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What Freud never knew

Five Ways To Reduce Your Stress — Even At Work

How can we better cope with stress? Try these tools that are backed by science.

Like death and taxes, stress is virtually unavoidable in today's world — especially at work. A reported 80% of workers feel stress on the job, almost half say they could use guidance in learning how to manage stress, and 42% say their coworkers could use some guidance, too. So what can we do to better cope with stress? Here are some tools that may help calm you down and your clear your, even at the office:


Confide in someone who gets it. A problem shared may really be a problem halved. But the key, researchers have discovered, is to share your feelings with someone who is having an emotionally similar reaction to the same situation. In a study of 52 female undergraduates, participants were paired up and asked to give a speech while being videorecorded. Yet prior to this task, the pairs of women were encouraged to talk with each other about how they were feeling about giving a speech. The results revealed that sharing feelings with a person in a similar emotional state helped buffer individuals from stress. So if you're faced with public speaking, a deadline, or preparing a speech for your boss, it may behoove you to confide in someone who is in the same boat as you.


Write down your negative thoughts — then throw them away. It may be hard to believe, but three separate studies on several hundred students at Ohio State University revealed that the physical act of throwing away written negative thoughts can mentally purge them. Not only did the act of tossing them out decrease the lingering influence of negative thoughts, but the investigators also found that it worked better than just imagining the process of doing so.


View nature scenes. Being in nature is calming — but even looking at image of nature can decrease stress levels and increase positivity. Studies have found that exposure to such imagery can reduce blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. So gazing at images of streams and skies isn't idle time wasted — it's helping you stay healthy and balanced.


Listen to relaxing music. Multiple lines of research have established that music can have soothing effects, especially the unhurried, quiet rhythms of classical music. Consider a study in which undergraduates were asked to complete a stressful cognitive task involving preparation for an oral presentation. One group prepared while listneing to Pachelbel's the Canon in D Major, while another prepared in silence. The experimental task significantly raised the participants' anxiety, heart rate, and blood pressure — but these physiological changes were fended off by exposure to this calming melody.


Breathe deeply. You may have heard this before, but it bears repeating. Stress – even at the workplace — can activate our sympathetic nervous system and the fight or flight response. Our heart rate and blood pressure increases, and delivers more oxygen and blood sugar to important muscles as our bodies gear up to fight hard or run fast. What can we do to reset ourselves physiologically? Breathing from our abdomen or bellies stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system, and helps promote a restful state.


What are your effective tools to reduce your stress on the job? Please share them here!


Connect with Dr. Mehta on the web at:

drvinitamehta.com and on twitter and Pinterest!

More about the Blogger: Vinita Mehta, Ph.D. is a Clinical Psychologist in Washington, DC, and an expert on relationships, managing anxiety and stress, and building health and resilience. Dr. Mehta provides speaking engagements for your organization and psychotherapy for adults.  She has successfully worked with individuals struggling with depression, anxiety, and life transitions, with a growing specialization in recovery from trauma and abuse. 

Dr. Mehta is also the author of the forthcoming book Paleo Love: How Our Stone Age Bodies Complicate Modern Relationships.

You can find Dr. Mehta's other Psychology Today posts here.



Vinita Mehta, Ph.D., Ed.M., is a clinical psychologist and journalist. She was formerly the Development Producer and Science Editor of PBS's This Emotional Life.


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