How to Deal with Stress at Work: Your Stress Survival Manual

Author: Madalina Roman

Feeling stressed at work won’t be a novel notion to anyone in the corporate world and beyond. Work stress is, at the same time, a symptom, a cause, a consequence, and a disease in itself.

It can be the basis of significant health consequences, some benign, others not. How to deal with stress at work? What are the best tools to cope with stress?

Feeling stressed at work is very common up to a certain point, and realistically you’ll probably feel stressed in every work you perform.

Learning and adopting coping mechanisms and strategies to reduce stress is the best way to deal with things. We’ll explore those in this article.

What is work stress?

“Stress is the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the job requirements do not match the worker’s capabilities, resources, or needs. Job stress can lead to poor health and even injury.” This is the definition according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Government.

The same entity makes a point of not confusing work or job stress with being challenged professionally. A challenge is supposed to energize someone psychologically and physically, a motivator to learn new skills and master our jobs.

When someone accomplishes a challenge, the result is positive. There is satisfaction. The problem occurs when those feelings of satisfaction turn into stress.

These are some of the most common work-related stress factors, among others. It’s possible to say that all stress factors stem from each other.

  • Excessive workload;
  • Extra or long hours, usually unpaid;
  • Low salaries;
  • No or little opportunity for growth;
  • Lack of support;
  • Bad relationships with colleagues or leadership;
  • Unclear performance expectations;
  • Workplace bullying. 

How to deal with stress at work

According to the 2022 Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace, the pandemic and its aftershock continue to disrupt the workplace. Only 32% of working people across the globe say they’re thriving, and 43% report high levels of daily stress. Learn what can be done to shift this data around.

1. Identify the source of the problem

This is the first step if you want to succeed in coping with stress at work.

Make a list of the things that are causing you stress, understand why they are causing it, and try to find solutions to reduce it.

2. Create your own pre-work ritual

How can you fight stress at work if you start your day with high-stress levels? Mornings can be chaotic, between children, house chores, traffic, and other reasons.

By trying to create a morning ritual that includes planning, good nutrition, and a more positive attitude, work stress will be much easier to cope with. You’ll be in command of your day.

3. Do deep breathing exercises 

Breathing exercises actually do work, and in moments of anxiety and panic attacks, this should be the first step to take. A paper published by Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, from an investigation led by researchers at the University of Pisa in Italy, indicated that breathing techniques are key to relieving stress.

They’re beneficial to the physical and mental well-being, helping soothe tension: “Slow breathing techniques enhance autonomic, cerebral and psychological flexibility in a scenario of mutual interactions”. 

There are several types of breathing exercises, but you can start with the box breathing method. This technique consists of deep slow breaths. You start by sitting up straight and exhaling slowly all the air in your lungs. Then inhale slowly, hold your breath and on a count of 4 slowly release it through the mouth. Repeat this cycle a few times.

a to do list in a desk

4. Plan ahead and keep your schedule organized

Things happen, and plans change, but by attempting to actively control your agenda and tasks, you’ll be able to avoid work-related stress.

Planning can be acquired as a habit, even if you’re more disorganized. Staying organized can greatly decrease stress at work and means less rushing, less anxiety, and less pressure.

Get tips to improve planning in adults with ADHD.

5. Prioritize

Prioritizing is an effective way to reduce stress because it helps you focus your attention and energy on the most important tasks and responsibilities. When you have a lot of work to do, trying to tackle everything at once can be overwhelming. This can lead to feelings of stress, anxiety, and even burnout.

You can break your workload into smaller, more manageable pieces by prioritizing your tasks. This helps you focus on the most important tasks first, which can help you feel more in control of your workload and reduce feelings of overwhelm. This can also help you avoid procrastination, which can increase stress and anxiety.

Prioritizing also allows you to identify which tasks can be delegated or postponed, which can help you reduce your workload and free up time for more important tasks or self-care activities. It’s critical to have a work-life balance.

Get to know the best prioritization methods.

happy people having fun at the office

6. Take breaks

Yes, it might sound like a basic tip but there are a lot of professionals who don’t take breaks regularly.

