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Workplace Stress - And How to Manage it

Updated: Jan 25, 2023

This piece was written by Elizabeth Whelan, health & wellness expert, life coach, holistic therapist and Director at Zestivo.

In these challenging times, as we navigate our way through a global pandemic with a lack of control over our destinies, we hear a lot about stress and anxiety. In this article, I will examine stress & anxiety, and suggest some tools and techniques to assist you in coming to terms with stress in your daily routine.

Stress - what is it?

Stress is your mind or body’s response or reaction to a real or imagined threat event or change. When faced with a stressful situation the body releases hormones which allows it to respond. These hormone releases can result in a range of symptoms such as a faster heartbeat; sharper senses; breathing faster; increased blood pressure and tightening of the muscles. Generally, stress is a response to an external cause such as a tight deadline at work.

Anxiety defined

Anxiety on the other hand, is a person’s specific reaction to stress and by nature its origin is internal. Generally, it’s characterised by a persistent feeling of apprehension or dread. It is important therefore to be able to differentiate between stress and anxiety to help you put in place an effective response. Stress / anxiety responses can have positive and negative reactions. Some of the positive outcomes can be an increase in motivation and productivity. Conversely stress / anxiety can be very detrimental to your health leading to a wide range of health issues.

Workplace stress

Pressure is part of all work and helps motivate us. Excessive pressure, however, can lead to stress, which undermines performance and can make people ill. Workplace stress is the harmful physical and emotional responses which occur between the job demands and the amount of control you can have over these demands. It is a state that is threatened by high levels of arousal and distress and often by a feeling of not coping.

Typically, the main symptoms of workplace stress are when people perceive that there is an imbalance between the demands made of them and the resources they have available to them to cope with those demands

Typically, the following represent some situations which cause work related stress:

  1. High work demand

  2. Low support

  3. Lack of control

  4. Job insecurity

  5. Long working hours

  6. Low income

  7. Bullying and harassment

It is generally accepted that workplace stress can lead to a range of difficulties for organizations if not addressed. These include workplace absence; reduced productivity; reduction in employee’s motivation and engagement, and reduced quality of product and services. For employees, workplace stress, if untreated can lead to many health issues ranging from heart disease to anxiety and insomnia.

Types of stress

In general, there are 3 types of stress; Acute stress, Episodic stress & Chronic stress.

Acute stress is the most common type of stress and it is the body’s response to an event, anticipating challenge or an unexpected occurrence. Normally the body can deal with acute stress, but if it is occurring on a regular basis it can become episodic acute stress.

Episodic acute stress occurs when a person experiences acute stress on a frequent basis. Someone experiencing this type of stress always feels under pressure, feels inadequate and also unable to deal with challenges. This form of stress can lead to irritability, hostility, lack of motivation and relationship problems.

Chronic stress, the last form of stress. This is when stress is ongoing, creating long term emotional pressure. When experiencing chronic stress your nervous system is constantly on the alert which can have serious implications for your health, central nervous system, particularly your heart and immune system.

All in all, stress causes extreme wear and tear on your body resulting in a range of physical emotional and behavioural reactions.

The most common of these are:

  1. Headache

  2. Digestive issues

  3. High blood pressure

  4. Chest pain

  5. Sleep disorders

  6. Aches and pains

  7. Immune deficiencies

  8. Exhaustion

Unfortunately, some individuals respond to stress with unhealthy behaviours such as overeating, compulsive behaviours etc. It is important therefore that we develop healthier ways to manage our stress.

Stress management plan

The first step in developing a management plan for stress is to recognise its symptoms. Be aware of how you are in the moment and if stressed have a plan ready to respond. By taking proactive steps to reduce stress you allow your body to move you from your sympathetic nervous system response (fight, flight or freeze) to a parasympathetic nervous system response (calm, relaxed, logical).

Simple techniques include:

  1. Stopping and breathing

  2. Exercising

  3. Sleep

  4. Mindfulness

  5. Meditation

  6. Hydration

  7. Nutritional life energy foods

  8. Positive focus

  9. Learn to say “NO”

  10. Adapt Positive Habits

  11. Connect with others that you like and trust

  12. Relax and get into nature

  13. Have some fun

  14. Practice EFT “Emotional Freedom Therapy”

Managing workplace stress

In terms of solutions to workplace stress, there are a number of steps you can take. Firstly, ensure your physical work environment is adequate and meets your physical and mental needs, this is particularly important if working from home. You need to create a separation from your work and home life, and having the right working environment for this is vital. In addition to this you need to take control, as much as you can of your work goals and performance measures. Look after your health to help fuel your body and overall well-being. Familiarise yourself with workplace health and safety policies and procedures. And lastly, manage your worktime in an efficient manner.

Stress and anxiety, unfortunately, will always be with us but having the right tools and techniques can assist us in turning it from a negative experience to a more positive one.

Remember, however, if you feel overwhelmed and these tips are not working for you, then it is always advisable to seek professional help and do not let the stress conditions persist.

“Make the rest of your life, the best of your life”

Elizabeth Whelan is a health and wellbeing expert, with over 35 year’s experience. Through her company Zestivo, she assists individuals, entrepreneurs and companies to promote health and well-being at home and in the work place. Elizabeth is a mentor, motivational speaker, life coach and holistic therapist who uses her qualifications and experience to bespoke solutions and create a positive focus for individuals and companies.

Through Zestivo mindful living you will be empowered to deal more effectively with daily challenges given way to inner and outer contentment.

If you wish to contact Elizabeth further, see her contact details below:


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