Recognise and manage stress at work

What is stress?

Stress is not necessarily a bad thing. Without the ability to feel stress, humans wouldn’t have survived. Cavemen used the onset of stress to alert them to potential danger, such as a sabre-toothed tiger!

Fast forward to our modern world. Most of us no longer need to hunt and gather to survive. Other “threats” now trigger our stress response, including factors related to things like work, finances, and relationships. Stress can be temporary or it can hang on long-term, affecting hormones, mood, illness, and all aspects of your health and wellness.

  • clearer thinking
  • reduced anxiety
  • improved mood
  • increased self-esteem – so you can make the most of your potential
  • reduced risk of depression
  • improvements in relationships – so you can play a full part in your relationships, your workplace, and your community.

How to deal with stress at work

Work related stress or anxiety is a form of emotional distress associated with real or anticipated pain around your job. Stress at work can be difficult to predict and also to manage. Many people experience it and use a range of tactics to manage it.

What causes work related stress?

You can experience work stress/anxiety in any job and it can be brought on by several factors:

  • You’re without the resources necessary to do your job effectively
  • You’re in a toxic work environment that is led by an abusive boss or co-worker
  • You’re underemployed and/or underpaid
  • You dislike the industry you’re working in
  • You feel trapped in the very job that is causing you work anxiety
  • You lack the skills or knowledge necessary to do your job effectively.
  • You can also experience new job stress/anxiety. This could stem from a fear you may have about meeting the expectations of a new role or new boss. When we are faced with the unknown or a number of unknowns it can be stressful, particularly if you’re under pressure to quickly deliver results.

How do I know if I have work related stress/anxiety?

Work related stress/anxiety expresses itself differently in everyone, but here are some common symptoms:

  • Sense of dread, that something’s really wrong or going to happen
  • Obsession over routine, which may make you hyper-controlling over your space or tasks/responsibilities
  • Intense focus that can suddenly become an inability to concentrate and stay on task

If your behaviour has changed on the job, or you regularly experience any of the above symptoms, you may have work related stress/anxiety.

Top tips on how to deal with stress/anxiety at work

Identify the source of your work stress/anxiety

Better understanding your circumstance will help you figure out whether or not you can adapt. While some work problems can be managed, others are so large that changing jobs is maybe the best solution.

If you dislike the industry you’re working in, your work stress isn’t likely to go away until you change the type of work you do. If an external force such as an abusive boss or co-worker is the source of your work anxiety, it’s unlikely you’ll feel better until either you or they are removed from the place of employment. Depending on where you work, some companies offer employee support programmes and other services that can help you deal with this type of challenge.

Organise your workday

Organise your work tasks in a to-do list that includes breaks. Once you’ve accomplished a few tasks, reward yourself. This approach can help motivate you to complete the tasks that you might otherwise avoid doing.

Establish a timeline

Knowing that your work stress/anxiety doesn’t have to last forever is a great comfort. Be clear with yourself about how long you’re willing to manage your work anxiety before taking a bigger step, like getting another job.


Try working 30-60 minutes of exercise in to your daily routine. This can help you clear your mind and rid yourself of the bad feelings associated with work anxiety. Consider going to the gym before work. If necessary, go afterward, as well or go for a walk, bike ride, or even go dancing. Talk to your local GP practice before beginning a new exercise program.

Work from home

If your job allows, you can minimise your exposure to a stressful work environment by working from home a few days a week. In your own environment, the stress is typically less, and you may be more focused.

Focus on your own goals

Define what you want to accomplish in your career. This can help minimise the impacts of a toxic work environment. Excitement about your future can help you refocus so that the problems you’re currently presented with become nothing more than temporary annoyances on your way to accomplishing bigger and better things.

Too much work – ask for help

If you feel your workload is spiralling out of control and it’s causing you stress, discuss it with your manager or supervisor. If you can’t resolve the problem of unrealistic goals, organisation problems or deadlines in this way, talk to your personnel department, trade union representative or other relevant members of staff.

Figuring out how to deal with stress/anxiety at work is unique to everyone. Start by identifying what’s causing your work stress/anxiety—is it due to a job you’ve been in for a long time or is it new job issue? Narrowing it down can help you focus on the possible solutions for managing your stress.

If work stress/anxiety is impacting your physical health or if you have any concerns related to your mental health, always speak to your local GP practice first.

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