10 Ways to Relax During Stressful Times

If you want to be happy at work you will need to have ways to deal with stress. We all go through stressful times in our lives. For many of us in the US the election has been stressful.  Others will find the holidays stressful.  Losing your job, having a difficult boss or colleague, or being in the wrong job are all ways work can be stressful.  Having ways to relax during stressful times, is a skill in itself.  It is helpful to have some tools ready to use in order to endure stressful times.  Here is a list of 10 ideas that can be helpful:


  1. Sit quietly and concentrate on breathing.  Take a deep breath in and let it out.  Do this 10 times. Some of you may prefer to do a short meditation. Read about meditation on the Psychology Today’s website.   Here is a 3 minute meditation for you to try.
  2. Take a walk – Sometimes just changing your location and if possible getting some fresh air helps.  It may allow you to see something from a different vantage point.  The exercise itself is also good for relieving stress.  (See #9)
  3. Write it down -Just the act of writing about the stress can often make a difference. Write in a stream of consciousness. Don’t think about what you are writing just get it down on paper.   Look over what you have written for clues about what triggers the stress and how to alleviate it. In my first year with AT&T things were very confusing.  It was the first year after AT&T had separated its equipment business from the network and no one really knew what was going on.  I still have the notebook I used to write down my thoughts.  It helped calm me then and now 30 years later I find it interesting to read and remember.
  4. Express your feelings – Sometimes just expressing your fears out loud to a trusted friend or counselor is enough to help manage the stress.  It is helpful to hear someone else’s point of view and maybe some ideas you have overlooked. When you want a friend without an agenda a coach can be very helpful.
  5. Humor therapy – Laughter is known to alleviate stress.  Find a way to laugh about something.  Read a humorous book, go to a funny movie or rent some videos of comedians that make you laugh.  (In November of 2002 I wrote a list 10 Reasons that Laughter Promotes Good Health.  While that list does not appear on my website I have a copy for those who would like it.  Just email me at asparker@asparker.com and request it.)
  6. Do something you enjoy.  Any sort of meaningful activity can relax tension.  Whether it is painting, knitting, cooking, singing or golf, take a break to enjoy yourself and relax.
  7. Massage or stretching can relieve muscle tension and relax you.  Shoulders and neck are the places most people carry the tension.  (I know I do.) Sometimes we are not even aware that we are under stress.  A good massage therapist can feel the tension in your body.  (This is my personal favorite.  I often think I am stress free when I am not.)  When you stretch you feel the places that hold the tension and often you can get it to release with the stretch.
  8. Yoga, Tai chi, qi gong, which are forms of exercise and meditation. These generally require initial instruction. Books and videos are available to help you if you want to do these activities at home.  There are also classes to learn these techniques. I’ve just started Tai Chi and Qi Gong class. The movements are graceful and require concentration to do them properly.  There is a lot of stretching in the movements themselves.  Concentrating on something other than whatever is giving you stress can be helpful as is the stretching.
  9. Physical Activity – Aerobic exercise such as dancing, biking and swimming are good ways to combat stress.
  10. Progressive muscle relaxation– To do this you may need a tape, CD  or download (see below) until you learn the muscle groups.  It involves tightening each muscle group in your body as you breathe in and relaxing the group as you breathe out.  This is great to use if you have trouble falling asleep. You can also do a modified version of this at your desk at work by breathing in and tightening your hands and arms.  Then breathe out and let your body become limp. Want to try it?  Here is a link to an MP3 downloadthat can help you to do this.

Note from Alvah:  Here are some things that may feel like they relieve stress but are harmful to your health: alcohol, cigarettes, constant eating, and watching the news on TV.

How Humor Can Be a Stress Buster

Years ago I flew to Denver with my team for training.  There were 4 of us who worked together.  Just as we were about to land I noticed out my window a flash of lightning.  The other noticed it too along with some very bumpy air and more lightning.  Needless to say it was a tense landing.  As we were driving away from the airport, it started to pour.  One of the members of my team, a big fellow started to sing in a very loud voice, “It’s raining.  It’s pouring. The old man is snoring.”  That made the rest of us laugh and broke the tension of that flight.


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