Dealing with pressure in the workplace can lead to reduced confidence and increased anxiety. Avoid this by using these coping mechanisms

It's always the major things in life that are seen as typically stressful - moving house, getting married, starting a new job. But then you move house, you get married, you fit well into your job - surely the stress then dissipates? Not always and, in a work-related space, stress levels can shoot up and then spiral out of control. But if you look out for the signs, and nip them in the bud, you'll be able to manage stress at work admirably.

What exactly is stress?

“I'm so stressed.” “You're stressing me out.” “Don't stress so much.”

Stress is a word that's bandied about so much nowadays, whether it's related to caring for family, trying to find a job, or even just sitting in a traffic jam. But let's be clear about what stress is. Simply put, it's “a state of mental or emotional strain caused by adverse circumstances.” The mental health charity, Mind, explains that stress is how we react when under pressure or threatened, which usually happens when we're in a situation that we don't feel we can manage or control.

There are two main types of stress - acute stress, which is an immediate reaction to a stimulus and lasts a few minutes or hours, and chronic stress, which is more long-lasting and constant and can have a serious effect on your physical and mental health if left untreated.

We all feel stress at work at some point or another, to varying degrees. It's part of the rich tapestry of life. It's how you deal with it that matters. And managing stress at work, when you're in the environment that's probably causing it, can be difficult.

What are the signs of stress?

Common signs include feeling anxious, overwhelmed, wound up, angry, feeling a sense of dread, and having thoughts that race around your head that you can't switch off. These can lead to physical symptoms over time, such as sweating, difficulty breathing, feeling sick, or high blood pressure.

Recognising these is the first step to doing something about it - for yourself, for the sake of your colleagues, and for your productivity at work. And if you notice a work mate displaying any of these signs, it might be worth taking them to one side for an informal chat.

How to reduce and cope with work stress

Building stress management strategies into your work day is a great place to start to manage stress at work. If you know the triggers, you can adapt your day around them. Understanding what stress is so that you can tackle it head-on, practising mindfulness, and setting boundaries - such as not checking work emails at home - are some of the ways in which to reduce stress and better manage stress at work.

Everyone has different methods of how to manage stress at work. Check out the fact sheets at the Stress Management Society for more ideas.

So what particular activities reduce stress? Again, everyone is different, but physical exercise, looking after your own wellbeing, and perfecting that work-life balance can all do wonders for reducing stress levels.

Four effective ways to manage stress at work

  1. Reward yourself for those little achievements throughout the day by having a cuppa, chatting with colleagues to build positive work relations, or taking a short walk round the block.

  2. Build resilience by being prepared to face stress when it occurs. Finding support at work, whether that's with colleagues or your manager, will help you to get through the day.

  3. Develop excellent time management skills to organise your tasks better. Identify when you have the most energy and ensure that you carry out your most important duties then, when your brain feels fresh and ready to go. This means that you won't be stressing about them at other times.

  4. Don't try to do too much at once or take on too many responsibilities, as this can be really stressful. Manage stress at work by being clear to other members of staff what you can and can't take on, then mix up tasks that you enjoy doing with those that you find more stressful. 

Next steps

In order to fully manage stress at work, you need to be aware of the signs and not push them under the carpet. Facing them head-on is preferable to ignoring them, so be brave, be proactive, and be ready to cope with pressure at work.

If you find you can't easily manage stress at work, you might be in the wrong job. In that case, spruce up your CV with the help of our CV writing service and make the change.

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