Healthy Ways To Cope With Stress At Work

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated April 18, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Work is a part of daily life for most people, and some level of stress often comes with the territory. It can have a variety of sources, whether it’s tight deadlines, job insecurity, conflict with coworkers, or simply being spread too thin. While we’re wired to be able to handle periods of stress from time to time, ongoing or chronic stress can be difficult to manage and may lead to a variety of negative consequences for one’s mental and physical health. That’s why learning healthy ways to manage stress can be helpful; read on for tips and strategies.

Are you experiencing more stress at work than usual?

Statistics about work-related stress 

If you experience stress at work, you're not alone. According to a Forbes report, the average business professional manages between 30 and 100 projects simultaneously and gets interrupted about seven times an hour. The report suggests that these factors may contribute to the fact that more than 40% of adults say they lie awake at night thinking about the stressful events of their day.

In addition, the American Psychological Association’s 2021 Work and Well-Being Survey uncovered various study points about how stressed the average US adult is at work. Factors cited for high-stress levels at work include low salaries (56%), too heavy of a workload (50%), and a lack of paid time off or sick leave (50%). It also has that three in five employees say that work-related stress negatively impacts their performance, which can create more stress in turn.

Understanding stress and its effects

When we experience stress, our body is enacting a complex chemical and physiological process designed to help us deal with threats. This typically includes a release of the stress hormone cortisol along with physical responses such as muscle tension, sweating, and an increased heart rate. These changes can help us handle a stressful situation in front of us, but it’s not intended to be consistently activated long term—which is when stress-related health problems can arise.

The stress we experience can be generally categorized as either short- or long-term. Long-term stress is the most common type caused by work-life balance challenges, and it’s likely what you’re experiencing if your stress stems from your job. Short-term stress could be affecting you if it’s tied to one stressful event or time period after which you’ll feel less stressed, such as a job interview, a busy season, or an important project.

Experiencing significant stress consistently over time can produce harmful health effects. The potential consequences of chronic stress can include:

  • Increased blood pressure 
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Headaches 
  • Diabetes 
  • Anxiety
  • Depression 
  • Sleep disturbances

Some may also turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms (such as tobacco, alcohol, or overeating) to deal with stress, all of which can contribute to health concerns or exacerbate other conditions.

Tips for managing work-related stress

Work-related stress can have far-reaching negative impacts on one’s life because it’s something you typically have to face most every day. That’s why learning techniques to manage it can be important. The following are strategies that you may find useful.

Try physical relaxation techniques

Learning a few simple relaxation techniques that you can practice when you feel a spike of stress at work—or regularly, for best results—can be helpful. A few popular, research-backed methods include:

  • Breathing exercises. Taking a few deep breaths can help communicate to your body that you’re not in danger and don’t need the fight-or-flight response to be active right now. Box breathing is one effective method to try.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation. Since stress often causes muscles to tense, practicing a technique like progressive muscle relaxation can be calming, too. It involves sequentially tensing and then relaxing each muscle group from your head to your toes, typically with eyes closed and while breathing deeply.

Practice good time management

Effectively managing the tasks on your plate is another way you can manage stress levels. For example, instead of responding to each chat or email notification that appears from a coworker in real time, you might set aside an hour after lunch to address all your messages. That way, you can avoid engaging with interruptions or distractions so you can stay on track with the task at hand. Time-management techniques like the Pomodoro method may also be helpful if you’re having trouble focusing on a project. Finally, setting boundaries for your time and saying no to projects you don’t have the bandwidth for can be another key element of practicing good time management to limit stress at work.

Take care of your physical health

Taking good care of your body can help you be better equipped to manage the stress you may face at work. Research supports that the following healthy habits can all be helpful to this end:

  • Staying hydrated
  • Getting enough sleep each night
  • Engaging in regular physical activity
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Avoiding or limiting consumption of sugar and alcohol

Fully unplug during time off

Being able to relax and enjoy yourself when you’re not at work can help you feel energized and ready to take on challenges when you do return to your job. Muting notifications from or even uninstalling work-communication apps on your phone and avoiding work projects during time off whenever possible can help you create healthier work-life balance

Talk to your manager

If you’re consistently overwhelmed with tasks or often scrambling to meet deadlines that are too tight, it could also be worth speaking with your manager or supervisor if applicable. You might let them know that the quality of your work is suffering because you’ve got too much on your plate, and ask if there’s anything they may be able to do to help. For example, they may realize they need to hire additional employees, reshuffle the way tasks are assigned or deadlines are decided, or further clarify your role so that your workload is more manageable.

Speak with a therapist

If you’re experiencing high stress levels and are having difficulty coping, you might also consider speaking with a therapist. They can help you identify and address the sources of your stress and develop healthy coping mechanisms that are right for you. If your schedule doesn’t allow for travel to and from in-person appointments, you might consider online therapy as a more convenient, available alternative. With a virtual therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging from the comfort of home, your office, or anywhere you have an internet connection. Research suggests that online therapy is “no less efficacious” than in-person sessions, so you can generally choose the format that works best for you.

Are you experiencing more stress at work than usual?


If you’re experiencing chronic work-related stress, there are various strategies you can try to manage it and mitigate its effects. Engaging in physical relaxation techniques, implementing time-management strategies, and speaking with a therapist are a few examples.
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