Six Ways To Overcome Stress At Work

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated May 14, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

In today’s world, work is an ever-present factor in the lives we lead. While a career, business venture, or job position can be a crucial facet of life, it can also be a source of mental health concerns, like chronic stress. Like all other forms of stress, job stress can significantly affect your mental and physical health. And it can actually make it harder for you to perform well at work.

According to some estimates, 83% of workers in the US experience work-related stress. This statistic can be attributed to a confluence of factors that include professional pressure, demanding work environments, and job insecurity.

Given the high prevalence of job stress and its resultant challenges, it is important for workers to learn how to foster mental wellness in the workplace. To that end, below, we’re discussing the challenges presented by work-related stress and outlining six strategies for overcoming it. 

The challenges of work-related stress

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Work-related pressure can be challenging to navigate

Knowing the various complications that can stem from stress at work helps highlight the importance of proper techniques for managing it. The following are some of the challenges of work-related stress. 

Mental health concerns

When work-related stress becomes a persistent challenge, it may lead to the development of comorbid mental health conditions. Research shows that chronic stress can increase an individual’s likelihood of experiencing depressive and anxiety disorders, along with substance use disorder and insomnia. These mental health concerns often have a bidirectional relationship with stress. For example, worsening stress can cause increased difficulty sleeping, and insomnia can exacerbate stress.  

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. Support is available 24/7.

Physical health concerns

Stress at work can also bring on serious physical health challenges. Headaches, trouble sleeping, and a weaker immune system are just a few examples. The stress response can lead to tension, rapid heart rate, and a variety of other changes in the body that can lead to physical complications. If you already live with a physical health condition, then work stress can make addressing your symptoms more difficult or increase your susceptibility to additional ones.

Decreased productivity

Because of the negative impact that job-related stress can have on workers’ mental, emotional, and physical health, reductions in output are common. According to the WHO, mental health concerns lead to the loss of 12 billion working days per year globally. When productivity declines, you may experience elevated levels of stress, creating a cycle that can be harmful if it isn’t interrupted. 

Strategies for overcoming stress at work

As discussed above, job-related stress can have serious effects that extend beyond the workplace. However, there are several proven strategies for managing stress that can help you avoid negative effects and foster mental wellness. The following are six tips for alleviating stress at work.

Identify your stressors

Understanding the sources of job stress may help you foster mental wellness as you work. For example, you may experience stress because of a lack of job safety. If you perform contract or freelance work, you may have less stability. Or you may work long hours, which can lead to fatigue, a lack of work-life balance, and burnout. 

If you’re unsure about your stressors, consider writing down a list of your activities and a record of how you felt throughout the day in a journal after work. This may help you recognize patterns. For example, you may discover that you often feel stressed after your boss adds to your workload unexpectedly. Knowing this can help you take steps toward reducing that stress. 

Set professional boundaries

Research suggests that workplace demands, including high workloads, are one of the leading causes of job stress. You may be tempted to take on more and more responsibility in order to make a good impression or move up in your career. While excelling at your job is generally important, spreading yourself thin can lead to worsening performance and higher levels of stress. 

You can avoid overworking by having professional boundaries in place. Boundaries are advisable whether you work on location or maintain your career remotely. For example, some people set a boundary of not checking email or taking work calls after certain hours. Others may set boundaries around the scope of their role to avoid situations in which they must go beyond their job description. 

Setting clear boundaries can help you honor your needs and maintain a healthy work-life balance. The boundaries you set with yourself and others will typically depend on your specific circumstances. For example, if you’re a nurse on call, you may not always be able to set a boundary dictating when people can contact you; but you may be able to set one around which responsibilities you’ll take on regarding patient care. 

Maintain positive working relationships

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Your colleagues can have a significant effect on your work environment, so healthy work relationships can engender a less stressful workplace. The nature of your professional connections may not always be in your complete control, although you certainly play a role. Doing your part to nurture healthy relationships with clients, customers, colleagues, or superiors can make a difference. Positive working relationships can not only help with stress management, but they can also advance your career.

Speak up If you’re struggling

If you are dealing with stress at work, speaking up about it can be crucial. Of course, there is a time, place, and proper way of going about doing this; the specifics will inherently depend upon your profession, manner of working, and other factors. If you work at a company, the human resources department is a good place to bring up your concerns. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking up about this at work, then consider telling a friend or loved one outside of your job.

Take a break

Sometimes, simply knowing when to take a break is one of the simplest and most effective stress management techniques. Small opportunities such as eating away from your desk and taking a walk around the block can be beneficial to your well-being. Apps that promote mindfulness and meditation can often be utilized within a two-minute work break.

Breaks have benefits that extend beyond stress management at work. Better professional performance is another advantage that can come from taking breaks from time to time. Clearing your head can make you more efficient and better able to overcome stress.

Consider making changes

Stress at work is sometimes caused by immersion in an occupation for which an individual is not suited. There are many stories of individuals who have left certain occupations for others and found happiness. If you believe that stress at work is caused by your current job, then it may help to evaluate your situation and determine whether a change could help you. For some individuals, their current job does not reflect their values, which causes distress. For other people, job stress could simply be due to a schedule that is not ideal. 

You may decide that a change to a different role within your current organization will benefit you; or the change you make could be related to the responsibilities you handle. You may also decide that your work environment is unhealthy and that a similar role in a different company will lead to less stress. Or you might discover that your career path does not suit you and decide to explore other avenues. Moving industries could help you find work that is more suited to your values, skills, and interests. 

You may also want to make smaller changes. If your interactions with other people at work are causing stress at work, then minimizing these interactions or improving the relationship could be advisable solutions. On the other hand, if stress at work is engendered by the environment, then seeing if you can work remotely or in a different environment is a potential solution.

Reducing work-related stress with online therapy

Research suggests that online therapy can help individuals manage stress that arises in the workplace. In a study published in the journal Internet Interventions, researchers examined the efficacy of online therapy when treating work-related stress, finding that participants experienced positive mental health outcomes at work and at home. The study also mentions the ability of online therapy to increase the availability to mental health care for stress and a range of other concerns. 

If you’re living with stress related to your job, know that help is available. Working with a licensed therapist through BetterHelp, you can participate in therapy remotely, allowing you to avoid potentially stress-inducing situations like missing work to commute to an office. You can also reach out to your therapist outside of sessions, which can be helpful if you forgot to mention something during therapy or have a question about work-related stress. 

Getty/Halfpoint Images
Work-related pressure can be challenging to navigate

Takeaway

While a job can provide financial stability, a sense of purpose, and structure, it can also present challenges, including the pressure to perform, a lack of work-life balance, and burnout. The above stress-management tips can help you avoid these negative effects and ensure you maintain a healthy relationship with work. If you feel that you could benefit from additional support as you manage job-related stress, consider connecting with a licensed therapist online. Matching with a qualified mental health professional can be a productive next step on the path to emotional wellness and a solid work-life balance.

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