Can I Learn How to Manage Stress at Work? (Yes — Here’s How)

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated November 21, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Do you have a heavy workload? Have you ever had a physical reaction at work, such as bad stomach aches or headaches before coming in each day? Have there even been times when your heart rate might increase or your breathing quickens? 

If so, it might be because your body went into fight-or-flight response due to work stress.

While it can feel overwhelming, work stress can be addressed successfully using the methods discussed below. Read on to learn about stress management techniques, and the role that online therapy can play in the management of your mental health. 

How Does Stress Show Up At Work?

Is Stress Taking Over Your Life?

Many people might respond to a stressful situation by working steadily until they finish all the work before them, perhaps out of fear of losing their jobs. Other people might deal with it by backing down and retreating. Regardless of what kind of job you have, it can be vitally important to manage stress on and off the job.

Stress Can Affect Your Mental Health And Wellbeing

If you’ve ever paid attention to your body when you’re stressed or afraid, you may have noticed some physical changes that become noticeable. That may be because stress and fear can have a purpose in our biological imperative of survival. 

There can be a disconnect, however, when we are reacting to survival instincts when there is no need to do so. For example: When we experience intense emotions, our bodies can give off a surge of energy. Sometimes the surge is so strong that it can cause us to go into a state of fight-or-flight, even if we are not in grave danger—we may simply be experiencing a bout of work stress. 

Stress at work that’s constant can lead you down a path of burnout. The warning signs of occupational burnout can include overwhelming exhaustion, cynicism and having a sense of inefficacy. 

Burnout can come about in a seemingly innocent way, sneaking up on you even in moments of perceived calm. For example: When you enter your work, knowing that you have more work than you can complete for the day, stress can begin to build before you even enter the facility. This can be for a variety of reasons, such as in the case that you have an overbearing boss, or an overwhelming workload. 

Tensions can also occur in the workplace when there is an environment of disrespect or unfairness among co-workers. Those tensions can build further if there are incidents or threats of sexual, physical or verbal harassment. 

No matter what the source of your stress is, online therapy can help. Your therapist can support you in using scientifically indicated stress relief methods and work with you to address possible sources of stress in your life.

Physical Symptoms Of Stress

Stress at work can manifest in a range of physical symptoms. High levels of work stress, (along with the everyday pressures in other areas of your life) can compound the effects of physical and mental stress. 

Severe stress that occurs repeatedly can disrupt your immune system and increase the potential for developing autoimmune disorders, and heart problems, and can bring on Alzheimer’s disease. Not sure if stress could be the underlying cause of your symptoms? You may take a moment to consider what your life was like before you became inundated with stress at work. If you ate a healthy diet, exercised regularly, and slept well and all that has changed, it might be time to figure out how to manage stress better—as it may be taking root in your everyday health and lifestyle. A few changes in your routine can be just what you need to alleviate harmful stress.

How To Manage Stress At Work

In many cases, it can be possible to learn how to manage stress at work. Many stress-reducing strategies cost little or nothing, and they’re often things you can do right at home or even while you’re at work. We’ve summarized a few strategies for your convenience below: 

Guided relaxation can be a good way to combat stress at work. If you’re interested in therapy, this is something that therapists might also often use in conjunction with cognitive-behavioral therapy. 

Progressive muscle relaxation is generally known as a process that takes you through alternating tensing and relaxing of each muscle group while focusing on relaxing thoughts. Just a short session can help many to feel rejuvenated and recharged.

Logical problem-solving can be especially helpful for those who believe that they are naturally skilled at problem-solving. Using this method, you can try to narrow down the issue that’s causing you the most stress and brainstorm potential solutions. You can then rank your solutions from best to worst and come up with an action plan for reducing stress.

Is Stress Taking Over Your Life?

Mindfulness or guided meditation is also becoming a popular way for many to reduce everyday stressors. Practicing mindfulness is an experience that is defined by many as an activity through which you can pay attention to the current moment and your thoughts with curiosity, openness, and acceptance. 

By truly feeling and experiencing the current moment, you can reduce worries about the past and future without engaging in negative self-talk. 

The APA notes that several studies are thought to currently highlight the benefits of mindfulness. Mindfulness can help to reduce stress, boost your working memory, reduce rumination, increase your focus, improve your relationships, and increase your cognitive function. 

Your ability to practice mindfulness can improve with practice. Essentially, mindfulness can train your brain to break harmful habits. It can be fairly easy to find books, articles, apps and videos on mindfulness, and many of them are free. These can be helpful resources to reference as you continue your journey in mindfulness. 

Reframing Negative Thought Patterns At Work Or At Home

Constant worry can be a byproduct of stress at work, which can cause you to view most situations through a negative lens. Reframing and reappraising negative thoughts are other strategies that can reduce the stress that may stem from your workplace. 

The goal for most who choose to use reframing techniques is to successfully address negative or invasive thoughts as hypotheses rather than as facts. As stressful thoughts begin to enter your mind, you can then try to change your inner dialogue from how stressful the situation is to the fact that the situation is challenging—but it can present new opportunities for you to grow and learn. Reframing situations can help to shift your mindset and can help you approach the task with a fresh and renewed spirit.

As you begin to address stress in your life, it can be helpful to consider that work problems don’t have to be yours alone. Instead of tackling things completely on your own, it can be okay to ask for help once in a while. A pair of fresh eyes on a tough issue may be just what you need to reduce stress and make progress. Additionally, working together as a team can improve your collaboration skills and may improve the morale of your teammates as well as your own.

How Can Online Therapy Help Those Who Are Experiencing Stress At Work? 

People experiencing stress at work may not believe that they can leave for any reason. This can lead to stunted emotional growth and burnout over time. 

If you are concerned about taking time off work to go to an in-person session, then online therapy may be the solution. You can log onto a session while you’re in your own office, from home, or from anywhere else with an internet connection. This can reduce several possible barriers to entry that may be harming stressed-out employees and team mates over time. 

Is Online Therapy Effective?

A licensed online therapist can be an effective resource for helping you work through things when times get tough. Several clinical studies have shown that online therapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy when it comes to treating anxiety disorders, as well as a wide array of other mental health conditions that can be caused by work stress.


Dealing with stress at work can be common—and experiencing difficulties as a result isn’t generally a cause for shame. We all might have our limits with how much we can effectively process and how far we can push ourselves, which is why it can be important to be cautious about pushing yourself beyond what you consider to be healthy boundaries. Online therapy can be a helpful tool in this context, and BetterHelp can connect you with a therapist in your area of need.

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