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10 Stress-Reducing Activities You Can Do During Your Lunch Break


Everyone deals with stress at work on occasion. Sometimes we worry due to a big project or deadline, or feel overwhelmed when we have too many decisions to make. Overworking without giving ourselves a bit of down time can only exacerbate stress.

Some people believe that having a certain amount of stress is normal and can even serve as a motivator at work. However, there's a cost to job stress. The American Psychological Association estimates the cost of job stress to be around $300 billion annually. If you consider that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates there are 125 million people employed in the U.S. (round it up to 150 million including part-timers and freelancers), that's $2,000 worth of stress per person.

Stress can become elevated to the point where it impacts your health. Of course, if you feel that stress is impacting your health or work performance, find out what options are available to you (i.e. company employee assistance program, health care insurance, etc.).

Completely eliminating stress might be close to impossible. For many of us, we just need to find a quick distraction to take our mind out of work mode. Consider these ten low-cost/no-cost activities that employees can do in less than one hour for a little welcome distraction from work. Try one or a combination of a few to find some time for de-stressing:

Take a moment to enjoy your favorite cup of coffee or tea in a nice,   quiet place.

  1. Color–outside the lines optional. Adult coloring books are all the rage right now, and a trend that doesn't appear to be waning anytime soon. You can find one in a topic that excites you – everything from Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project mini posters to the online app Recolor (available on iOS and Android devices).
  2. Drink a cup of your favorite beverage. Take a moment to enjoy your favorite cup of coffee or tea in a nice, quiet place. Focusing on the flavors and blocking out the noise of the outside world can go a long way toward reducing stress.
  3. Learn a language. Exercising our mind on something different can be a very welcomed distraction. For example, Duolingo offers a language platform that is free, self-paced, and offers a variety of languages. It's available for Windows, iOS, and Android devices.
  4. Listen to music or podcast. You can combine this with drinking your favorite beverage or taking a short walk. Put together a de-stress playlist of your favorite tunes. Find a podcast that inspires and motivates – a quick Google search for "inspirational podcast" gives you plenty to choose from.
  5. Play a game. If you subscribe to the newspaper, take the daily crossword puzzle with you during lunch. Pick up a Sudoku book. Download an app on your phone or start playing chess with co-workers. It's fun and can create camaraderie.
  6. Practice mindfulness. There's research that indicates practicing mindfulness can make us better leaders. Even if you don't decide to go "all-in" with mindfulness, there's an increasing number of deep-breathing apps that can be helpful.
  7. Read a book. Whether it's physical paper or e-book, reading can be relaxing. The genre doesn't matter. It could be a non-fiction book to learn something new or a science fiction thriller. Find a topic that interests you.
  8. Take a photo each day. Use your mobile device to take a photo every day. If you wish, you can post them online. Australian blogger Fat Mum Slim provides daily photo prompts to encourage creativity.
  9. Walking. Whether it's alone or with a group, taking a short walk can be energizing and relaxing. Some organizations actually conduct walking meetings. In her TED Talk, Nilofer Merchant explains how walking can help your life and health.
  10. Write a journal. Keeping a journal can benefit both your personal and professional life. If you're not sure how to start, The Muse shares "8 Ways to Stop Thinking About Journaling and Actually Start Journaling."

Whether it's physical paper or e-book, reading can be relaxing. The genre doesn't matter.

Stress is personal. Each of us has to be able to identify what stresses us and find our own effective ways of managing it. The good news is that some of our everyday stressors can be alleviated with little distractions during lunch or a work break so that we can go back to work refreshed and ready to tackle a new challenge.


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Sharlyn Lauby is an author, writer, speaker, and consultant. She has been named a Top HR Digital Influencer and is best-known for her work on HR Bartender, a friendly place to talk about workplace issues. HR Bartender has been recognized as one of the Top 5 Blogs read by HR professionals by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and best business blog by the Stevie Awards.

This website contains articles posted for informational and educational value. Paychex is not responsible for information contained within any of these materials. Any opinions expressed within materials are not necessarily the opinion of, or supported by, Paychex. The information in these materials should not be considered legal or accounting advice, and it should not substitute for legal, accounting, and other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant.
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