Work Stress Overwhelming? Take These 3 Steps

Work Stress Overwhelming? Take These 3 Steps

Can you successfully manage stress to have a better life? Or is it like retirement on the Riviera — nice to dream about but almost impossible to achieve? Like much of life, it depends.

Americans are stressed. Over 75 percent of respondents in a recent Stress in America poll leaving site icon said stress negatively impacts their lives. And over a third of adults said they feel overwhelmed by stress most days. About 70 percent of Americans say they have physical and mental symptoms of stress.

Getting rid of stress is unlikely. And some experts say stress has its good points. It can motivate change, for example. But if feeling highly stressed is starting to be your routine state, it’s time to look at steps you can take to even things out.

Learning about stress will help you handle it. You can start to make changes and learn how to adapt. There is always something you can do about your stress, whether it stems from family, finances, health or other sources. By understanding where it is coming from, you can work on ways to reduce it and manage stressful situations better.

Work is a common source of stress, and it doesn’t stop when you go home. Feeling stressed at work can lead to health problems and other issues in all areas of your life. You may find that you get headaches or stomachaches. Or you can’t sleep, hold your temper or think clearly. It can even raise your blood pressure and cause anxiety. In the long run, it can harm your immune system.

And not only can it contribute to health conditions such as depression, obesity and heart disease, but people deal with the stress in unhealthy ways, says the American Psychological Association. That includes overeating, smoking or misusing drugs and alcohol.

It can also spell job burnout. It can leave you feeling exhausted, angry, distracted, disappointed and less productive. If you’re feeling less than motivated in your job, it may be time to make some changes. Try these three steps to get started.

1. Know Your Triggers

When it comes to causes behind stress, WebMD says work stress tops the list. Forty percent of U.S. workers say they have office stress. About 25 percent say work is their biggest problem.

But people have different work-related stress triggers. Some common ones are:

  • Working too many hours or having too much work to do
  • Not liking your job
  • Dealing with poor management or having no say at work
  • Facing harassment or danger

Once you identify your triggers, you can find ways to manage them instead of just reacting.

2. Fight that Feeling

You can take steps to fight that stressed out feeling. Dr. Rozina Lakhani of the American Institute of Stress says to start by remembering CPR: Calm, Process, Respond. leaving site icon Calm your mind and body, process your thoughts and feelings, and respond by finding productive solutions. Those steps can help you handle workplace stress.

Try to:

  • Concentrate on what you can control. Focus on what works for you in your role. Look at how your work helps someone else.
  • Address what’s not working. Maybe your skills and job don’t match. Learn new skills or search for a better role.
  • Try to set boundaries. If you’re spending too much time at work, or too much time thinking about work, try to regain a better balance. Or maybe you need to ditch your own unrealistic expectations about how much you can accomplish.
  • Let go of critical comments from others.
3. Protect Yourself

Time management may help. Set realistic goals, make a priority list and protect your time.

Other tips for when stress gets the best of you:

  • Step away for a brief break.
  • Talk through the situation with a coworker or friend to help you cope.
  • Set aside time for things you enjoy, like a hobby or socializing.
  • Protect your health. Aim to move your body more, get more sleep and eat healthy foods.

If you’re not able to handle the stress in your life on your own, ask your doctor what steps you can take to get help. Talking to a mental health provider may be something you should try.

Sources: Causes of Stress, leaving site icon WebMD, 2022; Coping with Stress at Work, leaving site icon American Psychological Association, 2018; Seven Ways to Dodge Job Stress, leaving site icon The American Institute of Stress, 2019; Coping with Stress – Workplace Tips, leaving site icon Mayo Clinic, 2021

Originally published 3/6/2020; Revised 2022

  • I'm not big on self help articles and sometimes the BCBS emails just get deleted right away (I'm not saying that's a good thing).  But when I'm working from home for the first time ever and this started out mentioning connectivity issues?  No place to spread out?  Yes!  It really got my attention.  It was a VERY good little piece.  Thank you, BCBS!  I will read your emails more now.  (I'd insert a happy face here if I knew how....)

  • "Set aside time for things you enjoy, like a hobby or socializing." Wow, is that a joke? That's the whole problem right there, there is no time between 3 kids, 2 job, and a chronically ill husband. That makes me feel 100 times worse if that's the solution. Awesome.