21 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Stress at Work

Let’s face it.

No matter where you live or work, chances are you’ve experienced stress. In fact, according to the American Institute of Stress, 80% of workers feel stress on the job.

It’s interesting to note that our stress isn’t caused by what’s happening to us; rather, it’s triggered by our reaction to it. The key is to become aware of this sensation. Because once you notice this feeling, you can do something about it.

The good news is in order to reduce your stress it’s not complicated and it doesn’t take much time.

Here are 21 simple ways to reduce your stress at work whether you have one minute or 20.

If you have 1 minute or less…

  1. Close your eyes and take 3 deep breaths.
  2. Stand up and stretch.
  3. Drink a tall glass of water. 
  4. Take a walk around your office. Inhale and count 4 steps, exhale and count 4 steps. Repeat.
  5. Practice this meditation: 

    Sit up tall and place your hands in your lap. Roll your shoulders up, back and down. Feel your spine lengthen and your shoulders relax down. Feel your feet planted firmly on the ground and wiggle your toes. Soften the lines on your forehead and relax your jaw. Gently close your eyes and take 3 slow, deep breaths, in and out through your nose. Open your eyes as you feel a sense of calm wash over you.

    If you have 5 minutes or less…

  6. Watch this 4-Minute Meditation Video: Adrift and “zen out” to a time lapse video of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.
  7. Listen to this 3-Minute Guided Meditation which is ideal for when you’re sitting at your desk and want to feel a sense of relaxation and inner peace.
  8. Practice this 2-Step Meditation Technique  that I learned at an ashram in India that focuses on investigation and concentration.
  9. Eat a healthy snack such as organic fruits and nuts.
  10. Close your eyes, put in your headphones and listen to your favorite song.
  11. Eliminate unnecessary to-do items. Ask yourself: what’s one thing on my list I can let go of?

    If you have 10 minutes or less…

  12. Take a walk outside. Leave your phone at your desk.
  13. Listen to this 10-Minute Guided Meditation that helps you let go of stress and gently guides you to a sensation of calm and inner peace.
  14. If your brain is on overdrive, do this simple exercise to help you Clear Your Mind in five simple steps.
  15. Download a meditation app and practice a new meditation such as Headspace (great for beginners), HappifyInsight Timer or Calm.
  16. Watch this TED Talk on How Meditation can Reshape Our Brains.
  17. Read an inspiring article about mindfulness from Greater Good or Mindful.

    If you have 20 minutes or more…

  18. Listen to a meditation podcast, such as Tara Brach or Radio Headspace.
  19. Find other co-workers interested in mindfulness and practice together.
  20. Exercise.
  21. Take a nap.

How Companies Use Mindfulness

According to the American Institute of Stress, 80% of workers feel stress on the job and nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress.  And 42% say their co-workers need such help.

The feeling of stress is a serious epidemic. People are being asked to do more with less and work long hours with increasingly heavy workloads.

And with our smartphones constantly in our hands, there are more and more reasons not to be living in the present moment. Our lives are filled with distractions and this leads to fear, stress, depression, anxiety and eventual burnout.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Mindfulness is a wonderful tool to combat this, both gently and effectively.

Here are some great articles that dive deeper into how companies are implementing mindfulness programs.

Here are the results reported by Aetna in the above New York Times article:

Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini offers his 50,000+ employees mindfulness training via yoga and meditation classes, that are both free and optional. Nearly 1/3 (13,000) of their employees who take advantage of the mindfulness classes have reported the following:

  • 28% reduction in stress levels
  • 20% improvement in sleep quality
  • 19% reduction in pain.

In addition, employees also become more effective on the job, gaining an average of 62 minutes per week of productivity each, with Aetna estimates is worth $3,000 per employee per year.

Learning comes from practice. And practice can build a new habit that can change people's lives.

6 Ways to Get Grounded

Have you ever had the feeling that your thoughts and surroundings take control over you?

Sometimes when we are busy and life is moving quicker than we can keep up with, it is challenging to get grounded and bring ourselves back into the present moment.  After all, “the now” is all we really have.  With practices such as yoga, meditation and rock climbing in my life, I am becoming more and more aware of the importance of getting grounded.

Here are 6 ways I use to get grounded.

1.  Stop and Observe.

There is no argument that our mind and body are connected.  Tune into your body at different times throughout the day and simply take notice of what is going on inside, without judgment or trying to “find” a way to change your current state of being.  Just notice your thoughts and feelings and accept them for what they are.

