Managing Stress at Work

By Katharine Paljug @kpaljug
July 20, 2017

If you experience job-related anxiety, here are some steps you can take to lower your stress levels, reduce the pressure on you, and improve your life.

If work is causing your stress levels to rise, you’re not alone. According to a poll conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), two-thirds of men and women say that work is a significant source of stress. The American Institute of Stress estimates that nearly one million American employees are absent from work every day due to stress.

If workplace stress is leaving you feeling sick and worried, it’s time to start taking steps to manage your anxiety levels so you can feel happier, healthier, and more in control of your work environment.


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Here are some strategies for managing stress at work.

Set firm boundaries

Email and smartphones can help you get more work done, but they can also make it impossible to leave work at the office, leading to ongoing stress.

A study of 385 employees in professional fields found that being expected to answer emails after work hours increased employees’ stress levels, decreased productivity, led to burnout, and damaged participants’ emotional and physical well-being. Other research, found that having “push notifications” on your phone that notify you of emails also caused high levels of anxiety.

Checking email less frequently throughout the day, by contrast, has been shown to reduce stress levels and lead to higher feelings of control and productivity. To help lower your stress levels, set boundaries about when you will reply to work emails or phone calls. Try to limit your work to time that you are actually in the office so that you can disconnect, relax, and focus on other areas of your life.

Establish healthy habits

Managing stress at work starts with healthy habits off the job, including getting enough sleep and regular exercise.

Research has found that regular exercise can reduce stress hormones, such as cortisol. According to one study, exercise can create a “buffer” against effects of even intense, chronic stress. Regular physical activity is also associated with improved mental well-being, including reducing stress, depression, and anxiety.

Another healthy habit that can reduce your stress levels is getting enough sleep. Studies have found that sleep loss frequently leads to higher cortisol levels, increasing levels of anxiety and even preventing you from responding to stress in healthy ways.

Getting sufficient sleep, by contrast, lowers stress levels and leaves you more capable of responding to stressful situations productively. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend seven or more hours of sleep per night.


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Develop a support network

Having a strong support network of family, friends, and coworkers will also help you manage workplace stress.

A 2006 study found that an imbalance between work and family life can lead to stress and mood disorders such as depression. But feeling a strong connection to your family and a healthy balance of work and personal time will lower your feelings of anxiety.

Another study, published in 2005, looked at 330 men in uniformed professions, such as police officers, firefighters, and security guards. The study’s authors found that men who reported higher levels of social support also reported lower levels of job stress and stress-induced health problems.

Practice relaxation

Practicing relaxation techniques at work can help you reduce stress, control your mood, and respond to difficult situations in healthy and productive ways.

Multiple studies have shown that mindfulness-based stress reduction lowers stress levels in working adults. This technique, which combines body awareness and meditation, can also help you develop problem-solving skills for addressing job-related challenges. A 2008 study found that mindfulness-based stress reduction can help improve sleep and lower levels of stress hormones like cortisol in as little as six weeks.

Yoga can also help you manage workplace anxiety. This form of exercise involves meditation and relaxation techniques and has been shown to reduce stress levels and relieve tension for workers in a variety of occupations.

Talk to your supervisor

Finally, if you are experiencing high levels of work-related stress, consider speaking with your employer. Discussing your salary, responsibilities, or prospects within the company can result in new ways to relieve stress caused by your job. If you are hesitant to approach your employer alone, speak with your coworkers first. You may find that they are experiencing many of the same stresses as you, and together you may be able to come up with a solution.


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April 06, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA