At work, as in life, there are many things that we cannot control.

“While some stress is a normal part of work life and moderate amounts of stress can be stimulating, excessive stress can interfere with productivity and affect your physical and emotional health. The better you are at managing your own stress, the better you will perform at your job,” shares Dr Fong Yuke Tien, Senior Consultant from the Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth​ group.

8 Ways to beat stress at work

1. See the big picture

Ask your boss what are your key deliverables. Be clear about your job objectives and how you can add value to your department. Don’t get bogged down by your various tasks, but prioritise and do one task at a time.

2. Take time out

Have a relaxing chat with your colleague or friend, have a stretch at the photocopy machine or pop downstairs to buy a snack. Getting a breath of fresh air will help you to cool off your feelings of stress, anger or irritation.

3. Don’t smoke, eat or have caffeine to de-stress

“Nicotine is a powerful stimulant which can lead to higher, not lower, levels of anxiety. Coffee contains caffeine which can raise levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It also has a mild addictive effect. To relax your mind, drink less coffee,” says Dr Fong.

Stress may also make you reach for junk food, such as potato chips or doughnuts which are high caloric snacks. Where possible, try to reduce snacking. When you really must snack, eat healthily and stock up your work desk with healthy alternatives, such as:

  • Soy chips

  • Small packets of nuts and dried fruits like raisins

  • Whole wheat crackers

  • Fruits and vegetables

Explore other avenues to reduce stress and increase participation in healthy activities.

4. Escape for an instant

Think of one instance in your life when you were happy and relaxed. Hold that image in your mind for at least one minute. Keep a postcard or cut-out image of your favourite landscape on your wall and look at it when you are stressed.

5. Don’t be a hero

If you over-commit by taking on too many projects with unrealistic deadlines, you will not only lose credibility at work but you will also stress yourself out unnecessarily. If you can delegate or share the responsibility for some projects, go ahead.

6. Get enough rest

Give your body the sleep it needs – at least seven to nine hours a night. Your stress levels will drop when you are well rested and you will be able to take on your job challenges with more composure.

7. Get adequate exercise

Regular exercise is not only important in keeping you physically healthy but it also promotes mental well-being. Exercise produces endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers, leading to improved sleep and reduced stress levels. World Health Organization recommends that healthy adults should target to do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity a week.

8. Don’t be so hard on yourself

Much of our stress is self-imposed. Most of us set targets regarding desired salaries or positions on the corporate ladder. When we don’t achieve our targets, we get stressed and depressed. Recognise that success is in the eye of the beholder, and that ambitions take time, opportunity and, often, luck to materialise. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Ref: Q15

Check out our other articles on stress:

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8 Ways to Beat Stress at Work

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Healthcare Workers: Tips to Manage Stress Effectively