How to Control Stress at Work

Updated August 18, 2022
woman stress headache at work

Don't ignore the stress you are under at work. Not only can work-related stress and anxiety make your professional life difficult, but it can also negatively impact your personal life and overall wellness. High anxiety levels can put you at risk for many medical problems, as well as relationship issues.

Controlling stress at work can be difficult especially if you have a challenging job or are employed in a less-than-ideal work environment. The good news is that you can learn how to control stress at work. Take time to apply the tips below and you may soon enjoy the benefits of being happier both at work and outside of it.

Identify Work Stress Causes

The first part of controlling anxiety at work is identifying when your stress begins so you can figure out what causes your work stress. Some people work well under pressure while others crumble. You will need to find out what stresses you out and what helps your productivity.

One way you can identify where your stress is coming from is by keeping a daily journal of how you feel at work for a few weeks. Make sure to write down the activities associated with those feelings. After the week, you can look back to see what causes you to feel anxious or stressed. Be sure to look at what you did before you started feeling anxious because it may take some time after experiencing a stressor before you realize you are under stress.

8 Tips to Control Stress at Work

The tips below may help you reduce work-related anxiety. They are not instant fixes; you may need to implement these tips for several weeks before you start to feel relief from the stress you experience on daily basis. Keep in mind that everyone is different, so not all tips will work for everyone. The key is to find the strategies that best help you control your work-related stress.

Create a Schedule

No matter how great of a memory you have and how much you feel you have everything under control, a schedule can help ease your mind. Each week, make a list of all of the things you need to complete and then schedule time for each task throughout the week. Don't overload your calendar because you will need to set aside time for unexpected tasks.

Prioritize Tasks

While making your schedule, take some time to think about what you would like to accomplish overall for the week and prioritize the tasks in order of importance. This can help you take control of your schedule and manage your time wisely. Be sure to prioritize what you need to do first, then schedule time to work on what you want to do. Developing a plan by prioritizing tasks can help you feel less stressed because it can keep you from feeling overwhelmed by what you need to do at work.

Take Frequent Breaks

Some people will start working at 8 a.m. and won't stop until 5 p.m., or worse 8 p.m. or 9 p.m., without taking lunch or any other kind of break. When you don't stop working to re-energize, that leads to chronic stress that puts your body into crisis mode. Your blood pressure and heart rate may increase, along with other negative health effects. Get in the habit of taking regular breaks from work to relax, eat a meal, or even do something you enjoy. This can boost both mental and physical well-being.

Do Relaxation Exercises

Periodically engaging in relaxation exercises throughout the workday can help control job-related stress and anxiety. Close your eyes and practice some imagery relaxation. Picture yourself in your favorite place and hold on to those thoughts until you feel relaxed. For a quick pick me up, concentrate on your breathing and count down from 10. For those extra hectic days, start at 20. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Stretch Regularly

woman stretching neck tension at work

It's also a good idea to stretch regularly during the workday. Regular stretching can release stress on its own, as well as lead to a number of positive health outcomes. For example, stretching can boost blood circulation and has been demonstrated to have a positive impact on vascular health. With that in mind, be sure to take brief workday timeouts on a regular basis to stretch your arms, legs, and back. You may even find that doing yoga outside of work helps control work-related stress.

Listen to Music

Music is believed to be highly therapeutic and can play a role in reducing work stress. Listening to music prior to experiencing a stressor can actually minimize a person's physiological response to stress. With that in mind, listening to music while you are at work may help you control your reaction to stressors in the work environment. Beyond helping you stay calm, listening to music at work may also enable you to get more done because it can help block out distractions.

Vent About Your Stress

Sometimes you just have to let it out. If you can't talk to your boss or a co-worker about what is stressing you out at work, call a friend or loved one so you can let off some steam. Venting may help keep you from burning out and reenergize you to continue your work. Research indicates that venting to someone who will challenge the way you are thinking about a situation may help you with problem-solving more so than interacting with someone who just listens to you or provides reassurance.

Say No Sometimes

Habitually working long hours can be a major culprit behind work-related stress, as can having too much to do. If you are constantly working overtime or continually taking on more and more duties, you may have to learn how to say no in the interest of your own wellbeing. You shouldn't shirk your responsibilities, but that doesn't mean that you have to say yes to having work outside of your area added to an already overwhelming to-do list or that you can't delegate some tasks or ask for help.

How to Control Stress at Work