Higher Education Innovation In Action

Stress Management - In and Out of the Office

Rose Addison, Manager of Documentation & Training Aug 29, 2017

I’ve been procrastinating writing this post for a while, primarily because of my own stress levels… If we’re being honest, it took me a while to recognize, let alone admit to what I’m about to say – I’ve been feeling burnt out.

For me, burnout feels like a steady stream of exhaustion after a day’s (and sometimes night’s) work, while losing momentum and ambition toward my goals. It’s not that I’m just tired and lacking energy, it’s that my drive to tackle whatever’s thrown at me with my typical gusto is fading.

This feeling stems from too much stress, over too long a time period. Many of you can relate, especially now that school’s back in session. With work about to get even busier, let’s be proactive and do something about our stress! I’m using this assignment to hold myself accountable – after all, how relevant that I’m writing a post on stress reduction, since I obviously need it.

Are you practicing any of these well-known coping techniques?

Give Yourself Credit

Do you place too much value on what you’ve completed on a given day? Are you beating yourself up over what you didn’t do? Negative self-talk is destructive and intensifies stress levels... if you wouldn’t talk to a friend the way your inner voice speaks to you, it’s time for you to re-program your inner critic. Be compassionate and gentle with yourself if you’re doing the best you can. Talk to yourself with encouraging words and remind yourself your to-do list doesn’t define you.

Take Time to Unplug

Schedule regular time periods to go off the grid. We all need to be accessible, but most of us can spare time here and there to be unavailable. If you’re like me and fill up your calendar with appointments and to-do lists, be sure to schedule “you” time. The simple fact of not having to answer to anyone or anything, even just for a short period of time, can lift some of that weight off your shoulders. Consider setting boundaries for yourself, such as no work after 8 p.m., then hold yourself to it!

Minimize Interruptions

Consider how many times you’re interrupted in a day. It happens so frequently, we hardly even notice it anymore. With technology constantly calling for our attention, it can be hard to keep a steady stream of thought. Although we can’t control how often we’re bugged, we can schedule time to respond to things like emails, texts, voicemails, etc. Do what you can to control your environment and set priorities on what needs your undivided attention. If the email doesn’t need an immediate answer, let it wait, and keep on task.

Exercise, Eat Well, and Get Sleep

There’s a lot to be said for getting your endorphins going, eating healthy foods, and getting some good shuteye. Find ways to enjoy workouts and healthier food options. Start small so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Even a few minutes of aerobic exercise can decrease tension, elevate your mood, and improve your sleep. Take the physical steps your body needs to set yourself up for success.

Take an Objective View

We often assume we know others’ motives but in reality, if we don’t ask, we don’t know! Even when we think we’re unbiased, we bring our ideals, past experiences, and our current mental climate into situations unknowingly. The potential for misunderstandings multiplies when we’re only able to see things from our point of view. Although it’s a vulnerable thing to do, consider asking what someone meant by a particular comment or look… you might be pleasantly surprised to learn you’re wrong!

Delegate Responsibilities

Whether it’s at work or at home, you can instantly eliminate some stress by asking for help. For some of us, it can be difficult to let others know we need a hand… for some reason, we tend to think we can do it all, but this line of thinking only perpetuates stress. Who wants to be responsible for it all anyway?! Teach people how to fish, rather than providing their dinner… your own plate will become less and less full. 


Take a few minutes to breathe deeply. Before you begin, rate your current stress level on a scale from one to ten. Unplug from your responsibilities for a few minutes and set a timer for three minutes. Put both feet on the floor, sit up straight in your desk chair, and close your eyes. Breathe in and out, focusing on your breath.  When the timer goes off, rate your stress using the same scale. I’ll bet you the number is lower!

Let It Go

Adopt the practice of letting things go. Try not to overthink things or focus on what’s not working… There’s a lot to be said for a less pessimistic point of view. Focus on solutions rather than problems then ask yourself if the “crisis” will exist next week, next month, or next year. If the answer is no, the problem probably doesn’t matter as much as you think it does.

Relax & Enjoy Life

This is easier said than done… especially if relaxation has not been a priority. Get a massage from time to time, go for a walk at a park you enjoy, read a book, or have a glass of wine while listening to your favorite podcast. If relaxation or fun hasn’t been a priority for you, ask yourself what relaxes you… What do you enjoy? What do you find yourself wishing you had more time for? When your non-work life is enjoyable, you’ll be a calmer more relaxed person while on the job. Sometimes you need to prioritize fun!


Finding the balance can be challenging. While stress can’t be eliminated, it can certainly be decreased. Too much stress can really take its toll on your health, happiness, and your relationships. What works for me may not work for you. If your stress is unmanageable, seek outside help from an expert so that you can find a support system that works for you.