Go for a walk, talk to your coworkers, or play something. It doesn’t matter just don’t keep working for a long period.

The breaks throughout the day will give you a chance to recharge your energies.

7. Set boundaries and define expectations

Recovering from workplace stress and avoiding any more bad experiences must teach us how to say no. Set boundaries around your mental health. If your superiors or colleagues don’t understand that, maybe it’s time to leave that toxic workplace.

Another essential factor that helps manage stress in the long run, is having clear expectations of your work. What is really expected of you?

If you don’t know it, or if the requirements for your role keep changing with little notice, you might become extremely stressed, that’s why it’s important to set realistic goals. Talk to your superior or supervisor if this is your case.

8. Move your body as much as possible

To deal with stress at work, you need a recovery activity. One of the best is physical exercise or movement. An article in the Havard Business Review states that more active activities can be even more effective for recovery from stressful events.

This doesn’t mean you have to follow a strict exercise regimen or train every day for one hour. You can take a walk at lunchtime a few times a week, go for a swim, do pilates or yoga, take a martial arts class or go for a run. Whatever activity you like best, and fits in your daily life.

9. Create the best work environment possible

The surrounding environment is an underrated aspect of promoting a stress-free work life or recovering from it. There is a notion of physical discomfort, often related to where you perform most of your daily tasks (usually at your desk).

Sitting in an uncomfortable chair is one of the factors that contribute to this stress-inducing work environment. Working in a room with no natural light is another one.

Do what you can to create a quiet, comfortable, and soothing workspace.

Another factor is exposure to natural elements. Being exposed to nature at work contributes positively to your well-being and reduces the probability of burnout.

Natural light, greenery, and even the decor of the workspace inspired by nature and its colors might help soothe anxiety and stress, making people happier and energized at work.

a man multitasking at work

10. Stop multitasking right now

Juggling many tasks at the same time is not productive, it’s just the basis for an exhausting work day and for stress.

Focusing on one task at a time will be completed to a more elevated standard and in less time, enabling you to move seamlessly on to the next task.

By multitasking, you’re wasting energy and time and increasing your anxiety and stress levels. It’s not worth it and if your organizational skills are improved you definitely won’t need to do it.

11. Get enough sleep

Getting enough sleep is essential for managing stress. Ensure you’re getting enough sleep each night to help you feel more rested and energized.

12. Seek support

Last but not least, this might be an important step if you want to manage stress at work.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to coworkers, friends, family members, or even a professional for support. Talking to someone can help you feel less alone and provide a different perspective on the situation.

FAQ

What are the main causes of stress at work?

Some of the main causes of stress at work are excessive workload, lack of control over the job, and a toxic work environment, among others.

Do you want to reduce stress at work?

Find the best workload management tools that will increase your productivity and help reduce your stress.

What are the most common signs of stress at work?

According to the UK’s governmental agency Health and Safety Executive, the most common signs of stress at work are mood swings, loss of motivation, commitment, and confidence, and extreme emotional reactions.

Get to know the other signs of stress at work.

How does stress affect work productivity?

While stress can boost work performance in the short term by releasing adrenaline, it’ll be responsible for draining people of physical and mental energy in the long run. Consequences of that include lack of focus, anxiety, and others. So, in the long term, stress can reduce productivity.

Conclusion

Some productivity experts defend that stress can serve a purpose by helping people stay alert and motivated. This may be true, but the entire workforce should keep in mind that prolonged stress harms a worker’s mental and physical health.

The key to coping stress at work with this is anticipating stress factors and avoiding them if possible, practicing relaxation techniques, and better managing your time.

Consider the benefits of an intentional recovery plan when you’re on the verge of a situation of stress. Implement strategies that will promote a preventive recovery plan. This will boost your cognitive and physical performances, as well as your overall well-being.

Remember, however, that if you’re finding it hard to cope with stress at work, you should consider speaking with a mental health professional. Therapy can help you develop coping mechanisms, learn how to express and deal with your emotions, and address unhealthy patterns and other inadequate responses to stress and anxiety.

You might be interested in: