By: Emma Hickey
Americans are stressed out. According to an American Psychological Association survey, Americans are the most stressed out they’ve been since the APA started the survey 10 years ago. Two main causes of this increase are the current political climate and work. Sixty-three percent of respondents said they felt stressed out about the nation’s future, while 61% said they were stressed out by work. As a team lead, manager, supervisor or even as the big boss, it’s not likely you’ll be able to alleviate your team’s stress over the future of the nation (unless, of course, that’s the kind of work you do), but work stress is definitely something you can tackle! By providing your team with outlets they can use to decompress during the workday, you’ll help keep them from bottling up their emotions in an unhealthy way. You’ll also be creating an environment that’s overall more welcoming because it’s one that cares about its team’s mental health.
Here are some outlets you can incorporate into your workplace and office culture to help your team de-stress:
That’s right, puzzles! Puzzles are therapeutic. They improve cognitive functions while also serving as a form of relaxation. Setting up a puzzle in your office for people to work on at their leisure will both keep their brains sharp and their minds calm. Puzzles also promote teamwork. It’s the perfect win-win. By setting up a puzzle and encouraging your team to work on it throughout the day, you’re also sending the message that it’s ok to take a break from working for a few minutes. That message alone will provide your team with the psychological safety they need to decompress from stressful situations. After stressful calls or meetings, or in the middle of a demanding project, your team will have an in-house opportunity to look away from their computer screens for a few minutes and think about nothing but finding pieces that fit together.
Meditation has become mainstream in recent years, and with good reason. It’s a great way to prepare yourself for the day ahead, recenter yourself in the middle of the day, and calm your mind at the end of the day. There’s scientific evidence supporting the ancient practice, too. The Journal of the American Medical Association conducted a study in 2014 that found, “Mindfulness meditation programs had moderate evidence of improved anxiety at 8 weeks.” It’s a valuable tool to bring into your office as a means of de-stressing, but you have to set up your team for success. You could host a meditation session with an outside expert to teach your team how to mediate, or you could sponsor a subscription to one of the many mindfulness and wellness-based meditation apps. That way, when members of your team are experiencing stress during the day, they’ll have meditation in their back pocket to pull out and use without anyone thinking it’s strange.
Just as meditation strengthens and relaxes the mind, yoga strengthens and relaxes the body. It may not be the most practical to encourage your team to do yoga in the middle of the day when they’re feeling stressed, but if you can provide yoga as an outlet outside of work, that may help your team feel better able to calibrate their stress levels during the day. You could host regular in-house yoga sessions with an instructor before or after work, or host a one-time yoga session so your team can have the experience and then encourage them to continue their practice on their own. You could also support your employees’ yoga practice by arranging a discounted deal with a nearby yoga studio, or offering a health and wellness stipend that can be put towards yoga. There are many options to support your team if they’re interested in practicing yoga, and the benefits everyone will reap from it are more than worth it.
A walk around the block is a great way to clear your mind. You can’t lead your team out the door and force them to take a walk every time they’re feeling stressed out, but you can create an environment where your employees feel empowered to take a walk when they need it. An office in which people are afraid to leave their desks most definitely contributes to overall work stress. The only action here on your part is to make sure everyone knows they have your support when they need to step outside and recenter themselves.
Similar to puzzles, chess is great for improving cognitive functions and clearing your head. Playing chess requires you to concentrate on the task at hand, forcing you to put other worries out of your mind. It’s also the sort of game that can be played over time, perhaps on a small set between deskmates, meaning the positive effects of a chess match can stretch out across the entire day. Having a few chess sets available throughout the office will bring a sense of fun into your workplace without distracting others from their work. It also puts your money where your mouth is, so to speak, and shows your team that you value their wellbeing.
Providing tea is a low-cost and low lift way of helping your team manage their stress. Just about every office offers plenty of coffee, but a well-stocked tea supply is a bit less common. Give your team the option to relax after a stressful interaction or task by offering different types of tea. Green tea, chamomile tea, peppermint tea, lavender tea, valerian root tea and passion fruit tea are all considered especially calming. Aside from the relaxing properties of the tea itself, a study out of Britain found that the very ritual of making tea is sometimes relaxing enough. In an article about the study, The Telegraph writes, “The promise of comfort and warmth [60% of survey respondents] and the means of psychological escape [41% of survey respondents] are instead the primary reasons we seek such solace in the calming cup of tea.” Combine the calming nature of tea with the calming ritual, and you have the perfect outlet to alleviate stress.
Consider these stress management strategies to be little oases your team can retreat to when they’re stressed out—and it’s up to you to create them. These outlets will improve your team’s mental health, help them calibrate their stress levels, and demonstrate that you truly do value their wellbeing. As the American Psychological Association found in their study, these are stressful times, so if you can do something to help your team then you should.