Work stress and how to effectively manage it

It is important to know that it is normal to feel stressed from time to time. Some people find that stress is an excellent motivator at work, but there can be too much of good thing.

There are many reasons why work might be a source of stress. Perhaps a relationship at work is causing us sleepless nights, or we were passed over for that promised promotion, or our ever-increasing workload has become a problem. In our new reality, given that working from home has become part of our working lives, we might struggle with working from home because of an unconducive home environment. Or perhaps we might struggle from how different everything has become after the pandemic.

Whatever the reason, it’s important that we identify and address these stressors. Do any of these symptoms apply to you?

Symptoms of Unhealthy Stress


Physical symptoms
    • Headaches or dizziness
    • Muscle tension or pain
    • Stomach problems
    • Chest pain or a faster heartbeat
Psychological symptoms
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Struggling to make decisions
    • Feeling overwhelmed
    • Constantly worrying or being anxious
    • Becoming forgetful
Changes in behaviour
    • Being irritable or snappy
    • Sleeping too much or too little
    • Eating too much or too little
    • Avoiding certain places or people
    • Drinking or smoking more

If work is causing you to experience unhealthy levels of stress, there are some steps you can take. You could:

  • Speak to your employer

Have a conversation with your line manager and openly discuss any problems you’re having at work. Stress often decreases your ability to work productively – your supervisor has an incentive to ensure your health and comfort.

  • Talk to a trusted friend or family member

Often times, accepting help from others could allow you to manage stress better. You might feel better if you have a strong support system to rely on when things feel difficult.

  • Establish boundaries

Consider some level of separation between your home and professional life. For example, not being contactable at weekends or not checking work e-mails at home. Establishing a work-life balance takes time and effort, but the results will pay off eventually.

  • Take some time off work

It’s important that you take time off for yourself occasionally. Doing this prevents overwork and burnout. Disconnecting in a way that fits your needs and preferences allows you to return to work in a better state.

  • Reconsider negative thoughts

When you’re stressed, it’s easy to develop tunnel vision. You might start overgeneralising (e.g. “everyone is always like this”), magnifying (e.g. “I couldn’t do this and therefore I’m incompetent”), or minimising (e.g. “My boss complimented me but I’m sure he didn’t mean it”). These thinking patterns are unhealthy and may lead to further stress. But with conscious effort you can reconsider and reframe negative thoughts, thereby relieving stress.

  • Develop healthy coping mechanisms

It might be tempting to crack open a beer or reach for another cigarette, but these coping mechanisms might lead to negative consequences like poorer health. You might consider exercising more often or other relaxation methods to deal with your stress instead.

If you do not find that these methods work for you, it might be time to speak to a psychologist. Click here to find out more about how you can teleconsult with mental wellness professionals on the WhiteCoat app.

This article was written by WhiteCoat’s Mental Wellness Programme partner, Annabelle Psychology