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Tense Week at Work? Here’s How to Simmer Down the Office Stress

Office Motivation

The life of an Office Ninja is a daily lesson in staying calm under pressure. You’ve gotten so good at rolling with the punches that you don’t let office stress and obstacles get in your way—you back-flip over them instead.

But what about your colleagues? Chances are, some co-workers have some version of that “Keep Calm and…” poster hanging in their cube and actually heed its advice. Others go from zero to hair-on-fire panic mode in less than 60 seconds.

When a stressed-out team member gets all wrapped around the axle, what are the best ways to get them to unwind? Don’t worry—you don’t have to figure this one out on your own. We’ve got a few tips that will help you restore the peace in a jiffy.

1. Lend an Ear


Some people process conflict, worry, and stress by verbalizing it. If a colleague seems upset, grab an empty conference room for a private chat or walk to the local coffee shop together. Use your active listening skills and let them vent without offering advice or judgment. Ask clarifying questions only when they pause.

You can provide the same support to a manager by offering to hold calls for 15 minutes. Once the lines are quiet, ask if there’s anything extra you can do to help. Even if they don’t feel comfortable venting to a direct report, they’ll be grateful for the offer.

2. Make Space

Office Stress

Now, for every person who wants to “talk it out,” there’s someone else who just wants to be left alone. It may take a while to learn your colleagues’ preferences, so proceed with caution at first. If a tense co-worker is closing doors, donning headphones, or ducking out for a solo coffee run, they probably need a minute to deal with the office stress alone. Unless a matter is truly urgent, time and space are key.

If a tense co-worker is closing doors, donning headphones, or ducking out for a solo coffee run, they probably need a minute to deal with the office stress alone. Unless a matter is truly urgent, time and space are key.

3. Give the GIF of Laughter

This one also comes with a “know your audience” caveat. If someone is stressed over a serious health or financial matter, jokes probably aren’t going to help the situation. But a funny GIF has been known lighten the mood amidst everyday, run-of-the-mill work stress.

Search or one of these sites for something that speaks to the person’s sense of humor and pop it into a personalized email. Laughter may be just what they need. Especially if it comes from a dancing pug.

4. Take a Whiff

Office Desk Essential Oil Diffuser

Our sense of smell can be a powerful tool for stress relief. While your favorite blend of lavender and vanilla isn’t going to fix a major shipping error or solve ongoing internet connectivity issues, it may help everyone slow down, take a deep breath, and approach the situation with a little equanimity. Stock up on

Stock up on scented candles and keep an essential oil diffuser on hand. When things get tense, invite your colleagues to your desk for a 10-minute aromatherapy session.

5. Sweat it Out


Exercise is a healthy and effective way to manage and relieve stress. Instituting in-office yoga classes or encouraging walking meetings is a great way to proactively manage your co-workers’ stress levels.

A quick sweat session can also help de-escalate a tense situation much faster than letting it naturally fade. Ask a frazzled co-worker to join you for a run during lunch or even do a few rounds of walking lunges together in the hallway. Endorphins are real!

6. Indulge

Office Manager Desserts

Active listening, deep breathing, and exercise therapy all have their place, but sometimes indulgence is the way to go. Nothing hits the spot like a piece of chocolate or delicious snacks. Keep a secret stash of the good stuff and break it out when your office-mates need a little pick-me-up.

If your workplace allows it, impromptu happy hours can also boost morale, build camaraderie, and help employees unwind. Stock up on wine and beer so you can reward folks after a tough day or at the end of a trying week.

7. Let Go of Trying Things

At some point, stress will get the best of even the most chilled zen master, causing them to act irrationally or say something regrettable. For the sake of your own sanity, try not to take it personally.

Hopefully, your colleague or boss will see the error of their ways and offer an apology. If they do, accept it and move on. If not, give them a pass—but be sure to address repeat offenses or blatant displays of disrespect.

Who knew “part-time therapist” was among your job responsibilities? That’s what happens when you can run an efficient office and keep your wits about you!

What’s your go-to method for getting stressed-out coworkers to chill?


  1. I keep a stash of my favorite de-stress teas in my desk drawer, and share them with coworkers as needed.

  2. Our Healthcare system has a fragrance free policy to be respectful of patients as well as caregivers who are sensitive to scents.

  3. I always have a sweets stash in my drawer (candies, chocolates, cookies). Every time someone needs some kind of sugar rush, they know where to go. I also bring food I cook at home and share it to everyone so it’s a happy lunch time deviating away from cafeteria food once in a while.

  4. I keep a bottle of peppermint essential oil in my desk drawer. When I am feel unfocused or really tired I take a couple of whiffs. It helps to perk me up. That and a little walk outside – change of scenery and a few minutes away from it all helps!!

  5. Going to try some of these – things are getting hot and heavy due to retirements and resignations and LOTS of change coming rapid-fire.

  6. #4 is a health concern. These are banned in many workplaces due to toxicity of chemicals. People, such as myself, can be come violently ill when these are in use. Please save those for personal home use.

    1. The problem comes when what is being used are not essential oils, which are hypo-allergenic. Many of the ‘De-Stress’ mixes out there are just that… mixes. They tend to mix things that seem like they should go together, but really don’t. And that is where the trouble comes in. Cinnamon oil may smell great, but how many places tell you that it will burn if it comes in contact with your skin? All oils have some tidbit like that so go with them. But with the aromatherapy fad, there aren’t a lot of facts that come with the packages.

    2. I think it’s a great idea. If you’re sensitive don’t do it. But certainly don’t stop those who would benefit from it!

  7. There’s some good tips in here – thanks for putting the link in about active listening.

    But I have to say nix #4: scents, for a few reasons.
    1. different people like different scents & scents spread pretty far – so you’re probably hitting many people.
    2. Scent sensitivity. Yes, you’ll probably know if someone in your office will have a seizure if they smell lavender. What you don’t know is all the people who will get headaches, feel sick, etc.

    Also, it’d be great to have some references for less able-bodied people re: exercise. Not everybody is in their 20’s &/or able bodied.

  8. These are great! I’d add, let the team write down their favorite songs on a white board in a common area, then during afternoon stretch breaks, play one of the songs and have everyone guess who’s favorite song it is. You can do this daily, or once a week. Its a fun way of getting folks together to take a quick and much needed break.

    1. Love this idea! We sometimes play music but I like the idea of guessing favorite songs to add another fun layer to the break. Thanks for sharing!

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