8 Effective Ways to Relieve Stress at Your Desk

8 effective ways to relieve stress at your desk

Stress is an inevitable part of life, but it can cause issues when you have work to do. Stress can derail your focus and lessen your productivity as your mind is more prone to wandering and thinking about the stressor rather than the task at hand. Stress caused both at home and at work can make life seem much less enjoyable, but you have the power to control your stress and take steps to re-center yourself at work.

Stress vs. Lack of Sleep

There’s enough going on at work without other stressful things crowding your cranial space, but before you begin to unwind at work, you need to learn to differentiate between being tired and being stressed. The symptoms for stress and lack of sleep can sometimes be identical:

• Fatigue
• Irritability
• Inability to concentrate
• Loss of appetite
• Lack of motivation

It may be possible that you are stressed because your body is physically reacting to lack of sleep! As a typical adult, it is necessary to get anywhere between 7-9 hours of sleep a day. If you find that you exhibit the previously mentioned symptoms, then you may just need more sleep.

Identify Your Stressors

You can only move forward to improve your overall health if you can properly identify what is stressing you out. Is a coworker grinding your gears? Is the fact that your car needs repairs making you constantly check your wallet? Are the same old day-to-day tasks getting you down? Once you find out the root of your stress, then you can work toward eliminating that stress.
You may have stressors both at home and at work and though this may be more of a challenge, you can do things to give yourself a nearly immediate relaxing response with the following tips and tricks.


1. Stretch

Stretching stiff muscles can almost instantaneously improve your focus and motivation. As humans, we are built for moving, so do yourself a favor and consider some quick arm stretches or leg raises while you are at your desk. Here is a quick stretching routine you can do to clear your mind and feel more awake. When you stretch, don’t forget to breathe!

Leg raises – While at your desk, raise your left leg and hold it for 20 seconds. Now do the same for the right leg.
Shoulder circles – Stop typing for a moment and roll your shoulder in wide circles for about 30 seconds. When you reach 15 seconds, switch to circling in the opposite direction.
Neck rotations – Let your head fall to your left shoulder, then roll it slowly toward you chest, then to your right shoulder. Do this for 30 seconds (do not roll your head toward your spine since that is bad for your neck).
Arm raise – Raise your arms above your head and press your palms together. Hold for 30 seconds.

2. Smile and Laugh

Never underestimate the power of laughter! Take a moment to pull up a quick YouTube video of cat videos, movie blooper reels, or whatever else will make you smile and temporarily distract you from the stressor. Be careful with this tip though since this is just meant to take your mind away from it for a few minutes. Escapism does not help with addressing the stressor and it is not optimal to watch a lot of videos while you are at work!
Another tactic is to force yourself to smile for at least ten seconds. It may seem silly to sit at your desk smiling at seemingly nothing, but there is a physiological response to smiling. If you are having trouble, think of a happy memory or a funny joke someone told.

3. Zen your Space

One reason your mind may feel tightly wound is because your work space is a mess. Disorganization can cause stress in being unable to locate important documents, but it also causes your mind to subconsciously clutter and feel lost. Organizing your desk is only part of the battle: the other part is choosing to decorate your space so that it encourages relaxation.

Some people like to have plants in their workspace because it not only provides some color, but also gives you some fresh air to breathe. Decorate your office with things that you like, so long as they are office-appropriate. Items such as family pictures, desk toys, and favorite books may give your office space a more comfortable feel, making your mind more likely to relax and be receptive to relieving stress.

4. Get Up

This is similar to the first item on this list, but physically getting up and moving away from your office space will help you literally get away from your work. It is not recommended that you think about the stressor while you are away from your desk. Taking a bathroom break or going to the water cooler will give you mind a moment to detach from work and focus on something else for a short while. If your office allows it, try and go outside and get some air and take a quick walk. You will be surprised how refreshed you feel when you get back.

5. Listen to music

Music provides a wonderful outlet for relaxation and indulgence when we sing along to our favorite songs, so use music to your advantage. Playing relaxing nature sounds will give some peaceful noise to listen to if you don’t like working in silence. Listening to some upbeat pop songs may help you feel more upbeat naturally, making you more productive and happy almost instantly.


Whatever genre of music you choose to listen to, keep track of how it makes you feel. Though you may like listening to some hard rock in your space time, be honest with yourself if you find yourself singing along rather than working. You don’t want to make yourself stress out even more from not getting as much work done as you could normally.

6. Engage your Creative Mind

If you are in a job where you are mostly engaging your logical brain, your mind may benefit from taking a step back and taking some time to practice some right-brain activities. Our creative side is often stifled in the workplace, so giving yourself some time for these activities will help boost your creativity and problem-solving, naturally helping you relieve stress.

Some creative activities you can do at work (for a short time at least) include:
• Coloring
• Drawing
• Reading a fiction novel
• Reorganizing your workspace
• Playing something malleable

7. Make Some Friends

Having people you can talk to at work is not only good for your social health, but it also makes the workplace more interesting and fun. As people, we crave connection and attachment, so try and get to know the person in the cubicle next to you or join the conversation at the water cooler. You may grow close enough to some of your coworkers that you can even talk about some of your stressors to them and gain other perspectives on how to relieve and deal with stress.

8. Lead a Healthier Lifestyle

Being healthy and happy isn’t just a fad to chase; there are both physical and mental benefits to living healthier. Living healthy lifestyle may seem difficult, but making the smallest changes (such as switching from drinking coffee to water) will have profound effects on your health and stress levels. Try and get some sleep, eat healthier, and think positive and see how it affects you while you are at work.


Once you’ve figured out what causes you stress and you try out some of these tips, you should find yourself able to focus and feel happier at work. Being able to focus and be positive at work will equip you with the time and energy to eventually tackle the stressors in your life, whether they are at home or the workplace.


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