Stress At Work

Medically reviewed by Kimberly L Brownridge , LPC, NCC, BCPC
Updated March 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Stress at work happens to just about everyone who has a job. In fact, more than half of employees in a 2021 survey reported that work-related stress was having negative impacts on their physical and mental health. Despite the fact that stress and work often coincide, there are various techniques you can try to help manage work-related stress levels in your life. 33 such strategies that you might consider trying are listed below.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Learn to think and behave differently in stressful situations

Track your work-related stress

Identify your stressors. You already know you have stress at work or related to your job. You may feel it as you get ready for the day, once you get there, or on your way home. But do you know specifically what is making you feel stressed in these moments? Keeping a journal where you write down a list of people, situations, and events that make you feel pressure or excessive stress from work could help you pinpoint key causes. Over time, you may be able to identify patterns that cause stress such as unrealistic deadlines or certain co-workers.

Pay attention to the way stress affects your physical health. When you’re under the most mental stress, what kinds of physical symptoms do you have? Do you feel drained of energy? Do you have headaches or stomach aches? Does your heart ever feel like it’s racing when you’re under a lot of pressure? Keeping notes could help you identify early warning signs and notice when you’re reacting to a stressful situation so you can implement relaxation techniques to manage stress.

Notice the effects of stress on your mental health. For the same reason, it could be useful to keep track of how workplace stress is affecting your thinking and behavior. Are you missing a lot of work when you’re feeling most stressed? Does it seem like you might be experiencing anxiety or depression? Does your self-esteem decrease or your negative self-talk increase when your job demands too much? Again, being aware of your symptoms could help you find tailored coping mechanisms to address specific workplace stressors and general job stress.

Take note of how you react to stress. The way you react to work-related stress could jeopardize your job, your relationships, and even your health, so being aware of your responses so you can better control them could be a good place to start. For example, defaulting to angry outbursts, self-medicating with alcohol, or isolating yourself socially are all examples of unhealthy coping mechanisms to relieve stress that could negatively influence your life and health.

The SAMHSA National Helpline for support with substance misuse Is available 24/7 and can be reached by calling (800) 662-4357.

Move your body for workplace stress relief

Practice yoga. Research suggests that the ancient Indian spiritual practice of yoga may be so helpful for stress management in the workplace that many companies around the world offer classes to help improve employee health. If your company has that option, you might consider taking advantage of it. If not, taking an in-person or virtual class in your free time could produce mental health benefits.

Take a group exercise class. Research suggests that engaging in group exercise in particular can help increase well-being and a sense of social connectedness in addition to offering the well-known health benefits of exercise in general. Whether it's a kickboxing class, a spinning class, or a running group, getting active—especially with others—could help reduce stress hormone (cortisol) levels and help you feel calmer.

Join a sports team. While it’s not for everyone, some people find that the camaraderie and lighthearted atmosphere of joining an adult sports league is an enjoyable way to make new connections, get exercise, and decompress from a stressful job. 

Take a walk or a jog. Even if it’s just a few minutes each day, taking a walk—especially if you’re able to do so in a park or other natural area—could help you control your mood and release tension.

iStock/SDI Productions

Use relaxation techniques

Engage in systematic muscle relaxation. Systematic muscle relaxation just means tightening and releasing different muscle groups one at a time. Typically, the recommendation is to start with the muscles of your toes and move up group by group until you reach your facial muscles. By the end, you may feel less tense and more aware of the present moment.

Practice deep breathing. Deep breathing helps get more oxygen to your body and brain and more fully releases carbon dioxide, and it may even lower high blood pressure. Closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths—whether at your desk or on public transport to or from work—as needed could help you control your work-related stress response.

Try a body scan. When you’re feeling the pressure, you might also take a moment to become more aware of stress symptoms throughout your body. You might start by sitting quietly or lying down if you can. Next, direct your attention to each part of your body, one at a time, noticing how it feels. This may help you realize where you’re holding muscle tension and what you may need (food, water, rest, exercise, stretching) to help your body and mind better cope with work-related stress.

Consider meditation

Practice meditation. Meditation cis an ancient spiritual practice that has its roots in Indian culture, but it’s becoming popular around the world as a result of the health effects research suggests it may provide—including better managing stress and calming the nervous system. When you feel overwhelmed, you can practice simple meditation by taking some deep breaths and letting thoughts drift in and out of your consciousness, noticing them without judging them or trying to hold onto them.

Practice gratitude. Some studies suggest that engaging in a normal gratitude practice could help you increase your emotional resilience to stress. This can be as simple as thinking of three things you’re grateful for before you go to sleep each night or writing a few in a notebook each morning.

Listen to a guided imagery recording. Guided imagery usually consists of someone describing a peaceful scene. The narrator tells you what to picture and how to focus your mind. Finding free recordings like this online could help you focus your mind and find tranquility.

Develop healthy habits

Eat nutritious foods. What you eat could affect the way you respond to certain emotions and help with disease control. For example, a 2020 study suggests that the Mediterranean diet—which is rich in lean protein, vegetables, and healthy fats and low in processed foods and added sugars—may be associated with decreased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in situations of acute stress. Incorporating nutritious foods into your diet when you can could help you respond more productively to stress.

Get enough sleep. High levels of perceived stress can contribute to poor sleep, and vice versa. Practicing good sleep hygiene could help you get enough quality rest despite work-related stressors so that your body and mind can be better equipped to face a new day.

