How to manage stress at work

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Feeling overwhelmed by deadlines? Does your to-do list seem to multiply like gremlins after midnight? Work-related stress is a real problem, but it doesn't have to control your life. We look at the causes, the symptoms and how you can manage stress at work to find calm amongst the mayhem! 

stress at work: common causes and their symptoms

Stress at work can stem from a variety of factors, but some of the more common culprits include workload, lack of support from managers, and difficult work relationships. Feeling overloaded with tasks and tight deadlines can be a major source of anxiety.  Stress can also be caused by feeling like you have little control over your work schedule or how you complete tasks; this can be extremely frustrating. In addition, strained relationships with colleagues or a negative boss can create a toxic work environment that contributes to stress.

Stress can show itself in many ways. You might experience physical symptoms like headaches, fatigue, a dry mouth or trouble sleeping.  Mentally, you could feel anxious, irritable, emotional or unmotivated. You might also notice changes in your behaviour, such as procrastinating more, neglecting healthy habits, or having trouble concentrating.

Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is to relax - MARK BLACK

how to manage stress at work

Good stress management is critical to your overall health. Listen to your body's warning signs and address the symptoms before they escalate into bigger health issues. Remember, stress at work can also creep into your personal life and vice versa.

Before you do anything, it is important that you identify the cause of stress. Understanding this will help you to focus on what is within your control to change and the things you cannot change, such as redundancy or loss of job.

Here are some great tips on how to manage the things in your life that are in your control and ways that you can build resilience. 

Practice good time management

  • Prioritise tasks as they are not all equal! Learn to identify urgent and important tasks and tackle those first.
  • Scheduling is key! Use a planner or calendar app to keep track of deadlines and appointments. It is also essential to schedule breaks for yourself throughout the day to avoid burnout. Ticking off completed tasks is also extremely rewarding and can build a sense of achievement.
  • Delegate and collaborate. Don't be afraid to ask for help! Delegating tasks can free up your time and allow you to focus on your strengths.
Learning tools to sharpen the mind

Look after your wellbeing

  • Relaxation techniques. Deep breathing exercises, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation can all help to calm your mind and body. There are many free apps and online resources to get you started.  Spending some time outside in nature and just being present is a great way to relieve stress too. 
  • The power of a break! Step away from your desk for a short walk, listen to some calming music, or chat with a co-worker. A little mental reset can go a long way.
  • Practice healthy habits. Even in times of being incredibly busy, make sure you're getting enough sleep, eating nutritious foods, and staying hydrated as these lifestyle habits will ensure you are more productive. Taking care of your physical health will also help to reduce stress and improve your mental wellbeing too.

Build resilience and allow your team to bounce back from burnout with our interactive workshop and webinar.

Boundaries are necessary

  • Learn to say no!  It's okay to decline extra work if you're already swamped. Setting boundaries will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed. Suzy Greaves, Life Coach, says one of the key skills to managing workplace stress is knowing how to say no. She explains that saying yes can win you brownie points in the short term, but if you take on too much and fail to deliver, it can be a disastrous long-term strategy.  She says “Have confidence in your ‘no’ when you think it’s the right decision, even though it may not be the most popular one.  In the long term, your ability to say no will be one of your most valuable attributes.”1
  • Disconnect after hours.  Avoid checking work emails or taking work calls outside of work hours. This will help you create a clear separation between work life and personal life.
  • Focus on the good. Take time to appreciate your accomplishments, no matter how small.
stress at work

Communication is vital

  • Talk to your manager or someone you trust:  If you're feeling overloaded or need to address other problems at work, talk to your manager or a trusted confidant within the organisation. If that is not possible, then seeking professional help is also an option. Don't forget, the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) requires employers to prioritise employee wellbeing, including conducting stress risk assessments. Even if the stress isn't work-related, your employer might offer support or lighten your workload while you find solutions.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help: If you're struggling to cope with stress, talk to a therapist or counsellor. They can provide you with additional tools and strategies for managing stress.


Remember, you're not alone! Work stress is a common issue, but as discussed above, there are ways to manage it, get support and find a healthy work-life balance. By following these tips, you can transform your work day from a stressful situation to a productive and fulfilling experience.

If you have tried to manage your stress levels but are still experiencing high levels of stress, at work or at home, for any length of time and it's affecting your daily life or causing you distress, you should consider seeking further support.  Take a look at our Referral Links page.

References and further reading


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