Even on your best, most organized days, it’s often difficult to handle stress and stay calm at work. With looming deadlines, a record-breakingly full inbox, and your boss popping up out of nowhere, it can feel like stressing out is the only option. Same goes for that terrible, exhausted, burnt out feeling, which has totally become the norm. (Not good.)

These stress-inducing things are often out of your control. I mean, there’s not much you can do about those deadlines, or that inbox. But there are ways to reign in the stress and keep your cool — even when things feel unbearably crazy.

One of the best places to start is by taking a look at the true cause of your stress. As Nicole Martinez, Psy.D., LCPC explains in an email to Bustle, “There are many reasons that people are stressed at work, both real and perceived.” She cites deadlines, working long hours, and a lack of organization as some top causes of office anxiety. Others are a negative work environment, and that sucky feeling of not being appreciated.

See? It’s not all your inbox’s fault. And that’s precisely why you can do something about your stress. Read on for ways to feel better at work, reduce that stress, and stay calm — no matter what.

  1. Get Yourself a Physical Calendar

Yes, it’s nice to have everything neatly organized in your phone. But there’s something to be said for having an actual calendar on your wall — especially when it can serve as a visual reminder for approaching deadlines. “This way [you] always have an idea of what is coming, and … are able to pace [yourself] accordingly,” Martinez says.

  1. Keep a Healthy Work/Life Balance

There’s nothing worse than showing up for work and feeling like you never left. If this happens more often than not, it’s a huge indicator that you need a better work/life balance. “Set strict work hours and stick to them,” Martinez suggests. “Research shows that a rested and balanced individual is actually more productive in a shorter time frame than an individual who is burning the candle at both ends.”

  1. Learn How To Say “No”

Of course you can’t skip out on everything and kick back at your desk (even thought it’d be nice). But you can learn how to drop the occasional, assertive “no.” “Explain to others that you are overcommitted and that you must say no,” said Laurie Erdman on the health website Greatist.com. It’s so simple, and yet so incredibly effective when it comes to freeing up your day.

  1. Get Thyself Organized

Take a look at your desk. Is it hopelessly covered with a stressful amount of papers? If so, it may be time to adopt a better system. “Whether it is creating e-mail file folders, or physical folders, bins and trays, anything that can help reduce chaos and keep things organized reduces stress,” Martinez says.

  1. Leave Your Desk As Often As Possible

I know, it’s taboo to get up and wander away from your desk. But go ahead and do it anyway. “Whether it’s stretching periodically in your cubicle or walking to a coworker’s desk … small actions can go a long way toward improving both individual and company performance,” leadership expert Alison Griswold told Forbes. Let this tidbit of info be your excuse for lingering by the water coolers.

  1. While You’re At It, Go On Break

“Sometimes a … quick walk, and change of scenery can stoke a tepid imagination, or calm a crowded mind,” said lifestyle writer Will Fulton on Thrillist.com. This is precisely why you need to take a real break, and not just a momentary pause for a snack at your desk. Do yourself a favor and leave the building, if possible. When you return, you’ll feel fresh as a daisy and ready to get back to work.

  1. Prevent Annoying Distractions

OK, so how stressful is it to be constantly distracted by coworkers? (Answer: Very stressful.) If your office is super chatty, drown out the distractions as best you can. “You can do things like listen to headphones, or have a flag up that says you are working and are not to be disturbed,” Martinez says. It may not be the most social thing you ever did, but your stress levels with thank you.

  1. Don’t Let Negativity Bring You Down

If your office is all moody and negative, it’s no doubt going to be stressful. Apart from switching jobs and getting the heck out of there, the only thing you can do to preserve your calm is tune it out. As Martinez says, “Have empathy [for why] they are so unhappy, but do not let their unhappiness become yours.”

  1. Get That Social Time

In the same vein as the work/life balance comes scoring yourself some quality social time. “When we’re working crazy hours, we can find ourselves detached from our relationships,” Erdman said. “Each week, schedule some time with a loved one to just be together, hang out, and laugh.” Don’t talk about work, definitely don’t check your email, and you should be de-stressed in no time.

  1. Take Care Of Yourself

Make it a point to take care of yourself while at work. Drink some tea, eat healthy snacks, and do deep breathing. You can even pop up and do some yoga stretches right there at your desk.

  1. Bring Coworkers In For Support

Feeling all alone in your pool of stress? Chatting with your coworkers or friends about the issues you’re facing at work can help, according to an article on the health website MayoClinic.org. After all, you’re in this together for eight hours a day, every day. Might as well be friends, and offer each other moral support, right?

Because work may be stressful, but it doesn’t have to stress you out.

By Carolyn Steber, as published on Bustle in September 2016

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