How to Manage Stress at Work

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Stress. It’s a word we hear a lot these days, and for good reason. We live and work in a fast-paced society where we’re constantly connected and constantly contactable. In many ways, it makes getting things done easier and faster. Unfortunately, it’s also a double-edged sword.

A little stress isn’t a bad thing. In small doses, it can keep us sharp and motivate us to get things done. But constant stress or high amounts of stress are bad for your productivity and your health. According to statistics from the Health and Safety Executive, in 2017/18 stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 44% of all work-related ill health cases. It also accounted for 57% of all working days lost due to ill health.

As a leader, you’re always under some amount of stress, so it’s important to take steps to manage it. You’re frequently making high-pressure decisions with a lot of responsibility. So, how can you combat stress at work?

Here’s my five top tips for stress management.

1.      Do more of what you love

Does your daily task list seems never-ending? Do the majority of your tasks drain you rather than energise you? Then it’s time to reassess your priorities.

Of course, you can’t remove all the tasks you don’t enjoy. Some of them will be an important part of your role. However, you can reassess if what you’re doing each day is driving you towards achieving your goals and energising you.

All too often we carry on doing things the way we’ve always done them because we haven’t had the time to reassess if they’re still necessary.

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” Henry Ford Share on X

It’s amazing how many of my executive coaching clients were completing tasks that they didn’t enjoy that weren’t even necessary! There were reports that nobody read, to replying to emails that could be delegated to a team member. Take a look at your own list – there are probably tasks that you can remove.

And if you can’t remove them, can you reduce them? Could that daily report be weekly instead? Would that weekly meeting be just as useful if it were monthly?

When you remove some of the tasks you don’t enjoy from your task lists, you can replace them with the ones you love. And when you devote more time to doing what you love, your stress levels will naturally reduce.

If you’re ready to take the next step and explore further, book in a coaching call with me.


2.      Take proper breaks

It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness of your leadership role. There’s always another email to answer, another meeting to attend, another task that you absolutely must do. When you’re under so much pressure, it can seem like the best thing to do is to sacrifice your breaks.

Slowly but surely, work begins to creep into your personal time. You skip lunch to attend a meeting. You start to answer your emails from home. As a one-off, it can help you stay on top of your workload. But when it becomes a habit, it can actually make you more stressed and less productive.

If you frequently can’t fit your working tasks into your working day, then something needs to change. Perhaps you need to delegate more? Or simply look at ways to increase your productivity that don’t involve working longer hours and skipping breaks.

“Focus on being productive, instead of busy.” Timothy Ferriss Share on X

Even better, make some time for meditation as part of your daily routine. Studies have shown that even just a few minutes of meditation a day can drastically lower your stress levels.


3.      Build a strong network

Having people that you can confide in at work can be a great barrier against stress. Leadership can be lonely, and loneliness can really add to your stress levels.

Focus on building positive relationships with your peers and colleagues. Develop a support network that you can rely on if you need to ask for help or just a friendly chat over a cup of coffee. Don’t underestimate the need that we all have for human connection, it’s an amazing source of stress relief.


4.      Ditch your perfectionism

Got a ton of things on your to-do list and you’re sure you can’t remove or delegate any of them? Then make sure that perfectionism isn’t holding you back.

There’s no excuse for shoddy work but stressing over every tiny detail is unlikely to bring any benefits. In fact, the stress makes you more prone to the very mistakes you’re trying so desperately to avoid.

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of good. If you can’t achieve perfection, it’s OK. Aim for good instead. Happiness expert Gretchen Rubin described it this way:

“Instead of pushing yourself to an impossible ‘perfect,’ and therefore getting nowhere, accept ‘good.’ Many things worth doing are worth doing badly.

If you’re struggling with perfectionist tendencies, try and keep this in mind as you work through your task list.


5.      Look after your health

Long-term stress can impact your health in many ways, including headaches, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, appetite disturbances, and digestive problems.

By looking after your health first you can help to build resilience and avoid the stress in the first place. Some basic, but very effective things you can do to improve your health and increase your resilience to stress are:

  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Make time for exercise
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Cut down on caffeine and alcohol


If you’ve been feeling the pressure recently, try implementing these tips. They should help to keep your stress to a more manageable level.

I regularly help my executive coaching clients to manage their stress and to develop the focus, confidence, and resilience to grow as a leader. With nearly 20 years’ experience supporting senior leaders, clinicians, and business owners to excel in their roles, I can help you manage your stress at work.

If you’d like to learn more about coaching and want to take the next step why not book a free discovery call today? It’s a no-obligation discussion to find out how I can help you worry less and achieve more.

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