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Managing Stress at Work

Stress can turn a potentially enjoyable job into nothing more than a daily struggle. Unfortunately, work is a significant source of stress for most of us. The majority of days off are put down to stress.

In small doses, stress can improve work performance, but if sustained and outside of our control, it can have extremely negative effects.

Stress at work may originate from a range of sources: the demands of the job and its environment; the boss; colleagues; working hours; job insecurity and pay (or lack of it).

Symptoms of stress may include:

  • Loss of concentration
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anger and aggression
  • Conflict at home
  • Drinking or smoking more
  • High blood pressure, headaches or stomach problems

Increased Demands

The nature of modern work is drastically different than that in the past, adding to stress and so-called “change fatigue.” Reorganizations, takeovers and mergers are now everyday occurrences. Pressure for a company to survive inevitably filters down to increased demands on employees. Unrealistic expectations, such as high performance targets, new technology and increased hours, can cause pressure for workers who may be forced constantly to adapt and learn new skills.

The workplace culture also can change—for example, new methods of communication or new styles of leadership can be introduced. Employees also might experience stressful office politics, bullying or harassment. Monitor your stress levels and actively look for solutions when it gets to be too much.

Tips on easing work stress:

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  • Anticipate and be prepared for changes, but don’t expect to be able to adapt immediately.
  • Protect and value your time off. Don’t be pressured into working longer hours than you can cope with.
  • Use positive coping strategies such as exercise, relaxation and good nutrition.
  • Try to get along with colleagues, but keep some emotional distance.
  • If you are being bullied or harassed, keep a record of the situation then approach someone trustworthy to help.
  • Aim to have three months’ salary in savings, just in case your job comes to an abrupt end.
  • Consider learning goal setting and time management skills.
  • Hard-working, driven people with high standards are at higher risk of the negative effects of stress. If this sounds like you, be aware of your patterns and pay serious attention to any symptoms.
  • As in other areas of life, learn to say “no” at work. If your workload is high, limit additional commitments or responsibilities. Delegate where possible.

Other Types of Work Stress

Losing your job can trigger stress over income and security, loss of confidence and loss of identity, but don’t panic. After managing your initial feelings of anger and uncertainty, take action. Have faith in yourself and look to the next challenge with confidence. Use this as an opportunity to decide what you want to do in the future; take a step back and gather your thoughts. Consider your resources and transferable skills, and talk things over with a supportive friend.

Retirement commonly is a difficult transition. You may lose a social network as well as your role as worker and provider. In some people this can trigger mild depression and a sense of emptiness. It also can be a challenging time for your partner, who may also need time to adapt.

Working is an important source of satisfaction and connection to society. Without work, these elements must be found elsewhere, so plan what you want to do in your retirement before you get there. Look for a sense of purpose, and with so much more spare time, you will be free to take up the hobby or activity which has always intrigued you.

Reference and other resources

Stress at Work

Job Stress

Stress Management

Managing Stress at Work

Jane Collingwood

Jane Collingwood is a longtime regular contributing journalist to Psych Central, focusing on topics of mental health and dissecting recent research findings.

APA Reference
Collingwood, J. (2020). Managing Stress at Work. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 13, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 30 Jul 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 30 Jul 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.