How to Control Stress at Work

5 min read
Evidence based
Psychiatrist and Sensa consultant dr. Monisha Vasa
By Monisha Vasa, MD Updated on 2024 Jan 23

Research suggests that nearly half of the workforce in the US experience stress at least several times a week – and this number is rising!

It’s normal to face stressors at work. Some days are more challenging than others because we feel less emotionally resilient or the workload is higher than usual. However, prolonged exposure to stress can lead to burnout or cause serious health complications. 

Being stressed at work will cause your work efficiency to dip and might make you feel uncomfortable going to work altogether. 

Therefore, it’s vital to manage your stress levels not only after you finish your shift but during it.

Address the Problem

If stress is persistent at your workplace, take a moment to think about the roots of this problem. 

Maybe the amount of work you do is too high for a single person to handle, or your co-workers are not respecting your boundaries?

There might be several stressors that can make your workday unbearable. Thus, investigate and objectively evaluate the key issues. These questions can help:

  • Is my workload manageable?
  • Can I take regular breaks (e.g., lunch, bathroom, etc.) and use my days off?
  • Am I on good terms with my colleagues and supervisors?
  • Is my workday organized or chaotic?
  • Are my boundaries respected?

The answers to these questions can shed some light on what stresses you out. 

However, keep in mind that each job is unique and comes with specific differences that depend on the context of your occupation. For example, suppose you are a social worker (policeman, doctor or nurse, teacher, etc.) or work in hospitality. In that case, the intensity of your day will likely vary – the more clients, the more intense the day.

But if you notice that some issues persist, you’ll have to address them.

Talk with your seniors

Your manager or supervisor is there to make sense of what you do – they devise schedules, assign work, and ensure a smooth flow for the whole team. 

However, we’re all human, and mistakes happen – things might be overlooked, forgotten, or shoddily evaluated.

Ask your manager to hear you out if you’re stressing a lot at work. Here are a few points you can discuss:

  • Give them feedback about your workload. Are responsibilities equally distributed among the team, or are you single-handedly carrying the performance of the whole department? You can discuss the responsibility guidelines of your position and evaluate if they are realistic.
  • Set healthy boundaries. Sometimes, we agree to execute tasks that are not directly related to our occupation. However, that shouldn’t become an everyday thing. Be bold and discuss what assignments should fall on your shoulders and which should be passed onto other team members. 
  • Address time management. This is an important topic – insufficient time to complete duties is one of the main reasons for workplace stress. Let your superior know if you’re not given enough time to complete assignments, and let them know what reasonable deadlines would be.
  • Think and share ideas about areas of improvement. These areas can be poor time or workload management, the number of staff, issues such as harassment or abuse, lack of communication, unrealistic expectations from superiors, etc.

Staying silent and tolerating anything thrown your way prevents your manager from even being aware that you’re struggling! Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Avoid Negative People

In some cases, your co-workers may be the culprits of stress. A demanding, micromanaging, nagging, or simply unpleasant fellow might throw you off track.

Therefore, try to limit your interactions with people that make you feel anxious or uncomfortable.

Indeed, that’s not always possible – they’re your colleagues, after all. But you can reduce your interactions with negative people by asserting boundaries and keeping the relationship strictly professional.

It’s good to remember that your duty is to work together with these people. While being respectful and well-mannered is obligatory, being friends is not necessary. 

Build Emotional Resilience

Have you noticed that some people are able to remain calm and objective in the face of danger while others begin to panic? 

Being emotionally resilient allows us to deal with stressful situations better; hence, it can improve our comfort at the workplace. There is a plethora of ways to improve your emotional resilience, but here are a few fool-proof methods:

  • Meditation. Daily meditation can bring inner peace and help you get in touch with your emotions – it teaches you to live in the moment. By being present, you stress less about all possible future scenarios and instead focus on what can be done right now.
  • Exercise, sleep hygiene, and suitable nutrition. In order to be efficient, rational, and resilient to stress and anxiety, you need to fuel up your body properly. Everyone addresses how important sleep, exercise, and food are, and that’s because it’s vital for your overall well-being.
  • Connecting with people. While hanging out with your colleagues might not be for you, spend more time with your friends and family. Vent or simply spend some quality time together – it will help you detach from stressful situations for a while.
  • Being open to change. This is especially difficult when dealing with anxiety, but accepting change as an inevitable part of your life can tremendously improve your perception of work and life in general.

Emotions can feel devastating if they’re not adequately processed. Therefore, becoming more aware of your feelings can help you cope with stressful situations much better.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

There’s a song that says, “Even when you know the way it’s gonna blow, it’s hard to get around the wind” – and that applies to stress perfectly. You can’t always predict how you will react or feel when facing discomfort.

But by believing in yourself and not letting stress beat you, you can bring more comfort and tranquility to your work environment. Don’t be afraid to rely on your colleagues, and be more aware of your emotions – this will help keep stress at bay!

Psychiatrist and Sensa consultant dr. Monisha Vasa

Dr. Monisha Vasa is a board-certified psychiatrist and wellness consultant with a thriving private practice in Newport Beach, California. She’s actively engaged in supporting physician mental health at UC Irvine and City of Hope National Cancer Center.