Avoid drinking too much caffeine. Many people find that too much caffeine from coffee or energy drinks can exacerbate the tension and anxiety they may feel, making them jittery and nervous or causing sleep disturbances. Someone who is already stressed may want to avoid or limit caffeine for this reason.

Avoid or limit alcohol. Although some people turn to a drink or two to unwind after a stressful workday, this habit could be counterproductive. When consumed too close to bedtime, alcohol could decrease sleep quality, which could decrease stress resilience, emotional control, and cognitive performance.

Set healthy boundaries

Aim for work-life balance. Many companies talk about work-life balance as core to their organizational values. Separating work from your personal life as much as possible is best for many people. This can look like avoiding answering emails on the weekends or on days off or practicing relaxation exercises to calm yourself down after work and before engaging with your family or friends.

Set boundaries with coworkers. Consider your relationships with coworkers. If they expect you to do their work or help in ways that make you uncomfortable, it may help reduce your stress if you decide on limits for your time and energy. It can be challenging to set boundaries if you feel like it clashes with organizational behavior, but maintaining your own occupational safety can benefit your mental health.

Set boundaries with supervisors. Managers, supervisors, and bosses may sometimes expect you to do things outside your job description or devote more than your designated number of hours per week to work tasks. While managing this stressful situation and safeguarding your job can be tricky, setting limits could be productive. Some companies may even value employee input about the delegation of tasks and responsibilities to better account for hiring needs. 

Enforce boundaries in a professional way. Once you set boundaries around work-life balance and with coworkers and supervisors, enforcing them when/if they are pushed is typically another element of safeguarding your health and energy. Sometimes, job insecurity prompts employees to constantly take on more, but learning to say no calmly and firmly can be helpful in preventing stress.

Solve problems

Identify your top three work stressors. Although it’s not possible in all cases, Sometimes, you can eliminate or reduce sources of stress. First, you might try making a list of three to five top work stressors that could potentially be dealt with. 

Brainstorm solutions. Next, go through each challenge and brainstorm a list of potential solutions. An ill-fitting uniform or work clothes that add to your agitation throughout the day could be altered or replaced, for example. A rude coworker could potentially be approached calmly and kindly with the aim of resolving the conflict. A dull or uninspiring work environment could be brightened up with personal decor or creature comforts. Note that if your safety and health are at risk at your job, however, reporting these conditions to management or the appropriate agency is generally recommended.

Follow up with action where possible. Finally, you might choose the solution for each stressor that seems the most promising and put it into action. Even if it only helps a little, the process could help you feel more in control and less stressed at work.

Recharge and maintain physical health

Unplug from digital work chores. When you go home from work, it may help you recharge from the day if you disconnect from the digital world of your workplace and release unnecessary stress. If you need to check work emails at home, you might set a specific time frame in which to do so, and then do your best to put your device down and put that stress out of your mind.

Focus on other things. It can be hard to get your mind off of work even in your off-hours, so you might search for activities that can allow you to get into a “flow state” of present focus where you aren’t thinking about anything but what you’re doing in the moment. For example, some people are able to find this state while drawing, writing, singing, or running. Finding a flow-state activity like this that works for you could allow your brain a break.

Get outdoors. Studies indicate that spending time in nature could help reduce stress levels. Going for a hike or a walk around your local park are examples of ways to do this in your off hours.

Laugh with your friends. Laughter may help decrease stress and anxiety, so spending lighthearted time with friends, attending a comedy show, or watching a movie or show you find funny could be useful.

Spend time with your loved ones. Social support can be a crucial element of overall health and well-being. It may even increase stress resilience, which points to the importance of prioritizing connections with friends, family, neighbors, and others.

Learn to think and behave differently in stressful situations

Get mental health support

Talk to a trusted friend. The act of simply opening up to friends or family members about the stress you’re feeling at work could help you feel heard and may even help you find resolutions to your key stressors.

Join a support group. If you have a particular challenge that's increasing your stress at work, going to a support group could help you get your feelings out and enable you to find new solutions to your problems. For example, if you work in a caring industry like healthcare, meeting with others in the field could offer you a space to commiserate and heal.

Talk to a therapist. A mental health counselor may help you develop better ways of coping with stress at work. For instance, they could help you accomplish many of the other ways of dealing with stress listed above. For example, they can help you track your stress, use relaxation techniques more effectively, learn to set boundaries, and generate potential solutions for key stressors. They are also trained to provide support if you are also experiencing an emotional disorder such as depression or anxiety due to the negative effects of workplace stress.

Seeking therapy for work stress

You don’t need to have a diagnosed or diagnosable mental health condition like anxiety or depression to meet with a therapist, though they can help address those as well if applicable. If you’re experiencing chronic stress or overwhelm related to your job, a therapist can provide you with a nonjudgmental space in which you can express your emotions and work toward solutions. Some companies even offer an employee assistance program that subsidizes subscriptions to online therapy services or that helps people find a therapist near them.

If you’re stressed at or because of your workplace, you likely have a busy schedule, which can make commuting to and from in-person therapy appointments difficult. In cases like these, you might prefer meeting with a licensed counselor online through a platform like BetterHelp. All you need is a device that connects to the internet so you can speak with them via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging. Research suggests that online therapy can be as effective as in-person therapy for challenges like chronic stress, so you might consider this option if it’s more convenient for you.


Job- or career-related stress is a common experience among those in the workforce. The techniques listed above—from practicing meditation to eating nutritious foods—could help you manage this type of stress, as could meeting with a mental health professional like a therapist.

Ease stress and mental exhaustion
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet started