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Seven ways to address stress at work

Last Modified: October 04, 2023

Healthy Mind, Family Medicine


In today’s work environment, we are expected to be expert multi-taskers and problem solvers. While this type of workflow can at times be exciting and challenging, it can also lead to constantly feeling overwhelmed and stressed. If you feel this way, you are not alone! According to The American Institute of Stress, 83% of U.S. workers suffer from work-related stress that costs businesses almost $300 billion annually. Knowing how to manage stress on the job can have a huge impact on your mental and physical health. Below, we will break down the definition of job stress, what it can look like and healthy ways to cope.

What is work stress?

This type of stress comes in different forms while you are on the job. Small stressors are things like a copy machine that never seems to work or phones that won’t quit ringing. Major stress comes from having too much or not enough work, or doing work that doesn’t satisfy you. Conflicts with your boss, co-workers or customers are also major stressors.

What causes work stress?

Many things can cause job stress. You may feel that you have no control over your job duties, have too much or too little to do, aren’t sure what is expected of you, or feel as if your job isn’t meaningful or you’re not doing it well. Some common sources of job stress can be:

  • Lack of control: Feeling as if you have no control over your job duties.
  • Too much responsibility: Feeling stressed if you have too much to do and you can’t say no to new tasks.
  • Poor satisfaction and performance: Feeling as if your job isn’t meaningful or having insecurities about your job performance.
  • Uncertain work roles: Feeling unsure about your duties, how your job might be changing or how to juggle the demands of different managers.
  • Poor communication: Feeling as if you are unable to talk about your needs, concerns and frustrations.
  • Lack of support: Feeling like you have little or no support from your boss or co-workers.
  • Poor working conditions: Feeling unsafe or unsatisfied due to unpleasant or dangerous conditions, such as crowding or ergonomic problems.

How can you reduce job stress?

Although work-related stress is a common occurrence among most Americans, that doesn’t mean it has to be the way you live your life. Here are some steps you can take to help reduce some of your job stress:

  1. Identify what is creating the stress.
    Maybe it is your lack of control over your job. Or worrying about losing your job. Or maybe you feel stressed because you are unable to express your thoughts and ideas to your boss and co-workers. Whatever it may be, the first step is identifying the source of your stress so you can find ways to mitigate it.
  2. Have a reason to reduce the stress.
    Why is it important that you reduce stress at your job? You might want to protect your heart and your health. Or you may simply want to enjoy your life more and not let work stress control how you feel. Your reason for wanting change is important. If your reason comes from you — and not someone else — it will be easier for you to make a healthy change.
  3. Set goals for dealing with the stress level.
    Think about setting both a long-term and a short-term goal to ensure you meet all of your needs now and in the future. Here are a few examples:
    • Example 1: Shelly’s long-term goal is to reduce stress by managing her frustration over things she can’t control at work. Her short-term goal is to learn to do deep breathing and relaxation exercises when she gets stressed. She’ll try it the next time her boss hands her a last-minute project.
    • Example 2: Jill’s long-term goal is to reduce stress by speaking up at work and expressing her interests and ideas more effectively. Her short-term goal is to practice being more assertive. When she’s ready, she’ll contribute an idea at a department meeting.
    • Example 3: Raoul’s long-term goal is to reduce stress by having a better understanding of what’s expected of him at work. His short-term goal is to find out how he is doing now. He plans to schedule a meeting with his boss to talk about his performance and how he can improve.
    • Example 4: John’s long-term goal is to reduce stress by learning to say “no” to projects he doesn’t have time to handle. His short-term goal is to get organized and prioritize the projects he has now. He is going to make a list of all his work and then prioritize the tasks that are most important.
  4. Identify what might stop you from meeting your goals.
    Use a personal action plan to write down your goals, the possible barriers you may face and your ideas for getting past them. By thinking about these barriers now, you can plan ahead for how to deal with them if they happen.
  5. Ask for help.
    Make sure you get support from friends and family in your efforts to reduce job stress. If your company has an employee assistance program, you could use it to talk with a counselor who can help you set goals and provide support in dealing with setbacks.
  6. Pat yourself on the back.
    Don’t forget to give yourself some positive feedback. If you slip up, don’t waste energy feeling bad about yourself. Instead, think about all the times you’ve successfully avoided getting stressed through the positive changes you’ve made.
  7. Know when to quit.
    If you are truly miserable because of a stressful job, it may be time to think about changing jobs. Before you quit, spend time thinking about other job options. Because not having a job will probably also lead to stress, getting another job before you quit may be best if possible. Decide what is less stressful for you: unemployment or being miserable in your current job. It might help to talk with a counselor about your choices.

Living with constant stress at your job can affect your health and happiness. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, take the appropriate steps to reduce those feelings and get on the path to feeling more satisfied in your career.














Copyrighted material adapted with permission from Healthwise, Incorporated. This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.

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