Work and stress
It’s helpful to learn how to manage stress caused by work. If you often experience feelings of stress, you might be at risk of developing a mental health problem like depression or anxiety.
Stress can also make your existing mental health problems feel worse. On this page:
- How to cope with stress at work
- Problems with your workload
- Difficult work-life balance
- Lack of support in your workplace
How to cope with stress at work
You don’t need to cope with stress at work alone. Here are some general ideas you can try to help you manage:
- Understand more about stress. Recognising the signs of stress and learning about the causes of stress is a good place to start.
- Figure out what you find stressful and helpful. You could make a Wellness Action Plan to map out what causes you stress and what keeps you well. Once you know what’s best, talk to your employer. They may be able to make some changes to help you.
- Learn different coping techniques. Everyone deals with stress differently, so take time to find methods that work for you. Use them as soon as you start to feel pressure building.
- Try practising mindfulness. This practice is about focusing on the here and now. It might help you to find calmness and clarity to respond to stressful situations.
- Look after your physical health. Eat well and try a gentle activity like going for a walk or doing a chair-based exercise. Our pages on physical activity and food and mood have more details on how this can help your mental health.
“I try to keep each task short and clear, take breaks when getting tired and be polite, honest and empathic with the people I work with.”
Looking after your wellbeing can help you deal with pressure. In turn, this can reduce the impact of stress on your life. This is sometimes called building resilience.
Resilience is your ability to recover or adapt quickly when faced with challenges. By building resilience, you can better maintain your mental wellbeing when things get difficult.
For more ideas on building resilience and coping with work pressure, see our pages on how to manage stress.
Managing common stressful situations at work
If you feel stressed by a certain problem at work, you might not be alone in this. Anyone can experience some of these common stressful situations in the workplace. The important thing is understanding how to manage them.
Problems with your workload
- Ask your manager for help. Discuss your workload with your manager. Try setting realistic targets and talk about how you can solve the issues you’re having.
• Try to balance your time. You might be doing too much at once. If you don’t give each task your full attention, it can take longer. Try to claim your time back if you ever need to work extra hours to get something done.
- Reward yourself for achievements. Rather than only focusing on work that needs to be done next, reward yourself for tasks you’ve completed. Your reward could be taking a break to read, do a puzzle, chat with co-workers or spend time outside.
- Be realistic. You don’t have to be perfect all the time. You might find that you’re being more critical of your own work than you need to be. Work within your limitations and try to be kind to yourself.
“I don’t take on too much at one time, little steps are the way. Breathing strategies, having a mindset and thinking, ‘I can do this!'”
Difficult work-life balance
- Give yourself short breaks. Take these throughout the day, as well as at least half an hour away from your desk at lunch. Spend some time outside if you can.
• Take some time off. Try to use the holiday you’re entitled to. If things get too much, a few days off or a long weekend can help you feel refreshed. This can even increase your productivity in the long run.
- Focus on your life outside work. Nurture relationships with people you don’t work with. Develop interests and skills that you don’t use in your job. This can help you see the difference between your personal life and your working life.
- Develop end-of-day habits. Finish your working day by tidying your workspace or making a to-do list for tomorrow. This can help you switch off from work, especially if you’re working from home.
Lack of support in your workplace
- Find out about services in your workplace. Some organisations have employee assistance programmes (EAPs) which offer free advice and counselling. Others have internal support systems such as mentoring or buddy systems.
- Tell someone that you feel unsupported. You should be able to discuss this with your manager. If you feel you can’t talk to them, speak or write to someone else. This could be your human resources department or trade union representative, if you have one.
- Develop good relationships with your colleagues. Connecting with people you work with can help build up a network of support. Having connections with co workers can also make work feel more enjoyable.
“My work has become a strong support system. My work colleagues have become like family and there is a mutual respect in how we treat one another.”