8 tips for the management of stress when you’re at work

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 22 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

It's unavoidable that you sometimes encounter situations at work that can be challenging or make you feel stressed. Long-term stress can have a serious impact on your health, wellbeing and your performance at work. With the right strategies, stress is something you can cope with and overcome, which improves your health and helps you work more effectively. In this article, we guide you through some valuable tips for managing stress when you're at work.

What is the management of stress?

The management of stress, or stress management, refers to the techniques you use to cope with stress. When you're under stress, the situation can feel overwhelming. With appropriate techniques for management, stress is something you can deal with. Being able to manage stress is important so that you can continue working effectively, even in difficult conditions.

There are many different techniques you can use for managing stress and different approaches suit different people. Stress can arise both in and out of work but knowing what your options are and knowing what works for you makes it easier to cope when you start to feel stressed.

What is stress?

Stress is the body's natural reaction to feeling under pressure or threatened. This feeling can often arise at work when you have a lot of deadlines, a busy workload or a lot of responsibilities. Some people are naturally able to handle stress and perform well under pressure. A certain amount of stress can be motivational but if it starts to overwhelm you it can have negative effects.

When you feel overwhelmed by stress it can make you feel anxious or cause you to lose confidence. Ongoing stress over a period of time can also lead to physical, mental and emotional exhaustion or burn-out. To resolve issues with stress before they reach this point, knowing some techniques for the management of stress can be very helpful.

Related: Interview question: 'How do you work under pressure?'

Why managing stress is important at work

The management of stress at work is important because ongoing stress can lead to ill health. Along with having an impact on your health and wellbeing, stress can affect how you perform at work and the relationships that you have with your colleagues. Everyone experiences stress to some degree and many jobs come with a certain level of stress. Some potential consequences of stress at work include:

  • feeling sad or angry both in and out of work

  • creating more stress for yourself and others as a result of procrastination or errors

  • performing below the standard that you're capable of

  • disrupting other colleagues

  • becoming overwhelmed by your responsibilities

Stress from your personal life can also sometimes have an impact on how you perform at work. It's important to be able to deal with stress to perform work successfully, whether this is job-related stress or stress from outside of work. In interviews, employers sometimes ask how you cope with stress so that they're certain you're able to cope with the demands of the job and can constructively use stress to help you excel.

Related: How to get motivated at work and reduce stress in 10 steps

8 tips for managing stress

There are several techniques you can use for the management of stress. It's helpful to know what these ideas are so that when you start to feel stressed you can immediately put these methods into practice. If you're already feeling stressed, reminding yourself of these tips can help to alleviate your feelings before they escalate. They include:

1. Identify the source

It's essential to know the source of your stress so that you can address it. If you start to feel stressed, try to think about why this is happening. Sometimes it's easy to identify the source of stress if something significant is causing it. Sometimes small things can come together to create stress and it can be more challenging to recognise what these issues are. In some cases, your thoughts and behaviours such as procrastination or negative self-talk can contribute to feeling stressed.

If you're struggling to identify the source of stress, it can sometimes be helpful to keep a journal. Whenever you start to feel stressed, make a note of how you feel, what is happening and how you reacted to the situation. After a while, you can start to identify patterns that make it easier to understand what causes stress for you.

2. Avoid, alter, adapt and accept

When you know what the cause of your stress is or you're experiencing familiar stresses, for example during your commute or before a significant meeting, you can use the avoid, alter, adapt and accept strategy. In this scenario, you can either change the situation that you're in or change the way you respond to it. Depending on what is causing stress, these strategies give you different options for dealing with it. The steps include:

  • Avoid: This means avoiding what is causing stress for you. For example, this could mean being honest when you already have too much to do and declining additional work, minimising your to-do list so that you only focus on essential tasks or avoiding excessive contact with people who make you feel stressed.

  • Alter: This means changing the situation to minimise stress. This could mean taking more control over your schedule and making a bigger effort to achieve a work/life balance, expressing your feelings and openly saying that you need support or changing your behaviour so you can cope more easily.

  • Adapt: This means adapting to the situation you're in. This might mean changing how you think about stress to see it as a motivation, putting things in perspective if you know that the stress is only short-term and is going to end soon or thinking more about the positive aspects of your life to remind yourself that stress is only a small part of it.

  • Accept: This means accepting the way things are. It might involve looking at the positive side of the stressful situation, accepting that some things are beyond your control or sharing your feelings with someone else.

3. Do something physical

Exercise and physical activity are great ways to manage stress. Even a short walk can be beneficial. If it's difficult for you to find time in the day to exercise, you can do small things throughout the day that add up to something more significant. This could mean using the stairs instead of the lift or getting off the bus one stop early and walking the rest of the way. You could also ask a friend or your partner to exercise with you to help you stay motivated.

4. Spend time with friends and family

Spending quality time with the people close to you doing things that you enjoy can help manage stress. You can also talk to these people about the stress you're feeling. In some cases, the person you're speaking to might have some helpful advice for the management of stress. When you're stressed it might feel tempting to isolate yourself but choosing to spend time with people close to you is a healthier strategy.

5. Make time to relax

If you feel stressed it's helpful to intentionally set aside time to relax. Including some time every day to do something you find relaxing can be a useful strategy. This could be spending time with friends and family, taking a relaxing bath, doing yoga or meditation or any other leisure activity that you enjoy. Knowing that you've set time aside for this also gives you something to look forward to and something positive to focus on when you're in a stressful situation.

6. Improve your time management

Managing your time effectively can help you to feel less stressed. Taking on too much responsibility, leaving important tasks to the last minute and trying to do everything by yourself can all lead to feelings of stress. If you have too much work to do, try to delegate some tasks or explain how you feel to your manager. Prioritising your workload and dealing with urgent tasks promptly and breaking large or complex tasks into more manageable parts are other useful strategies.

Related: Interview question: 'How do you prioritise your work?'

7. Adopt a healthy lifestyle

Having a healthy lifestyle can mean you're able to cope with stress more easily. Some good aims are to make sure you're eating regularly and eating healthy, balanced meals and getting enough sleep. If you're tired, you're more likely to become stressed and overwhelmed, so looking after your wellbeing is important for managing stress.

8. Learn techniques to manage stress as it happens

You can cope more easily with a stressful situation if you have strategies for managing it at the time. Deep and steady breathing is a useful technique that you can use in any place or scenario and can help to calm you down quickly. You can also try visualising something that makes you feel calm and happy or listening to music that makes you feel calm.

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