How to Handle Work Stress


You already know stress is part of our every day lives. You would also be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t experienced stress in some form or fashion.

But sometimes, short-term stress can be helpful. It can provide you with motivation and focus and improve your performance as long as you don’t feel pushed beyond your limits.

However, not all stress we feel at or from work is always positive. In fact, work stress can have negative impacts on our health.

In today’s blog, we’ll be discussing the impact work stress has on your body and wellbeing. You’ll also be provided with some tips to help cope with work stress.

Topic Of Discussion

How does the body react to work stress?

For just a minute, imagine your boss has emailed you about an unfinished assignment (a stressor). Your body and mind instantly respond, activating a physical reaction called the fight-or-flight response. Your heart beats faster, your breath quickens, and your muscles tense. At the same time you might say to yourself, “I’m going to get fired if I don’t finish this.” Then to manage your anxiety and negative self-talk, you work late into the night to complete the the assignment.

Over the course of human history, we have developed this coordinated fear response to protect against dangers in our environment. For example, a faster heart rate and tense muscles would help us escape from predators. In the modern era, fear continues to serve an important function. After all, the fight-or-flight response can provide the necessary energy to pull an all-nighter and keep your job.

But what happens if you encounter stressful experiences at work every day? Over time, chronic work stress can lead to a psychological syndrome known as burnout. Warning signs of burnout are overwhelming exhaustion, cynicism, and a sense of inefficacy. Certain work-related stressors are closely linked with burnout. Examples are having too much work or too little independence, inadequate pay, lack of community between coworkers, unfairness or disrespect, and a mismatch between workplace and personal values.

How does work stress affect your well-being?

Long-term exposure to work-related stressors like these can affect mental health. Research links burnout with symptoms of anxiety and depression. In some cases, this sets the stage for serious mental health problems. One study shows younger people who routinely face heavy workloads and extreme time pressure on the job are more likely to experience major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.

High levels of stress at work –– and outside of it –– can affect physical health, too. Repeated activation of the fight-or-flight response can disrupt bodily systems and increase susceptibility to disease. For example, repeated release of the stress hormone cortisol can disturb the immune system, and raise the likelihood of developing autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Chronic stress can also affect health by interfering with healthy behaviors, such as exercise, balanced eating, and sleep.

Tips for coping with work stress:

1. Write down your stressors

Identifying and recording stressful situations can help you understand what’s bothering you. Some of these can be subtle sources of tension, such as an uncomfortable workspace or a long commute.

Keep a journal for 1 week to track your stress triggers and your reactions to them. Make sure to include the people, places, and events that gave you a physical, mental, or emotional response.

As you write, ask yourself:

  • How did this make me feel? (Afraid, angry, hurt?)
  • What was my reaction? (Did I visit the vending machine afterward or go for a walk?)
  • What are some ways of resolving it? (How can I find solutions to this stressor?)

2. Take time to recharge

Taking even a few minutes of personal time during a busy day can help with work stress.

Listening to an interesting podcast in between meetings or watching a funny Youtube video can give you relaxing pauses throughout the day.

It’s also important to take breaks from thinking about your job by not checking work-related emails on your time off or disconnecting from your phone in the evenings.

3. Balance your work and personal life

Being available around the clock will easily burn you out. It’s important to create clear boundaries between your work and home life to help you avoid potential stress.

Part of this means setting aside time for socializing and establishing rules for when you’ll check emails or take phone calls.

4. Listen to music on the drive home

Listening to music offers many benefits and can be an effective way to relieve stress before, during, and after work. Playing an uplifting song while you make breakfast can help you start the day off feeling better prepared to interact with the people in your life.

Likewise, combating the stress of a long day with your favorite music on the drive home can help you wind down and feel less stressed when you get there.

5. Talk with a therapist

You don’t need to have a mental health condition to try therapy. Feeling overwhelmed at work is a perfectly valid reason to reach out for additional help and support.

Working with a therapist can help you better identify the sources of your work stress and help you come up with ways to better navigate them. They can also help you develop strategies for decompressing and taking care of yourself.

Therapy can provide you with tools and strategies to help manage your stress and anxiety and ways to improve your relationships, even work ones.


Work stress is as common as coffee breaks and water coolers. If workdays aren’t always easy and you’re experiencing some stress effects, you’re not alone.

Work stress if not managed can have an impact on your body and wellbeing. Ways to help cope with work stress include: writing down your stressors, taking time to recharge, balancing work and personal life, listening to music on your way home, and even talking to a therapist.

If you or a loved one is dealing with work stress, Tri-Star Counseling is here to help! Schedule an appointment with us today for help and guidance on ways to manage your stress.

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