Sometimes we can all experience workplace stress. Factors such as overwhelming workloads, conflicts with colleagues, tight deadlines, and prolonged working hours can contribute to this stress.

These factors take a massive hidden toll on our health and wellbeing. According to the Workforce State of Mind report (2024), 78% of employees believe that work stress has adversely affected their physical health.

Over time, prolonged stress can lead to burnout, which in turn can result in depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts, as well as contribute to health issues such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic pain.

It’s important to recognise that feeling stressed at work is not your fault, and your manager should be able to offer additional support. However, persistent stress can have detrimental effects on both our bodies and our overall wellbeing. Therefore, it’s crucial to acknowledge, identify, and address ongoing stressors.

Katie Pledge, Platfform Wellbeing Lead Counsellor, shares her strategies for managing workplace stress.

1. Identify the cause of workplace stress

It’s crucial to pinpoint what’s triggering your stress in the workplace through reflection and observation. Reflect on what has changed recently compared to before. Has your workload increased? Are there interpersonal conflicts? Are there organisational changes? Understanding the specific stressors allows you to address them more effectively.

How stress at work can look

2. Reflect on past experiences of workplace stress

Have you felt like this before and how did you cope with it then? Recognise both healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Healthy coping techniques might include seeking support from colleagues or taking breaks, while unhealthy ones could involve excessive drinking or avoiding responsibilities. Recognising these patterns helps you to pinpoint more supportive approaches to coping with workplace stress.

3. Changes in work and life circumstances

Reflect on what has been added, changed, or removed from your work and personal life. This could include changes in workload, job role, personal circumstances, conflicts, or perhaps redundancies that have led to colleagues leaving, affecting confidence, and increasing uncertainty. Determine whether these changes are temporary or permanent. Understanding the nature of these changes provides clarity on how to navigate them and what support you need from your organisation.

4. What do you have control over?

Identify aspects of the situation that you have control over. Not all stressors are within your control, but there may be elements that you can influence or change. Focus on what actionable steps you can take to address the sources of stress. This might involve setting boundaries, communicating needs to leaders, or seeking additional resources or support.

5. Worries outside the workplace

Recognise that workplace stress can be affected by issues outside of work, such as family problems or financial concerns. Acknowledge these stressors and identify sources of support, whether it’s friends, family, or professional services. Knowing who to turn to for help outside of work can ease some of the pressure you feel during work hours.

managing stress at work - Managing Workplace Stress - 12 Expert Tips for Managing Workplace Stress - Platfform Wellbeing

6. Caring for yourself and connections

Prioritise self-care activities to manage stress. This includes taking regular breaks, getting fresh air, engaging in physical activity like walking, and maintaining a balanced diet. Talking to trusted friends or colleagues about your feelings can also provide emotional relief and support. Social connection can help boost your mood and manage your emotions. Additionally, consider exploring opportunities for volunteering or participating in community groups for further connection.

7. Setting Boundaries

Establish boundaries to manage your workload effectively and prevent burnout. Practice good time management and be confident in saying no to additional tasks if you’re already overwhelmed. Recognise your limits and communicate them clearly to colleagues and managers.

8. Seeking support

Don’t hesitate to reach out for help when needed. Familiarise yourself with the available support systems in your workplace. Your manager or HR department should be able to signpost you to appropriate support such as counselling or resources to manage stress.

9. Organise and prioritise

Break down tasks into manageable steps and prioritise them based on importance and deadlines. This helps to prevent feeling overwhelmed and allows you to focus on one task at a time. Creating to-do lists and experiencing the satisfaction of crossing items off can boost productivity and reduce stress. While adapting to new work methods may require time and practice, the benefits are worth it.

10. Do things you enjoy

Make time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation outside of work. Whether it’s hobbies, spending time with loved ones, or pursuing interests, engaging in enjoyable activities helps balance the demands of work and promotes overall wellbeing.

11. Relaxation techniques

Practicing mindfulness, deep breathing, or grounding techniques can help to reduce stress and promote relaxation. These practices help centre your thoughts, calm your mind, and increase resilience in challenging situations.

12. Empty your stress bucket

“The Stress Bucket” is a useful way to think about stress and how it impacts your life. This strategy can help you identify which coping strategies are helpful and unhelpful for reducing stress.

Imagine you have a bucket inside your body which collects all of your stress. Events and daily occurrences, such as work, family life, health issues, or financial concerns can contribute to filling this stress bucket. At times, the bucket may feel empty, while at other times, it may feel close to overflowing.

managing stress bucket

We all have a stress bucket of different capacities, meaning we differ in how much stress we can manage individually. Additionally, what one person finds extremely stressful, another may find not stressful at all, and that’s okay—our responses to stress vary due to our unique experiences.

During challenging times, it’s normal for our stress bucket to feel full. We might feel like too much stress is pouring into the bucket at any one time, and we can feel like our bucket is overflowing. This will look different for everyone, but common signs of the stress bucket overflowing can include:

  • Feeling burnt out
  • Feeling snappy or irritable
  • Feeling anxious
  • Feeling fatigued
  • Feeling low and tearful

When we recognise these signs, indicating our bucket is overflowing, it’s important to release some stress. We can achieve this by engaging in positive coping strategies—think of these as taps on the side of the bucket, allowing stress to drain out.

Examples of such coping strategies are above and include:

  • Connecting with others
  • Physical activity
  • Taking a break
  • Asking for help

These taps can be anything you find helpful in emptying your bucket, and what works for one person may not work for another. It’s beneficial to start with techniques you already know are effective for you or ones you’ve used previously before trying new approaches.

Try this exercise: Take five minutes to reflect on the types of coping strategies or “taps” you already have in your toolkit. Think about a past stressful situation and reflect on how you coped with it. Often, we underestimate our ability to manage stress effectively using skills we already have.

Want more tips?

Join our mailing list and keep up to date with the latest wellbeing tips, news and offers.