How to reduce stress and be productive at work

Stressed out at work? Not sleeping well? Karen Meager and John McLachlan can help.

Where did it start? Did you get stressed about something that meant you couldn’t relax and this disturbed your sleep and made you unproductive at work, which made you stressed. Was it a lack of sleep that made you unproductive at work which made you stressed and…it’s a vicious circle.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has experienced it that regardless of where it started, it is a problem feeds itself and can be difficult to stop. The good news is you can start by changing your habits anywhere is this cycle to make an instant difference. Where will you start?


Getting a good night’s sleep is difficult if you are worrying about going to bed and not sleeping or you lie in bed screaming at yourself to sleep. Three ways to help yourself to sleep better:

  • Have a notebook by the side of your bed and pay attention to all the things that are running around your head and stopping you sleep. Write them down and tell yourself you’ll come back to it in the morning,
  • Rather than tell your self to sleep ask yourself how much longer you would like to stay awake before you go to sleep.
  • Create a routine at night that helps you to go to bed relaxed. An ideal routine is a gradual wind down so that your mind and body are in a relaxed state before you go to sleep. Avoid things that over stimulate your mind just before bed, like watching thrillers, checking your e mails or strenuous exercise.

How do you relax?

Stress is an unconscious process – it runs habitually outside of your awareness. Relaxation is a conscious process. You have to decide to do it. Relaxation is an activity, not just ‘doing nothing’, and boredom can be as stressful as being overwhelmed. The impact on your ability to be productive, think clearly and sleep well are all improved by relaxation.

Start with the simple things:

  • If a run relaxes you – go for a run.
  • If meeting up with friends relaxes you do that. 
  • If going out for a walk at lunchtime is a good way for you to clear you head do it. 
  • Even just taking a deep breath everything you sit down is effective.

Here is a simple relaxation technique you can do sitting at your desk in just a few minutes:

Breath in through your nose right down into your belly and out through your mouth. Starting with your head, slowly move your attention into each part of your body, moving down your neck, shoulders, arm etc all the way down to your feet.

At each point notice if there’s any tension, take a deep breath and in your mind direct your breath to any tension and let it dissolve. Some people find tensing then relaxing each muscle group as they work their way through their body helps.

Stressed out?

Stress has physical as well as emotional factors. If you are in poor health, particularly if you have a poor diet, you are more prone to stress because there are so many neural connections in your gut.

Changing diet can be hard because we often tell ourselves that the things we know are bad for us are the very things we need to relax, like rich food and alcohol. This is not true. They are emotionally


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