How to Deal with Stress at Work Successfully

Updated August 28, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Maria Abada, LPC

Perhaps you haven’t been able to get that dream job, and you’re not making the amount of money that you really want. Not being happy at work can cause stress than can build up over time. The reality is that even when you get that dream job or a hefty paycheck, the stress doesn’t automatically go away. In fact, you might find that your new job has brought new pressures and demands that you never anticipated.

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You may wake up feeling refreshed and ready to start the day. As you make your way through a crowded bus or train or fight your way through the morning rush traffic jam, your stress starts to build. When you arrive at the office, you find that a couple of new things have cropped up that need your attention. Before you finish those, a co-worker brings you a problem to solve, and your boss hands you yet another project to complete. By the end of the day, you haven’t accomplished half of what you’d planned on. As you wind down your workday, the mere thought of hopping on a crowded vehicle or sitting in traffic for the second time is really starting to weigh heavily on you.

As common as it may be, stress at work may affect your mental health, physical health, or both.  Recognizing the types of stress at work and having a plan to reduce stress can have a positive impact on your overall health and well-being. A little stress management goes a long way toward working in a stress-free environment.

Recognizing Stress At Work

To demonstrate the amount of work stress that businesspeople have, Forbes reports that the average businessperson manages between 30 and 100 projects at a time. Also, the average business worker gets interrupted up to 7 times every hour. About 40% of workers at large companies are facing major corporate restructuring, causing added stress over job permanency. Moreover, 40% of businesspeople admitted that they have trouble sleeping at night due to worry over their jobs.

Long commutes also add to job stress. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, among workers that didn’t work at home, 8.1% had commutes of an hour or longer in 2011.

By identifying the cause of your stress at work, you can practice stress management techniques to keep it at a manageable level.

If you’re making a low salary and you have little or no chance for growth or advancement, work stress can creep up on you. If your work doesn’t challenge you or your workload is always more than you can do in a typical day, stress at work can wear you down. When you add these types of issues to not having enough control over job-related decisions or conflicting demands and performance expectations, work stress builds even more.

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conducted by the American Psychological Association ( APA ) called Stress in America, the majority of Americans cited stress at work as a significant problem. It would be great if you could leave work stress at the office, but it doesn’t work that way.  When you’re living with stress for the better part of the week, it can have a measurable bearing on your physical and mental health.

Stress at work can increase your blood pressure and cause other health problems like headaches, stomachaches, anger problems, and trouble with concentration. When you feel stress, your body produces a surge of hormones that temporarily increase your blood pressure. This causes your blood vessels to narrow and your heart to beat faster. Chronic stress has been linked to heart attacks and strokes.

Anxiety, insomnia, and a weakened immune system are additional health issues that might not be so apparent, but they’re also signs of stress at work. Some of the ways that workers deal with stress are unhealthy, like overeating, snacking on high-calorie foods, smoking, or abusing alcohol or drugs. These habits can increase your blood pressure even higher and make workers vulnerable to depression or other mental health disorders.

If you recognize that stress at work is taking its toll on you, it signifies a good time to identify the source of your stress and take some steps to get it under control.

Don’t be surprised if you’re so overwhelmed that you can’t even figure out what’s causing you stress at work. With so much piling upon you, it can be difficult to sort things out. Something that many people find helpful is to track their stressors in a journal for a week or two. Jot down the stressor and how you responded to it.  Make a note of what happened and who was involved. If you’re consistent with this, you’ll soon be able to see some recognizable patterns in what stresses you and how you tend to deal with it. Once you have a good handle on the causes, you can develop a plan for how to deal with stress at work.

Tips For Stress Management At Work

On a positive note, there are a lot of simple things that you can do to help with stress management.

Be aware that stress often arises when you feel like things are out of control. At these times, it’s helpful to try to understand what you can control versus what’s out of your control. You can’t control someone else’s actions or responses, but you can always control how you respond to others. Do your best to act thoughtfully rather than to react thoughtlessly.

Deep breathing and focused imagery are good ways to clear your thinking and help you restore balance to your mental health. This is a fast and easy strategy for stress management because it only takes a few minutes, and you might even be able to do it right at your desk.

Another strategy for stress management is to set a couple of times each day to deal with disruptions. You can’t control who interrupts your work or when they do it, but you might be able to control when you respond. Instead of responding right away to requests through pop-up chats or notifications of a new email, set aside a few times to respond to all of them at the same time. For example, answer chats and emails first thing in the morning, just after lunch, and again at the end of the day. If you have the luxury of having a door, close it when you need time to focus on work without interruptions.

Do your best to pace yourself throughout the day to aid in stress management. When you push hard all day long, it causes stress, and your productivity level will drop. Schedule a few breaks throughout the day to walk, stretch, or do some deep breathing.

It’s also highly relevant to eat well and get plenty of sleep. A diet that’s low in sugar and high in protein may boost your energy and keep you from snacking. Sleep is essential to rejuvenate your body. The CDC states that about a third of Americans don’t get enough sleep at night. You may be able to improve your sleep by limiting your intake of caffeine later in the day. It may also help to limit your exposure to the television or your computer as your night winds down. Instead, try reading a novel or listening to music before you drift off instead as part of your stress management plan.

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Sometimes roles can get blurred within the workplace. When you’re clear on your part, job description, and purpose within the company, it’s easier to prioritize tasks and projects. Try to give priority to the tasks that will have the most impact and those that are aligned with the company’s goals and objectives. At the same time, try not to focus on pleasing others, which will likely put additional stress on you. When you work at your own pace, and you work with confidence, others will be more apt to focus on your strengths and help you to meet their approval.

Some people that you work with might push your buttons more often than others. When this happens, do your best to communicate your thoughts and ideas clearly and be willing to listen to theirs. Arguments and disagreements often stem from not having all the facts. Try to be as objective as possible. Usually, there’s a whole lot more to a problem than we think.

Advancements in technology make us more available to work, which means many workers have to tend to work duties while they’re officially off the clock. You may need to make it a practice to set some boundaries to protect your work-life balance. Perhaps, you could not give in to the temptation to check your work email account from home or not answer the phone during the dinner hour. Stress management will be easier when your mind isn’t on work around the clock.

Your workplace doesn’t have to continue to be the stress zone. If you’ve tried all these suggestions for stress management and they’re not helping you learn how to deal with stress at work, you might consider getting some professional help. Some online counseling might do you a world of wonders, and it doesn’t have to disrupt your regular work hours. The sooner you work on stress management, the sooner you can find relief from stress at work.


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