How to combat stress at work

Stress is a common issue that can lead to mental and physical illness if not addressed. Follow Stafffinders’ tips on how to cope with work-related stress.


According to Mind, the mental health charity, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. Mental health issues including stress, depression and anxiety are believed to have been responsible for 11.7 million lost working days in 2015/16. 

What is stress?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work”. Some of the sources of work-related stress include heavy workloads, lack of control over projects, high expectation levels, job insecurity, bullying and changes within the company.

If stress becomes excessive and prolonged, mental and physical illness may develop. This is both detrimental to the employees’ personal health and also to the productivity of organisations as stress is often linked with high levels of staff turnover, employee absence and numerous mistakes. Given that so many people suffer from stress, it begs the question as to why aren’t employers doing anything about it? It is time that we take action and address mental health issues within the workplace. We must eradicate the stigma of this pervasive culture of silence. 

Tips on how to cope with work-related stress

1.       Sleep well

One the most important and effective ways by which you can reduce your stress levels is by having a good night’s sleep. It is a well-known fact that the better rested you are, the better prepared you’ll be to complete your job duties. A good night’s sleep can lead to increased productivity, creativity and ability to focus. Moreover, following a good sleeping pattern can also enable you to maintain your emotional balance.


Firstly, you should get into the habit of a good sleeping pattern. In other words, you should aim for 8 hours of sleep per night and go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. All screens such as televisions, mobiles, laptops etc should be turned off one hour before going to sleep. This is very important as the light emitted from these screens prevents your body’s production of melatonin and can therefore disturb your sleep. An alternative and more soothing activity which is believed to actually induce sleep is reading. Reading a book before going to bed can help you to completely zone out and relax. 

2.     Disconnect during your lunch break

Enjoy any work break that you may have by completely taking yourself away from your work. A good way to do this is by reading. Losing yourself in an engrossing book means that you can escape from the stresses and worries of everyday working life. According to new research, just 6 minutes of reading could be enough to reduce stress levels by up to two thirds. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed at work, read a book during your lunch break and definitely don’t eat your lunch at your desk whilst you work!

If you don’t enjoy reading, an alternative way to relax is by taking a walk during your break. Not only is exercise good for your physical health, however, taking a stroll during lunch hour can also help you to refocus. This is because you’re body pumps extra blood when you exercise and this extra blood alongside the extra oxygen can help you to perform better mentally. 

3.       Plan ahead

In order to reduce your stress levels, you should plan your work ahead. Otherwise stated, writing everything down that you need to do and creating a daily to-do list can help you to remember your tasks. Likewise, creating a daily to-do list that only focuses on few things means that you can focus on today’s tasks and not worry about tomorrow’s. Furthermore, rather than multi-task, you should also focus on one task at a time.

Be sure to take one day at a time. If it’s not done today, there is always another day tomorrow!

4.       Create a relaxing workspace

Whilst your projects and deadlines may contribute to your increased stress levels, your physical environment can be just as great a culprit. Whether it’s a messy desk, the fluorescent lights or noisy colleagues, these factors are most likely adding to your stress levels and affecting your performance at work. 

A small but effective step to reduce stress is organising a clean and simple workspace. Organising your desk can make it easier to focus and decrease the chances of you becoming distracted. 

In addition, introducing new plants to your workspace is an excellent way to combat stress. Plants can have a positive impact on the human condition producing psychological benefits, reducing stress, decreasing levels of anxiety and improving one’s attentiveness. Here are some plants that can help to reduce stress levels

  • Lavender: Incorporating a plant such as lavender into your workspace can help you to relax. Whilst many people simply like the smell of lavender, they are unaware of its excellent stress-relieving benefits. Lavender produces calming and sedative effects when it’s smell is inhaled.
  • Aloe vera: this plant purifies the air and is believed to have effectively treated symptoms of stress and anxiety. 

5.       Keep active

Given that the brain has many nerve connections, when stress affects your brain, it also affects your body. Therefore, if you’re body feels better, so does your mind. Engaging in physical activity allows you to de-stress as your body releases endorphins, or rather, “feel-good” chemicals.   

A good idea would be to join a work exercise club such as running. This would be a fantastic opportunity as not only would you improve your physical and mental health by exercising, however, it would enable you the chance to engage with your co-workers and get to know them better, possibly leading to increased positive work relationships. Similarly, developing close relationships with co-workers may result in you feeling more supported and positive about your work.  

6.       Listen to music

Whenever you’re feeling stressed, take out your iPod/MP3 player and listen to some calming music. The best music to listen to when feeling overwhelmed is slow and soothing songs. Doing so can help you to de-stress, unwind and refocus. Likewise, listening to music is a fantastic way to block out the noise around you. Phones ringing and co-workers speaking can be rather stressful and frustrating when you’re trying to focus on the task at hand. By blocking this noise out, you are more likely to concentrate on your task. 

On the other hand, listening to your favourite songs, whether more upbeat or slow, can serve as a source of motivation to begin tackling a heavy workload. 

7.       Speak out

Rather than bottling up how you’re feeling, speaking to either your supervisor, employer or someone outside your work such as family members, friends or a professional, allows other people to know how you’re feeling and you may even feel a weight lifted off of your shoulders. 

Furthermore, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers have a duty of care to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees. Therefore, if your mental health is struggling, it is vital that you talk to a supervisor or member of the HR department who can offer you assistance and advice on how to cope better. Employers may provide stress management, relaxation or access to leisure facilities at a discounted rate.

You should definitely not feel embarrassed or ashamed to admit that you’re struggling with your mental health. The truth is that your co-workers probably do too but you just don’t know about it. 

8.       Learn to say NO

Overworking plays a critical role in our high stress levels. In fact, the stress of taking on too much work can lead to decreased motivation and performance, and increased employee absence levels.

And if that weren’t enough, it has often been argued that overworking can cause other health problems including burnout, heavy drinking, type 2 diabetes and heart problems.

Evidently, overworking can be very damaging to our health and we must learn how to say no to extra work. Although you may receive a pat on the back from your manager by agreeing to work overtime, if you take on too much work, you may fail to perform to the required standard. This can result in even higher stress levels, feelings of inadequacy and decreased motivation.

If you feel that you may be overly stressed by working overtime, just say no.

You're not alone

To conclude, by following these small steps provided by Stafffinders, you may notice your stress levels decrease. You must remember that it’s absolutely vital to manage your stress so that it doesn’t lead to mental and physical health illness. If you follow these steps and don’t notice a difference after a while, you should consider seeking advice from a professional.

We all experience stress and cannot escape it in the workplace. However, we can neutralise it by following small steps like the above. 

If you are seeking a career change, please Get in touch with our REC qualified recruitment consultants who will be more than happy to help you out.