Alternative Methods for Reducing Workplace Stress and Anxiety

Organizations are starting to realize that their employees’ mental health and wellness is crucial for productivity, harmony, and optimal functioning.  And employers are beginning to understand how chronic stress and anxiety cause physical illnesses and pain in the body, leading to absences and short and/or long-term disability leave.

Many workplaces have taken steps to support their employees by building in-house workout rooms or affiliated their organization with local gyms and offer employees a discount on membership.  Other employers have offered more flexible work days/hours, or held workshops and lunch & learns on how to manage stress and anxiety — all valuable means to supporting employees in their mental health and wellness.

Yet there are many more alternative care methods for workplace stress and anxiety that can be incorporated into everyday work life.  These methods are easily learned and can be integrated with the help of a Corporate Integrative Health Coach who can educate, demonstrate and support the individual employees with their short-term and long-term wellness goals.

The alternative strategies suggested here are based on the most recent evidence-based robust research studies.

Mindfulness meditation has been demonstrated as being key to optimal functioning and mental health in the workplace, especially as it relates to decreasing stress and burnout, and increasing productivity.

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn at the UMASS Center for Mindfulness offers training for leaders and a certificate course in Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction in many of the top organizations around the world. This has also been shown to aid in changing the corporate culture to one of enhanced compassion, empathy, and kindness.

Organizations can easily establish a ‘meditation room’ where employees are encouraged to practice if they are feeling overwhelmed during the day.  Corporate Integrative Health Coaches can also help guide introductory meditation classes and educate employees on the benefits of this practice while helping to normalize the activity.

Breathwork is a form of meditation that can provide immediate relief from anxiety, panic and overwhelm. There are many different breathwork techniques intended for many purposes. One particularly useful method for stress and anxiety, designed by Dr. Andrew Weill, is called Relaxing Breath (or 4-7-8 breath).  

To begin, place the tongue along the back of the gumline of the front teeth.  Close your mouth and inhale slowly through the nose to a count of 4.  Hold your breath for a count of 7. Exhale through the mouth (with your tongue still in place) to a count of 8.  Repeat this cycle 3 more times – or more if needed.

Focused meditation is an activity that is effective when we feel ourselves amping up (getting irritated, agitated, angry) because it slows down activity in the parietal lobe (that’s the part of the brain that interprets sensory information).  It helps focus our attention by sending some sensory information deeper into the brain while halting other signals.  With a little practice this exercise can become a ‘second-nature’ habit, performed any time we are emotionally triggered.

Pick out an object in your environment and look at it.  Perhaps it’s the pen on your desk or a coffee cup.  Notice the color, the size, the shape, the texture.  Study the object intently for at least two minutes. Allow yourself to get lost in it.. let yourself BE the object!

This exercise can also be done by focusing on a sound, a smell, or touch.  Shirzad Chamine offers a powerful version of this exercise in his Positive Intelligence training.  The gist of it is to simply touch the tip of your thumb with the tip of another finger and rub gently enough to feel each ridge of your fingerprint. Focus on the sensation at your fingertips while breathing normally. Try it now!

Laughter therapy is a no-brainer in the workplace.  Laughter stimulates the heart, lungs, and muscles and increases endorphins released in the brain.  Optimally, we should have at least 5 good belly laughs a day, however for many employees, weeks go by without any level of laughter.  

Establishing a 5-minute laughter period each day and having a designated person begin the laughter will demonstrate not only its level of contagiousness and mood change, but over time will increase optimism and attitudes. This 5-minute laughter break can be achieved at the start of meetings, at the start of each day, over lunch breaks or at designated times/spaces in the workplace.  

There are many dozens more at-work alternative methods for reducing stress and anxiety, and we’ll be introducing some of our favorites in future blog articles. For now, we hope – whether you are an employer or employee – you’ll share these methods and continue taking the next steps to holistic mental health care at work.  

You’ll find a lot more powerful information and tools about alternative methods for stress and anxiety in the Corporate Integrative Health Coach training program.  To learn more, request our CIHC brochure below or email us at:

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Article written by:

Dr. Nickerson's professional experience as a psychologist and personal passion for developing the mind-body-spirit connection have fueled her success and devotion to training individuals and organizations to foster whole wellness.