7 Ways to Healthily Deal with Workplace Stress

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7 Ways to Healthily Deal with Workplace Stress

If you’ve ever held a job, chances are you’ve experienced work-related stress, no matter how much you enjoy what you do. In fact, one 2012 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association found that 65% of Americans cite work as a leading cause of stress.[1] What makes this a problem is that only 37% of survey takers reported feeling as if they were properly managing this stress.1

If left unchecked, stress can cause a host of problems, such as lowered immunity, poorly functioning digestion, and an impaired reproductive system. Stress has also been associated with heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, depression, and anxiety.[2]

For most of us, simply quitting our careers isn’t an option in order to avoid such stress, so learning to cope with it healthily is essential and the following tips will help.

Know your stressors. Clearly identifying the situations that wreak havoc on your mental health in the workplace is the first step in the right direction. By acknowledging your pressure points, you’ll be able to either avoid those circumstances are prepare yourself for them. Some of the most common sources of workplace stress include:

  • Excessive workload
  • Low growth potential
  • Responsibilities that aren’t challenging
  • Little control over job-related decisions
  • Conflicting demands
  • Unclear expectations
  • Meetings
  • Presentations
  • Social engagements and responsibilities 

Recognize the warning signs. Oftentimes your body has already begun responding to stress before your brain has even processed that it’s stress you’re actually feeling. Learning to be in-tune with yourself, picking up on subtle cues that eventually lead to full-blown stress is key. Some common cues include a lack of confidence, feeling withdrawn, increased irritability, being anxious, problems sleeping, trouble concentrating, muscle tension or headaches, upset stomach, and social aloofness. When you start noticing these signs, it’s time to take action.

Understand your control. The workplace presents a unique set of challenges when it comes to our stress because, for a large part, situations are out of our control. When we feel as though we’ve lost control, stress settles in. Before reacting, think logically about a situation, identifying the areas you can control. Sometimes the only control you have is how professionally you respond and the way in which you conduct yourself.

Breathe deeply. When stress seems to be mounting, take a moment to practice deep breathing. This will help clear your head and restore balance. If nothing else, it provides a moment of silence before responding to a situation. Oftentimes, we respond in a knee-jerk fashion, which can be fatal in the workplace, and taking a quick moment for ourselves can be the solution between a proper reaction and a blow-up.

Schedule your day. Our schedule is oftentimes the greatest contributor to our stress level. There are always too many tasks to be completed in a day and too few hours to finish them in. To avoid this additional pressure, be aware of your time. Schedule your day accordingly. Pad in moments between intense meetings for a mental breather. Take advantage of the times (such as morning) that you know you’re most productive so you aren’t completely overwhelmed as your workday is wrapping up.

Be open. Open communication is imperative to a highly functioning workplace. When you are calm and in control of your emotions and stress level, it’s a good idea to bring us these feelings with your supervisor. Sometimes they aren’t aware that your workload is too intense or that certain departmental relationships are excessively taxing. Calmly discussing situations as they arise helps create an environment that is less stressful for you and those you work with.

Leave it at work. Sometimes easier said than done, but it is absolutely critical that you leave work-related stress at the workplace. Setting boundaries for yourself in regards to how much you let work affect your life outside of the office keeps you healthy, both in relationships and with yourself. Every time you leave the office, make a conscious, concerted effort to leave the day’s pressures at your desk. Learn to say “no” outside of working hours. Turn off the email; put down the phone. Your work will be there again tomorrow, so leave it there and enjoy your life outside of your career when possible.

Do you deal with workplace stress? What are some of the practical ways you cope with it? We’d love to hear your recommendations!



[1] American Pyschological Association (n.d.). Coping with work stress. Accessed April 27, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/work-stress.aspx.

[2] National Institute of Mental Health (n.d.) Fact sheet on stress. Accessed April 27, 2016. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml.

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