5 Steps to Manage Stress at Work

All of us have experienced some sort of workplace change at some point in our career whether it be a corporate reorganization, adapting to working from home, a shift in responsibilities, a transition from military service to the civilian workforce, or any number of other work-related changes.

One of the most important skills that a person can hone is the ability to effectively manage stress and successfully navigate changes in the workplace while maintaining mental and physical health.

Here we’ll discuss five key strategies that will help you take charge of work-related stress.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand the significant detrimental effects of poorly managed stress. The human body reacts to stress in several ways which differ depending on the type and frequency of stress: increased heart rate, respiration, and blood flow to the muscles; immune and nervous system activation; impact to brain-gut communication (much more than just “butterflies in the stomach”); and decreased energy - just to scratch the surface. Prolonged periods of stress and the related physical symptoms can lead to significant health problems. In fact, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, “people who are worried about losing their jobs are nearly 20 percent more likely to have heart disease.” [1]

There can also be a psychological cost to unmanaged stress. It is well documented that stress can cause depression and anxiety but what is sometimes overlooked is the considerable detriment to productivity. The Balance Careers notes that workplace stress can, “affect your health, energy, well-being, mental alertness, and personal and professional relationships. It can also cause defensiveness, lack of motivation, difficulty concentrating, accidents, reduced productivity, and interpersonal conflict”. [2]

With this greater understanding of the dangers of allowing workplace stress to go unchecked, we recommend these five techniques to proactively and effectively manage stress.

1. Look Inward

The first step in the process is to discover the ways that you frequently react to stress. Common examples of reactions to stress from the Mayo Clinic are pain (from muscle tension), overeating, unexplained anger, crying and tearfulness, depression, negativity, and smoking. [3]

  • Enlist the assistance of someone who knows you well and sees you often for this step. It is likely that they have observed things in your behavior that you haven’t noticed and can help you identify responses to stress.