Dr. Erin Hendriks

Five techniques to manage stress at your in-person workplace

There are a lot of reasons to feel anxious about going back to in-person work, even more so if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).


November 11, 2022

Written by:

Medically Reviewed by:

Dr. Erin Hendriks

Board-Certified Physician


May 2, 2024

Mental Health
Mental Health

Returning to in-person work after the pandemic is a loaded subject. If you’re like 51% of returning employees, you’re a bit excited. But maybe you fall among the 49% who aren’t quite so thrilled? 

There are a lot of reasons to feel anxious about going back to in-person work, even more so if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Even if you have a long commute and some unenviable workplace politics, however, there are many coping strategies you can use to control your stress and the possible impact on your mental health.  


#1: Be like a turtle and slow down

We’re all trying to get so much done during the workday, right? Unfortunately, that can mean succumbing to high-stress levels, perfectionism, and burnout. Hustle culture has its place, but did you know that you can be even more productive – and more relaxed to boot – by taking time to just slow down? 

Easy to say, not always easy to do, we know. Yet slowing down here and there for as little as 10 minutes at a time lets your heart rate and blood pressure fall and can help put things into perspective so you can face another work sprint. 

  • Eat slooowwly at lunch (and don’t stress snack). This has the added benefit of soothing your IBS, since taking small bites and chewing well leads to swallowing less air, which in turn means less gas in your gut. 
  • Take a stroll, or at least get up every 90 minutes so you can stretch, hydrate, or take a bathroom break.
  • Simply do nothing. Resist the urge to surf social media, scroll apps, or check email. Instead, stare at the wall. Daydream. Just take five minutes off once or twice a day to let your brain wander. 

#2: Get those thoughts in line

A major source of job stress is bad management or conflict with other coworkers, among other things. When stressful situations strike, it’s easy for your thoughts to spiral into negativity. That can act like a mental swamp, getting you stuck in thought loops that affect your work, sour your mood, spike your stress, and flare your IBS. Here’s what to do:

  • Reframe your thoughts. If you catch yourself having a persistent negative thought, see if you can reframe it. If you struggle with reframing and with letting go of toxic thoughts, consider exploring cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
  • Put yourself in problem-solving mode. When we brainstorm and try to find solutions, we’re far more likely to feel in control and to see our problems as manageable.
  • Put some critical distance between you and the source of stress. Can you practice feeling a little more detached? Mental imagery, like picturing the stress as a balloon you let go of may help.

#3: Get a quietness practice

Being back in a work environment can mean plenty of stressors like stiff chairs, unpleasant noises, bad coffee, and bathrooms that are too far away. Help counteract all this by carving out some peace and quiet. When you quiet yourself, you can also calm your gut and anxiety. 

  • Practice deep breathing exercises to leverage the power of the body’s longest nerve – the vagus nerve, which connects the brain to the gut – to soothe yourself and combat chronic stress. You can experiment to find which deep breathing rhythm suits you best (and then practice it in annoying meetings!)
  • Pair meditation with mindfulness to establish a deeper, more contemplative sense of quiet. You can meditate while walking around your work space or even in five-minute “mini-meditations.” If meditation doesn’t sound like a fit, prayer or visualization techniques may help.
  • Tune in to music that helps you feel focused and stress-free. Music, a 2015 pilot study found, can calm nerves and anxiety. 

#3: Get a dose of nature

Not all of us get to work outside or even sit near a window. If that’s the case for you, that’s too bad, given the proven, positive effect nature has on our productivity levels, our immune system, and our overall well-being. To benefit from natural stress management:

  • Take a “forest bath” if you can, which simply means walking on a tree-lined pathway. If you can’t easily get to trees, take 10 minutes for a brain-stimulating, gut-soothing walk around your workplace’s neighborhood. And if that’s a no-go, just stand on some grass, barefoot if possible
  • Bring a plant to decorate your workspace. Aloe vera, for example, is an easy keeper that can help ease anxiety.
  • If the weather permits, eat your lunch outside. At least sit beside a window. You’ll likely sleep better and feel more energized. 

#5: Feel less stressed with support from Salvo Health 

To care for your IBS and your stress at the same time, combine our suggestions with professional treatment, like the kind offered by Salvo Health. Dr. Mark Pimentel, for example, has conducted research to show how treating IBS and SIBO symptoms right away, using a breath test to help determine what a patient might need, results in speedier, more effective care.

Dr. Mark Hyman chimes in, too, pointing out that a strong community of friends is vital, as is learning to use your mind to help soothe yourself. Treatments that address root causes and biological elements of stress, like supplements, can help, too. In his words, “Mercury toxicity or a magnesium or vitamin B12 deficiency or a toxic gut chemical or a gluten allergy could be changing your brain. So, by changing your body, you can change your mind!”

That’s the kind of innovative, synergistic thinking that gets results, and it’s the kind of approach Salvo Health endorses as well. With Salvo Health as a partner, you can benefit from the best of modern science while also teaming up with a health coach to learn how the right exercise and mental health habits can address both anxiety and IBS.

Salvo Health’s digital healthcare platform and virtual clinic provide you with continuous text-based support and care for your chronic condition. Imagine, you can text a board-certified Physician when needed or get paired with a Behavioral Health Coach to avoid flare-ups or manage your pain. Alongside messaging-based communication, members receive a customized Care Plan for personalized care and chronic condition management, including for stress and anxiety. 

Get immediate access to a coordinated Salvo Health care team, including a certified gastro specialist and board-certified health coach when you join Salvo Health today. 

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