress reliever.

Looking for some stress relief exercises to incorporate into your morning routine? Try getting present with even just one minute of meditation. Or, try a longer practice with our 10-minute guided meditation.

Consider making your bed. Studies show that successful people make their beds, so start your morning by making your space organized and pleasant to come back to.

Eat a healthy breakfast. Diet is tied to your stress levels and beginning your day with a nutritious meal sets you up for success the rest of the day!

best stress relief

2. Exercise Outside (if possible)

When you find yourself feeling anxious and overwhelmed at work, take a walk to get yourself refocused.

Exercise pumps up your endorphins and is considered a form of meditation in motion. Being outside and breathing fresh air will clear your mind and refresh you.

Research continues to find that there are health benefits to getting outdoors—stress relief included!

Being outdoors changes the way that your body experiences stress. Studies have found that time outdoors lowers cortisol (a stress hormone) levels and decreases heart rates. In fact, even just having a view of the outdoors will help you feel better. So if you can get an office with a view do that! If not, take time outside during your breaks at work.

Even if you can't get outside, there are stress relieving exercises you can do at the office. Even a simple stretch for 30 seconds or a walk around the office can help your mind and body to relax for a moment.

3. Breathing Exercises for Stress Relief

When you’re experiencing stress, meditation and breathing are a powerful way to lower anxiety levels. Studies show that a few minutes of mindful breathing techniques can cause a near-instant change in the level of stress experienced. These breathing exercises for stress relief are a great tool because they’re free and don’t require any supplies. Mindful breathing is closely tied to meditation and is a great way to get stress relief in the office.

To get started, follow along with the step by step breathing techniques that you’ll see below.

Mindful Breathing

  • Sit up straight but not stiff, close your eyes and breathe at a normal pace.
  • At the end of your exhale, count 1 to yourself.
  • After the next exhale, count 2.
  • Follow this pattern up to a count of 5, and then start over at 1.
  • Repeat for 5 minutes or so.

Throughout this stress relief exercise, try not to engage with any other thoughts that might pop up in your mind. You’ll notice you’re distracted when you’ve been breathing without counting, or when you notice you’ve counted past 5.

Belly Breathing

Belly breathing is helpful for calming anxiety and supporting stress management in the office. By expanding the belly, you allow deeper breaths to happen, to ensure you’re not just breathing into the top of your lungs.

  • Rest one hand on your belly at your navel.
  • As you inhale, breathe down deep and push your belly out so you feel your hand rising with your breath as it rests on your belly.
  • On the exhale, allow your belly to relax.
  • Repeat for 5 breaths.

4x4x4 Breaths

This breathing exercise for stress relief creates a rhythm that can be a helpful reminder to the body to take deeper breaths.

  • Inhale for a count of 4.
  • Hold the breath for 4.
  • Then exhale to a count of 4.
  • Repeat for 5-10 cycles.
  • You can try to increase your counts up to 7, as long as your inhale and exhale are even.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

This breath practice is just what it sounds like! Alternate your inhalations and exhalations through each nostril. You’ll inhale and exhale through one nostril for one full breath, while closing the other nostril. Then, switch to the other side.  

  • Sit up straight in a comfortable position.
  • Close your right nostril with your right thumb.
  • Slowly inhale and then exhale through the left nostril.
  • At the bottom of the exhale, close off the left nostril with your ring finger, while releasing your thumb from the right nostril.
  • Now inhale and exhale through the right nostril.
  • Repeat for 5-10 cycles.

5. Daydream

Structured daydreaming actually makes people more productive and less stressed. It might surprise you, but taking some time to let your mind wander allows your mind to take a restful break.

Try taking a few minutes every hour to let your mind wander, and see how you feel! Likely, you’ll start experiencing stress-relieving benefits.

This is also helpful for boosting creativity, breaking through writer's block, and coming at workplace challenges from a new perspective.

stress relief tips

6. Stretching

Stress affects people differently, but for many people stress manifests in the body as pain. Stress is often felt in the shoulders, neck, face and head, upper back and stomach (among other places). Try releasing that tension with a few quick stretching stress relief exercises you can do without even leaving your office!

Rest your head

You may not realize it, but your face is likely holding onto tension. Try stretching out your face muscles by opening your mouth up as wide as you can, then scrunching your face as much as you can. Alternate these two faces (you can even try sticking your tongue out as you open your mouth wide and exhale, for ‘Lion’s Breath’, a yoga breath practice).

Shoulder Stretches

Stretch your shoulders by squeezing them up towards your ears as you inhale, then relaxing them down as you exhale. Repeat this process a few times and start to feel the tension release.

