It's normal to feel tense at work when you're overwhelmed by meetings and deadlines. It's important to make mental health a priority so stress doesn't break you down. However, you can't drop everything to meditate or take a bubble bath while working on an assignment or giving a presentation.
Luckily, a few small changes to your daily routine can take your stress level down a few notches. These seven scientifically proven tips will have you feeling more relaxed and ready to tackle the workweek.
1. Drink chamomile tea
On early mornings and busy days, you might be tempted to refill your mug with a second (or third) cup of coffee. However, the coffee jitters are real – and they can make you feel more stressed than you actually are.
Next time you're craving a cup of warmth and comfort, consider tea. A study in the journal Psychopharmacology found that drinking tea lowers cortisol (a stress hormone) levels and increases subjective relaxation.
Make it a habit to drink tea at work every day so you can reap these long-term benefits. And if you're having an especially stressful day, add a cookie or two to the mix for a pick-me-up. [Boost your productivity with these simple, scientifically proven practices.]
2. Listen to music
Music is an intimate form of art and self-expression that reaches people on many different levels. Depending on personal preferences and genres, lyrics, and tempos, music can have a calming effect that is perfect for stressful days in the office.
According to an article published on Psych Central, research shows that music, especially classical and instrumental, relaxes our minds and bodies by slowing our pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure and decreasing the levels of stress hormones.
Before heading to work, create a playlist of your favorite relaxing songs that you can listen to during the workday. Not allowed to use headphones at work? Listen on your way to work or during your break.
3. Be mindful
Mindfulness is a trend that's on the rise today, with more people "living in the now" to deal with stress and anxiety.
The exercise is all about focusing on the present, like your surroundings or current task, to declutter your mind from regret over the past and fear for the future. It takes time to master, but it can be a great tool in the workplace.
According to findings from UCLA, mindfulness reduces stress and improves resilience. Individuals participating in a study who practiced mindfulness techniques reported "significant reductions in stress along with increases in life satisfaction, positive relations with others and mastery of one's environment."
If you're feeling panicked or overwhelmed, take a few moments to focus on your breathing and your surroundings. This will help you regain your train of thought and find your center.
4. Try aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is a holistic therapy technique that uses natural essential oils to improve physical and mental health. Essential oils can be used for many different reasons and in many ways (massage, topical application for healing, inhaling, etc.), but lavender and rosemary oils, in particular, have been shown to blunt the effects of stress.
A study in the journal Holistic Nursing Practice found that smelling lavender and rosemary essential oils reduced test-taking stress in a group of graduate nursing students. This was "evidenced by lower scores on test-anxiety measures, personal statements and pulse rates," according to the research.
Another study published in Psychiatry Research found that when sniffed for five minutes, both rosemary oil and lavender oil decreased levels of cortisol, also known as the "stress hormone," in participants.
Keep small vials of lavender and rosemary oils in your desk. When you start feeling overwhelmed, take a break, reach for your oils, breathe deep and enjoy the scent. You can also try burning candles made with these essential oils to de-stress at home.
5. Chew gum
Chewing gum isn't just a great trick for avoiding that ear-popping sensation you experience on a flight — it's an effective way to relieve stress, too, according to research from Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia.
Researchers studied 40 subjects using a multitasking, stress-inducing platform called DISS (Defined Intensity Stressor Simulation) while chewing and not chewing gum. Anxiety, stress and alertness levels were measured before and after the activity.
When chewing gum, participants reported lower levels of anxiety, with a nearly 17 percent decrease during mild stress, and 10 percent during moderate stress. Subjects also experienced an improvement in alertness and performance.
Most important, however, measurements of subjects' cortisol levels showed that those who chewed gum during the activity also experienced lower stress. During mild stress simulation, levels were 16 percent lower than those of participants who did not chew gum, and 12 percent lower during moderate stress.
6. Take a walk.
Not only is being sedentary all day bad for your physical health, it's not good for your mental health either. Taking a quick midday stroll is a great way to stay more active and reduce stress.
According to a study from the Psychology and Speech Pathology School at Curtin University in Australia, taking a lunchtime walk can help employees feel less stressed in the afternoon, Time reported. Researchers studied 75 university administrative staff members over a 10-week period and found that subjects felt more relaxed, more enthusiastic and less nervous on days they took lunchtime walks as opposed to days when they did not walk.
So whether you go for a walk with your work friends or you take a solo stroll, a few minutes of walking can boost your mood and help you de-stress at work.
7. Schedule time for emails.
With dozens (maybe even hundreds) of emails popping up in your inbox all day long, stress is practically inevitable. But research shows that setting aside specific times for checking your email – as opposed to checking them as they come in – can lead to lower stress.
A study from the University of British Columbia reported that when subjects checked their email three times a day, they experienced significantly lower daily stress than they did when they checked their email an unlimited number of times per day.
The researchers explained that "limiting the number of times people checked their email per day lessened tension during a particularly important activity and lowered overall day-to-day stress," New York Magazine reported.
Now you have an excuse for being a little more laid back when responding to those pesky emails – it's better for your health!
Additional reporting by Brittney Morgan.