What to do about stress at work?

For some, work is a source of fulfillment. For others, it is just useful, providing a salary and material living conditions, and for others, it is downright a source of stress. In any case, given the time we spend there, we might as well be there as best as possible because not only does it influence our morale, but also our physical health. Here are some tips to avoid letting yourself be overwhelmed by stress at work.

Knot in the stomach, palpitations, headaches , sleep problems , difficulty concentrating, discomfort... Faced with stress in the professional environment, your response is above all emotional. Ultimately, excess stress causes physical health problems. The solution ? Learn, thanks to some stress management techniques, not to let yourself be overwhelmed or carried away by your negative emotions .

What are the main sources of stress at work?

“We speak of stress at work when a person feels an imbalance between what they are asked to do in the professional context and the resources available to them to respond,” explains the National Institute for Research and Security (INRS) (source 1).

Difficult relationships with hierarchy or colleagues , excessive workload , lack of autonomy, poor working conditions, insufficiently defined objectives... “Cases of stress in the company are sometimes denied or attributed solely to fragility or "unsuitability for the position of certain employees", regrets the INRS.

“When faced with manifestations or complaints of stress, it is nevertheless essential to seek possible links with the professional context. If work-related stress factors are identified,  appropriate preventive measures will make it possible to eliminate them or, at least, reduce them as a priority.”

Professional stress: how to reduce pressure on employees?

The employer must ensure the safety and protect the physical and mental health of its employees at work, says the INRS. “To fulfill this obligation, it must prioritize collective prevention actions. These in fact make it possible to act on the causes of stress rather than on its symptoms.”

How to stop stressing about work: 7 techniques

Mood disorders, depression , insomnia , increased risk of heart attack, burn out ... The negative effects of long-term stress are numerous.

Put yourself in a bubble

To avoid environmental stress, you must learn to protect yourself from permanent interruptions because they prevent you from entering a psychological state conducive to well-being and productivity, which specialists call flow. What to do ? For a given time, virtually create a bubble impervious to external stimuli.

Banking on the “Mozart effect”

Those who work in an open space know it: a noisy environment makes you nervous. Instead of the classic earplugs, you can listen to Mozart's sonata K 448 for a few minutes, which has a calming effect and promotes learning.

Do not read your emails continuously

The number of emails received per day is one of the most anxiety-provoking factors at work, says Alexandre Jost, founding president of Fabrique Spinoza, a citizen well-being think tank. 

The solution is simple to avoid stress, the hardest part is to stick to it: it involves managing your emails at certain times of the day rather than continuously. You also have to learn to welcome them differently: take a moment and ask yourself what impact the message has on you.

Favor light

By synchronizing our biological clock, light has a positive impact on sleep . This also applies to the workspace  ! Try to capture light from your workspace as much as possible. You can also equip yourself with a light therapy lamp during the winter season.

Force yourself to take a break

Not taking a break is a bad habit . The people who are most at peace in their relationship with time are those who take a few minutes a day to  breathe. To settle down is to take some time for yourself without thinking about work, your worries or your performance.

Personalize your desktop

According to the work of British psychologist Craig Knight, appropriating your workstation with plants, photos, colors or art images promotes “psychological comfort” and increases the level of productivity.

It depends on sensitivities, but creating a cozy space, bringing a little of your 'inner castle with you', to use the words of the philosopher Robert Misrahi, is a factor of well-being, analyzes Alexandre Jost.

Have a healthy lifestyle

We can't say it enough: it's proven that a healthy lifestyle helps reduce stress, at work or in general. Remember to eat a balanced diet as much as you can, exercise, drink plenty of water, limit tobacco and alcohol, sleep well , etc.

How to reduce a sedentary lifestyle in the workplace: 4 solutions

When you work in a company, you can easily sit for six to eight hours a day, which increases the risk of being overweight and cardiovascular disease. To overcome this negative point, you should ideally do 80 minutes of exercise every morning! In theory. Because in practice, it's as unrealistic as working on your feet all day. So here are some tips for getting active at work.

Being “on the move”

Fortunately, these researchers also found that when you are “glued” to your desk, every movement, no matter how small, is beneficial. Changing position frequently in your seat, getting up to develop an idea, reading a document, answering the phone, or even walking to your colleague's office rather than speaking loudly or sending him an email, in short, all excuses are good to move and walk at least five minutes every hour.

Chat while walking

Without going so far as to suggest 30 to 50 kilometers of walking meetings, as American businesswoman Nilofer Merchant does, we can take advantage of discussions between colleagues to initiate a walk.

It's good for the legs but also for thinking: several experiments show that a simple walk, indoors or outdoors, stimulates creativity , in real time and even a little more. You get more new ideas while you're walking and after returning to your desk.

