Practical Strategies to Manage Stress in the Workplace


Mental health can hold the best of us back, both at work and in life. And with mental health conditions costing organisations and individuals more and more each year, it’s time to tackle psychological well-being head-on.

You can start by managing your own stress in the workplace with these practical strategies.

Take steps to manage work/life balance

A healthy work/life balance is crucial for your happiness in your job and at home. When you allow your work to spill into your private time, you can become frustrated and run down, and your mental health and personal relationships can suffer.

Balancing your workload and your downtime can start with a few simple steps:

Read our article on mastering a work/life balance for more advice.

Learn the difference between negative and positive stress

While stress is generally seen as a negative, positive stress can be used to your advantage. So, how do you know whether your stress is helping or harming you?

Positive stress is generally caused by good news or an unexpected advantage, or when a stressful event is met with a positive attitude. Benefits of positive stress can include increased motivation, productivity, and creativity.

Negative stress, on the other hand, usually occurs when you’re unprepared or simply don’t have the capacity to deal with a stressful situation. For example, if your deadline is unachievable or your workload is unrealistic, this can lead to exhaustion and impaired performance.

Knowing the difference between the two types can help you identify when you need to make a change, and when you need to make the most of it!

When the expected volume or complexity of work required of you outweighs your perceived capacity or capability to do it, you will feel stressed, regardless of what the task is. Too much stress negatively impacts well-being and productivity.  Proactive communication (speak up early) with key people (e.g. your manager) both at work and at home is the best way to manage expectations and effectively maintain balance.

Rita Slogrove, Principal Consultant Psychologist, Chandler Macleod People Insights

Get some fresh air

Lowering your stress levels at work can be as simple as stepping outside. But it’s not just stress relief that fresh air offers – there are many other benefits of taking a break from the office to get back to nature. Studies have shown some of these positive effects include improved short-term memory, restored mental energy, and improved concentration.

A break outdoors is not only great for distressing, it can also help improve your productivity when you get back to work. Like you needed an excuse to take a break from your computer screen.

Stretch it out

Does your job require you to sit for prolonged periods of time? Sure, sitting for hours can cause muscle aches and tension, but did you know it can also increase your chance of anxiety? Research suggests there is a link between sitting time and anxiety risk, which gives us even more reason to get up out of the chair, have a stretch and get moving.

If the idea of doing lunges and star jumps at work makes you uncomfortable, try these inconspicuous stretches at your desk.

Take a breath

Breathing exercises can be done anywhere, anytime, making them great for work environments where you may not always have the chance to get outside and take a break.

Being mindful of your breathing can help tame the fight-or-flight response and regain control in stressful situations. Whether you’re mentally preparing yourself for an important meeting or you’re trying to recover from an upsetting phone call, breathing techniques can help bring your stress levels down.

Deep-belly breathing is a simple one; simply sit comfortably, inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your stomach to rise, and exhale through your mouth, allowing your stomach to fall. Do this several times to relax your muscles and slow your heart rate to promote a feeling of calm and control.

Communicate with a manager

Talking openly about mental health is key. If you’re experiencing stress in the workplace, the best way to address these issues is to speak to someone.

By communicating with your manager, you can work together to determine what might be contributing to your stress and highlight any changes needed. Bringing these issues to your manager’s attention can also encourage an improved or more active support system for all employees experiencing stress in the workplace.

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