2.  Take a Few Deep Breaths.

After you notice whats happening in your body, simply take a couple of deep breaths, filling and emptying your lungs completely.  Imagine your breath filling you with energy. Close your eyes if that feels good.  Continue to notice your mind/body sensations and visualize yourself as calmer and more grounded.

3.  Walk on the Ground Outside.

Many of us spend our time inside and/or on the upper floor of a building.  For example, my apartment in San Francisco is on the 2nd floor and if I don’t consciously walk downstairs and physically connect with the Earth, sometimes it’s hard for me to get grounded.  So, when I have rampant thoughts or a feeling of being unsettled, I take a walk outside in Golden Gate Park and feel the Earth beneath my feet. Instant grounding.

4. Get in Water.

The negative ions present in H20 increase the flow of oxygen to our brain resulting in stress-relief, higher alertness and more mental energy. So, jump in the pool, swim in the ocean or take a relaxing bath.  It’s almost impossible not to feel more grounded when you connect your body with water.

5.  Practice Yoga.

The act of practicing yoga allows us to become more grounded.  Try a few sun salutations that connect us to the sky, then fold in half and place your hands on the floor, imagining yourself connected to the Earth.  Visualize these opposites as you close your eyes and practice.  Through yoga asanas, or poses, we instantly become connected to our bodies.  You don’t need to necessarily practice for an hour to feel these effects; try it for three minutes and see if you don’t feel more grounded.

6.  Write Affirmations.

The daily practice of writing affirmations, especially in the morning, imprints into our subconscious what we want to manifest into our life.  For example, I write affirmations as I drink my coffee most mornings.  Usually I write a few positive “I” statements for the day, and one of the mainstays is “I am grounded.”  By writing this positive thought daily into my journal, I find during the remainder of the day I am more grounded than when I don’t write my affirmations.

The benefits of feeling grounded are enormous.  I find that I tend to feel calmer and more centered, act in a proactive rather than a reactive fashion throughout my day, and generally have an overall sense of well-being.  Life inevitably throws curve balls our way that will throw us off-balance, but if we can be self-aware enough to remember to stop, notice, take a few deep breaths, and feel our feet on the ground – in just 30 seconds it is possible to feel more grounded and at peace about what is.

Mindfulness Hits the Mainstream

In December 2014, mindfulness hit the mainstream when a clip about it aired on 60 Minutes on CBS.

In this video, Anderson Cooper describes his experience during a 3-day silent retreat. He tossed his smartphone into a basket. Anderson says “there is no where to go and nothing to do.”

He focused on the sensation of breathing, in and out. Simply resting in awareness.

The nature of the mind is to be busy and full of thoughts. Gently, and non-judgmentally, he would bring it back.

He learned that the mind is like the Pacific Ocean on the surface of the waves. Meditation drops us underneath the surface of the water where it’s peaceful and calm. We can watch the waves, but not be swallowed up in them.

This is the next generation of exercise, he says. A sort of training our brains.

The reported advantage is that “mindfulness doesn’t cost anything, it doesn’t take much time and it really works.”

5-Minute Workplace Meditation Series on Grokker

The time has come!

Introducing my brand new 5-minute meditation series with Grokker. I’m thrilled to share these classes for everyone to enjoy. It’s a 7-part video series to help you learn to cultivate mindfulness. I’ll help you reduce your stress and increase your sensation of calm and inner peace.

Please enjoy for yourself and share with your friends, parents, and anyone else who you think could benefit from a little more zen in their lives. At 5 minutes each, the videos are easy to squeeze into your busy work day.

As a special bonus, I have a Grokker discount to offer you. Register through this link or the one below to get your first 30 days of Grokker Premium for free. 

Hope to connect with you there.

What's the Future of Workplace Wellness?

It was a rainy morning overlooking the Hudson River in New York City as wellness thought leaders from around the country gathered at Everyday Health in Soho to participate in a roundtable discussion entitled “Re-Defining Workplace Wellness.”

Susie Ellis, Global Wellness Institute Chairman & CEO, and Renee Moorefield, PhD, CEO of Wisdom Works Group hosted the discussion as doctors, scientists, architects, e-learning technologists, human resource executives, medical directors and branding experts revealed valuable insights on why workplace wellness is essential the global economy.

From how workplaces will evolve in the future to how technology impacts wellness in the workplace, there is no question that the speed of change is revolutionizing how we facilitate health and wellbeing around the world.