Stretch without moving from your chair in less than a minute

To be less sedentary and relax your neck and trapezius, easy and relatively discreet stretches  can be done in the office. Do at least once or twice a day.

  • Sit with your back straight, your stomach tight, your arms flexible, your hands placed on your thighs, your feet flat on the ground. Turn your head to the right, slowly, then to the left. Return to the center;
  • Tilt your head towards the right shoulder, then towards the left shoulder. Then gently let your head fall forward and breathe. You must hold each position for 5 seconds.

Vary the locations for more well-being

“The diversity of spaces generally allows for more encounters. This increases the feeling of freedom. The employee no longer feels confined to his or her office alone. Furthermore, this also offers him the possibility of moving from his workspace depending on the task to be carried out: he will not necessarily choose the same place if he has to send e-mails or read a report, for example,” explains Alexandre Jost.

The latter reveals that he has given his employees a quota of one to two days per month to go and work, if they wish, in coworking spaces . “Exploring other ways of working allows them to enrich themselves.”

Bad atmosphere at work: how to manage stress and pressure?

Stress at work is sometimes caused by a harmful environment. “Often the problems are relational. There is tension because misunderstandings are increasing, things are not said or said poorly,” says Jacques Salomé, psychosociologist.

Communicate better

Be polite, give information, make requests rather than reproaches , avoid value judgments... it seems obvious, and yet!

Communication problems are at the origin of a lot of violence, says Jacques Salomé, psychosociologist.

He suggests avoiding indirect communication as much as possible  : if something is wrong with a colleague, we talk to him about it, not to anyone else.

Don't play it solo

“To communicate is to share,” recalls Jacques Salomé. Being kind, not doing to others what we would not like them to do to us, are attitudes that increase self- esteem . American psychologist Shawn Achor recommends giving a compliment every day.

Dare to be yourself

Being forced to laugh at a joke, holding opinions that are not your own... One of the biggest difficulties at work is not being able to be yourself emotionally.

Knowing how to express your feelings, your expectations, your choices, and your limits allows you to avoid conflicts with yourself and with others. Even if it means saying 'today, I can't', or 'it's a bad day for me, I ask you to be kind to me'. Jacques Salome

Develop conviviality

Organize a snack, share a gym class… The approach, often initiated by employees, must be authentic to work. The company can encourage it by creating spaces for discussion. According to Robert Levering, co-founder of the Great Place to Work Institute , trust, pride and friendliness are three fundamental pillars of well-being at work.

Stress and emotions: how to manage emotional stress at work?

Each individual reacts differently to the stress they experience at work.

Physical signals are the warning signs of negative emotions, specifies Dr. Dominique Servant, psychiatrist at the CHRU of Lille. It is an acknowledgment of failure. We believe we are freeing ourselves by evacuating. In reality, the negative emotion provides a false resolution to the problem.

To better manage these emotions that overwhelm you on a daily basis, Mélanie Perrin, physiotherapist and psychotherapist, recommends acting in three directions.

Tools to manage stress

  • Use osteopathy  : effective for problems of tension and somatization, it allows you to regain some joint mobility;
  • Practice stretching , yoga and massages to relieve stiffness and tension. They improve blood, venous, lymphatic circulation and intestinal transit. For the most tired: shiatsu (energizing massage);
  • Opt for a diet adapted to this type of stress  : magnesium for contracted muscles, vitamin B9 for energy, probiotics for stomach aches.

Meditation also helps you free your mind from thoughts of the past and worries about the future, focusing on the present moment.

Managing stress at work: three examples of reactions

Case #1: Colleagues stop talking to you because of a promotion

You have to accept this fact because you won't be able to change it: “I recognize that my colleagues may be jealous. It doesn’t make me happy, but that’s how it is.” In fact, you need to be reassured by positive feedback from your professional entourage, and your emotion results from this duality between “what I would like” and reality.

Distance yourself mentally  : let your imagination visualize a certain number of situations that generated positive emotions, a good time with friends, your last vacation...

Case no. 2: Your work weighs you down, and it makes you aggressive

You are under too much pressure at your work, and this generates strong frustrations. Rather than getting stuck on your anger, ask yourself what you achieve in your work. Take stock of your “active part” at the end of the day. You helped one of your colleagues, you proposed a good idea during a meeting, you knew how to listen to others, you supported a project... No human being is made of anger . Develop the other part within yourself.

Case no. 3: During heavy periods of work, you have neck and back pain

Become aware of your body. For five minutes a day, focus your attention on all parts of your body, as if a spotlight were on them. Take advantage of the bus, the metro or a waiting room, and even walk.

It is between 12 and 3 p.m., or at the end of the day, around 6 p.m., that this mental exercise is most interesting. It induces a new emotional perception and a state of relaxation. And tell your boss or team that task sharing may need to be re-evaluated.