Neck Relaxation

Relax neck tension by tilting your chin up towards the sky. Take your lower lip over your upper lip to stretch out the front of your neck. Now come back to center, and turn your head so that your chin moves over your right shoulder. Look as far over your right shoulder as possible to give your eyes a stretch as well! Repeat on the left side.  

Upper Back Release

A great way to release your upper back is by taking gentle twists. Sitting in your office chair, inhale and lift both arms up over your head. Then as you let your breath go, take your left hand to the outside of your right knee. Circle your right hand down to the chair behind you. Holding onto the chair and your knee, lengthen your spine as much as you can, and breath into the twist! Hold for around 5 breaths, then repeat on the other side.

Stomach Stretches

If you’re experiencing pain and stress in your stomach, try this gentle stretch. You’ll need somewhere to lay down for this one, as well as a few pillows or rolled up blankets. Place the pillows or blankets in a small stack on the ground, then lay down with the stack underneath your low back. You can have your knees bent and feet on the floor or legs out long, whichever feels best in your body! Stay in this pose for 10 breaths, and actively focus on softening your abdominal muscles with each exhale.  

7. Turn Off Notifications

While multitasking may seem like an accomplishment, research has begun to show us that multitasking is actually ineffective and typically lowers your quality of work. When you are focused on a project, turn off as many notifications as you can. Make sure that you communicate with the rest of your team that you’ll be away for a while (if your team uses Slack, try setting a status that says “focused” or something similar!).

If you’re anticipating receiving necessary information from someone else, make sure they can still contact you. It is best to give yourself 15 to 30 minutes of focused time. Try that out today and see how much more you get done, and how much less stressed you feel!  

stress relief the office

8. Plants and Pets

No one was meant to sit under florescent lighting and drop ceiling panels all day. It’s just not good for the soul. Conversely, being in or around nature has a natural, soothing effect on us, so get yourself some plants. The greener your workspace is, the better the stress relief results.

Animals have always been a fun way to relieve stress. Studies show that playing with a pet reduces stress hormones. So, take a few minutes a day to interact with a pet during work, or at least before and after work, if you can.

9. Introduce Work-Play Balance

Work and play may seem like they’re not both meant to happen in the office, but introducing some fun to the workplace is a great way to bust stress and boost morale. Encouraging play at the office can take many different forms, but it’s a great way to achieve quick stress relief at work however you incorporate it!

Some ideas? Start an office-wide fantasy league, bring a Scrabble board into the break room, start a competition to see who can walk the most miles in a month. Get creative, and have a little fun with your stress relievers at work!  

10. Journaling

Journaling for mental health is a proven stress buster, and it’s something you can do in the office easily. Bring a journal with you to work, and start writing down what causes you stress, your goals, your feelings and anything else that comes up for you during the day. This free and easy to use stress buster can help you to process your emotions in a healthy way, making it a great stress relief exercise or method.

11. Financial Wellness Programs

Stress about finances has been identified as one of America's top stressors for employees every year since 2007, according to the American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America survey! Money woes and anxieties affect the U.S. workforce on a daily basis, so getting your financial wellness under control with a financial wellness program can be helpful.

12. Virtual Wellness Programs

As more and more of our world and work moves online, a new and growing need has arisen for virtual wellness programs to manage workplace stress. Remote employees need stress management tools too! That’s where virtual wellness programs come in. Companies are now offering a wealth of online care, so your remote team can receive the same support they did when they were working in a physical office, but now offered in an online setting.

Virtual wellness could include coaching and counseling, online yoga, guided meditation and more.  

workplace massage for stress relief in the office

13. Massage Wellness Programs

Massages are a great way to de-stress at work! The benefits of massage are far reaching for employees and employers alike. Massage wellness programs mean that a massage practitioner (or two, or three, or however many you’d like!) will visit your workplace, and give 10-30 minute chair massages to employees. These programs see a dramatic drop in stress levels among employees, with regular sessions!

Work is often cited as the #1 biggest stressor in people’s lives. So it’s no wonder that finding ways to reduce workplace stress is top-of-mind for most HR professionals.

We hope these 12 stress relief techniques and tips help your office.

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Amelia Wilcox
Amelia Wilcox
Amelia Wilcox is the Founder and CEO of Nivati, a leader in corporate massage and employee mental health support since 2010. Her high-growth B2B company provides employee stress management tools that arm businesses with actionable data and positive employee experiences to improve wellbeing, boost morale, and increase engagement. Amelia has exponentially grown her company from a solo living-room service business to an international technology brand.