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How to manage stress at work

How to manage stress at work

Stress is a natural part of life. Without it, we’d probably only be able to cross half the items off our to-do lists at the end of the day.

And while stress can be a useful motivator – in the same way, it can also debilitate us and stop us from reaching our full potential.

According to official government statistics, 40% of British workers believe their jobs are extremely stressful, and a quarter regard their jobs as the main stressor in their lives.

Even if you enjoy what you do, there’s only so much stress your mind (and body) can take before you eventually break.

So, if work-related stress has taken on a bigger role in your life than you’d like, here’s how to grab hold of the reins again:

Get back in the driver’s seat.

One of the biggest triggers of stress in our working lives is when we feel as though we have lost control. Your inbox is flooded, your calendar is crammed, and someone named Simon keeps trying to call you and you have absolutely no idea why.

In your job, there will be things you have no control over – but there will be things that you can change too.

Maya Angelou has been quoted as saying: “If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.”

Put this advice to work by identifying the aspects of your job that you have control over, and do everything within your power to perform these tasks to the best of your abilities.

As for the things you can’t control – try to shift the pressure from being on you to focusing on the project itself. Remember, you’re not responsible for other people’s problems, attitudes or feelings towards you – nor are you responsible for their opinions of your performance.

Be prepared for the stress of it all.

If you have a lot on your plate, try your best to prioritise, collaborate and, when appropriate, delegate tasks – otherwise your stress levels will continue to go through the roof.

Write out lists and order them in terms of priority. And be realistic about how long things will take – otherwise you’re only setting yourself up to fail.

If you find yourself in a position where everything is urgent, a good solution is to explain the situation to your boss or line manager and, with a proactive attitude, ask them to decide what task takes precedence.

If you have something on your to-do list that urgently needs to get done, set some time aside to do it. Little, seemingly-insignificant interruptions throughout the day might feel like nothing, but they can have a major impact on your focus. Try putting on headphones (even if you’re not listening to music), booking out one of the office meeting rooms, or even working from home for part of the day.

Another worthwhile approach at reducing stress is by structuring your day into 90 minute segments. Most people can focus their full attention on a task for no longer than 90 minutes before their concentration starts to fade – so work your day around this.

Make time for you.

When you have a stressful job, it’s easy to let other aspects of your life take a back seat. But the truth is, your job is probably always going to be busy, and unless you’re the Queen or some high-ranking civil servant, putting work before your health and wellbeing, family and friends, or that trip to Barbados which you bloody-well deserve, this isn’t an effective strategy.

One minute you’re working a little late on Monday night; the next you’re logging into your emails on Christmas morning to “quickly check on things”. Remember, even the Queen takes time out of her busy day to walk her corgis.

And, needless to say, having the same lifestyle of an 18 year old student cramming for exams won’t be doing your body any favours. Small steps like popping out for a quick walk at lunch, reducing your coffee intake and eating healthy can have a major impact on your stress levels.

It’s also important to spend some time away from the office mentally. Before you leave work every day, make a list of all the things you need to get done tomorrow morning – this way, when you exit the building, you’re leaving work where it belongs.

For more information on managing mental health in the workplace, visit for useful tips and advice.

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