We all experience stress at times, and for many people a major source of stress arises from work-related issues.

Feeling overworked, facing tight deadlines, and experiencing a lack of job-security can keep us in a chronic state of fight-or-flight.

Stress isn’t all bad of course. A healthy dose of stress in the right context is positive and productive. This healthy stress is called eustress, and it helps us stay motivated and engaged in our goals and objectives.

But, when stress gets the best of us we can experience burnout, feel overwhelmed, and end up struggling to deal with our day-to-day responsibilities.

So here are six tips to defeat that unhealthy stress in your life so that you can stay focused and productive at work.

1. Get your heart pumping

Some people have a more active work life than others, but if you’re sedentary most of the day it’s important to make exercise a regular part of your routine.

“Exercise is truly one of those little tricks in life that can really reduce stress of any lifestyle,” says Jim Laird, Ph.D., professor at Clark University in Worchester. The minimum exercise to aim for is roughly 30 minutes of accumulated moderate exercise on most days of the week.

Start with some light stretching. From there, go for a walk and try to get at least 10,000 steps per day. There a numerous popular apps to help you track your activity level. If possible, make working out fun by playing sports, being outdoors, or trying yoga.

Here’s a list of exercise ideas you can start incorporating into your life today.

2. Use diet to ease stress

Medical science clearly shows that our diet is directly related to our overall well-being. If you aren’t making this connection it’s time to consider how to create healthier eating habits.

When it comes to increasing energy and stamina, consider including complex carbs and proteins in your diet, as well as snacking throughout the day and drinking plenty of water.

Whether it’s through your meals or supplementing vitamins, incorporate omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B-12 to keep yourself mentally and emotionally nourished.

As I’m not a doctor, please consult a medical professional with questions or concerns related to diet, but these are a few ideas you can research and explore further.

3. Honor interests and hobbies

When was the last time you did something remotely fun and entertaining?

We all need time to unwind and enjoy life. Make enjoyable activities a part of your routine to avoid stress.

Hobbies and passions take our attention away from our worries and help us let go of stress. We also get a boost of positive emotions when we’re engaged in activities we enjoy. This dose of positive emotions in crucial to help balance out the negativity bias we’re faced with as a human being.

4. Find meaning and value in your work

There’s a story of three construction workers laying bricks. One afternoon a man walked by and asked the construction workers what they were doing.

The first worker said, “I’m laying one brick after the other.”

The second worker said, “I’m making a wall.”

The third worker said, “I’m building a cathedral.”

When we take pride in what we do and realize the value of our work, we’re more likely to focus on the positive and make productive meaning out of stressful events.

Make it a point to review what you appreciate about your work.

5. Mind over matter

Often the more stressed out we feel the more we start to think negatively. Worry intensifies and we dwell on what we don’t like. This of course only exacerbates stress.

Learn to master your mindset and attitude. Watch and observe your self-talk and use self-encouraging statements to assist you in maintaining a helpful perspective.

Be intentional about what you read and watch and try to consciously have a mental diet of positive ideas and motivating messages.

6. Let it go 

Relaxation techniques may be the most underestimated tool for managing stress. When the sympathetic nervous system triggers the stress response, relaxation techniques provide us the means to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and calm our physiology.

You can utilize meditation, deep breathing, taking a hot shower, or going for a soothing walk, but one way or another create a relaxation ritual that helps you calm your mind and body.

Sometimes dealing with stress is a matter of letting go of what we can’t control and staying present in the moment.

The more tools you have on your tool belt the better equipped you are to manage stressful events as they occur. Hopefully these ideas help to grow your set of tools.

Photo credit: Caleb Roenigk