This is how the esteemed panel of roundtable participants views the future of workplace wellness:

1. How will work and workplaces evolve in the future?

  • Lines blurred between work and home. Largely driven by the Millennial population, employees will continue to work remotely so they can prosper personally. Mindfulness will be required for balanced work-life integration.
  • New focus on home workplace wellness. From ergonomics to taking breaks, training and education is needed on how to create wellness in the home workplace.
  • Continued adoption of holistic wellness. Employers who utilize holistic wellness practices that consider all dimensions of the individual – physical, emotional, spiritual, occupational, social and intellectual – have better opportunities to recruit and retain talent.
  • Increased hyper connectivity. With a growing concern about the chronic use of screens, employers will need more employees who are mindful while using technology.
  • Significance of extended lifecycles. Those in “Emerging Adulthood” (ages 18 – 29) and the “Wisdom Group” (65+) live and work longer, which in turn impacts economics.
  • Redefined power structures. The paternalistic “top down” model is going through a transformation. We will continue to see more diversity, an increased sensitivity to the feminine and new organizational structures emerge, and these changes will create a ripple effect.
  • Transparency and security issues. We will go through a variety of challenging iterations with security, what’s private vs. what’s not and protecting personal information that will all impact how workplaces get re-defined.
  • Emphasis on innovation. As organizations strive to differentiate and excel, there will be a continued spotlight on innovation. The growing power of the “small business innovator” impacts mergers and acquisitions, which will in turn impact economics.
  • Wellness as part of the leadership DNA. Successful organizations of the future will have a leadership team who already has wellness as an integral part of their lives.
  • VOI vs. ROI. As wellness is tracked and measured over time, emphasis will be more on the value on investment (VOI) because this measurement of intangible assets contributes heavily to the health and success of an organization.

2. What’s happening with workplace wellness around the world?

  • More work and higher expectations. In the post-recession economy, there is a “do more with less” mentality that causes larger workloads and a drive for efficiency and productivity. This is showing up in stress and obesity data.
  • Individual challenges are varied and widespread. Major issues reported around the world include stress, unhealthy eating, inactivity, sexual health and tobacco use.
  • Obesity is everywhere. Obesity is a growing problem that is a root cause of many diseases including diabetes and heart disease. This is particularly concerning in populations around the world as they become more developed, including China, India and the Middle East.
  • Environmental issues are critical. Women’s safety and gender equality in the workplace is a concern. Air pollution in China and Russia is a growing challenge with the increase in reports of lung cancer and upper respiratory illness, and smoking is a problem in high-density areas.
  • Types of wellness programs vary by country. In India, there is a focus on financial wellness for women. In England, there is a banker’s group formed around mindfulness. Emotional wellbeing is important in Asian cultures and they call it “resilience” or “thriving.”
  • Wellness is creating retention. This is particularly true in emerging markets where management uses wellness to promote their business.
  • Adoption of a holistic framework. For workplace wellness to prosper, a framework needs to be considered that includes three important parts: program, policy and environmental efforts. This can then be adapted to the local level from national or multi-national corporations.
  • Successful workplace wellness initiatives serve the entire culture. We must focus on important issues not only affecting the organization, but the community and the country at large. Mindful marketing messaging helps to effectively integrate initiatives.
  • Use of indigenous healing modalities. In each country, we must ask: What does the culture already know that we can use? The value lies not only in the practice itself, such as Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine, but in its affordability and accessibility.
  • Technology is revolutionizing the way wellness is integrated. It makes wellness more accessible, scalable and adjustable to the culture.

3. How will technology continue to impact wellness in the workplace?

  • Digital and mobile health is the future. From wireless connectivity to nanotechnology, digital health is going to create a huge change in design, delivery and evaluation of wellness programs.
  • It helps employers identify opportunities. Employers can track employees through technology to measure levels of activity then create specific strategies based upon reports and feedback.
  • Get information in a timely way. A subscription-based primary care model, for example, allows employees to text their doctor directly. This asynchronistic style of information flow helps integrate wellness in the form of preventative care as well as additional support.
  • Digital provides personalization and ease. People will continue to use technology to share their preferences in order to inform their decisions more easily.
  • Technology is a tool to find others in their “tribe.” Technology is a facilitator for face-to-face meetings. This leads to Organic Affinity Groups, which will continue to grow in popularity because they offer support around shared values.
  • Technology can be a trigger for good. On average, people check their smart phones 150 times per day. Using mindfulness, negative cycles can be reversed and harnessed for good.

When asked the question, “What can we do together that we can’t do on our own?” roundtable participants voiced the desire for continued collaboration in order to enhance the wellbeing of millions of people around the world.

To conclude the discussion, participants shared one word to describe their feelings about the future of workplace wellness. Recurring sentiments included “inspired,” “energized” and “hopeful.”

As leaders, we must make the most of our own level of health and wellbeing so we can positively impact our organizations and the world we live in. Wellness begins from within.

And as Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”