Work Stress Symptoms and Suggestions

Work Stress Knows No Boundaries

Everyone of employment age experiences periods of career related fatigue and frustration in the extreme. Stress in the workplace is neither new nor secret. It is has no regard for convenient timing and is globally felt and universally destructive. It doesn't matter if you work in the rice paddies, or on Wall Street, it's all relative. In certain regards, work stress is also contagious. It permeates all aspects of a person's life - mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. If let go too far, there can be long term health affects and disabilities that can be avoided with care.

The first line of defence against work stress is awareness. Understand where and how it starts and learn how to recognize that it's happening to you.

Causes and Influences

  • Dog-eat-dog environment - stiff competition for business or for company positions and projects tend to put you into a survival mode that has you panicking to succeed before someone beats you to it. Add to that the increased workloads of recent years, and you have a stewing pot of stress that can well make you ill and keep you awake at night.
  • Being too stressed to notice you're stressed - more commonly put, too close to the forest to see the trees. If you haven't stopped to realize what is happening to you, you aren't likely to do anything about it. I can hear some of you now...I don't have time to stop... , which of course, is a sign of being overburdened.
  • Inability to refuse requests - agreeing to take on tasks and favours that you really don't have the desire or time to do only increases stress levels.
  • Not asking for help - many people find themselves so overloaded at work that they are putting in far too many hours, or have lost control of what needs doing at home, usually because they're working too much. These people are reluctant to ask for assistance, or to let anyone know that they're drowning in their to-do list.
  • Burnout - that complete and utter exhaustion that breaks down the mind and body. This is the last stop on the work stress express. When a person reaches this point, help and rest must be sought as soon as possible.


When work stress has reached a critical level, or has gone on for too long, it can begin to have adverse affects which show up in a myriad of ways. Pay attention to the signs.

  • Insomnia or the inability to stay asleep through the night
  • Uncharacteristic anger and frustration which usually affects relationships and home life
  • Inability to concentrate because the mind is so mired in stress
  • Anxiety in periodic attacks, or as a constant
  • Depression from the weight of worry and overload
  • Development of physical ailments, from headache to ulcers to heart and back problems
  • Substance abuse as a means of self medication to attempt relaxation and calm
  • Absenteeism to avoid the stressful overload
  • Burnout as mentioned above

While none of the perils of work stress are desirable or healthy, they can all be dealt with. As with any ongoing situation of this nature, sooner is better than later.

Stress Defined

Stressed At Work - Too Many Demands

Stressed Out

Suggestions to Combat Work Related Stress

  • Take a break when you need it. Leave your work area for a few minutes and slowly draw in a deep breath to relax your muscles and your mind. Direct your mind to some happy place and time, or just a location that you enjoyed visiting. It doesn't really matter what you focus on as long as it is not work or a problem - make it your calming time. If you can, take your lunch break at a park or other nature inspired place. When you do, leave work at work, don't cart it mentally along with you. This technique works best when you first notice slight increases in your stress levels.
  • Learn to say NO to personal activities that you normally do out of guilt or obligation. Say it nicely, preferably, but put your well being first when weighing the pros and cons of extra time thieves. If you start the vicious cycle of short changing yourself then scrambling to catch up at home before you have to run to the office and start all over again, you'll quickly find it escalating. Before long, you'll be the hamster on the wheel. The difference between you and the hamster is, the hamster stops when he wants to and you won't feel that you can.
  • Schedule regular relaxation time and stick to it stringently. Even if it is only one hour a day, or one evening a week, do it. Turn off the phone, pager, computer and anything else that will distract you from restoring your sense of peace and balance. Take care of your nerves and they will take of you.
  • Surround yourself with calm, positive people whenever possible. Hanging around with those who are stressed and negative will affect you and soon your thoughts and feelings will reflect that.
  • Learn to love yourself. People with healthy self-esteem seldom compromise themselves. Make confident decisions that are self-respecting and self-supportive. Once you get used to doing this, anything you do over and above what is expected of you at work, is done with an open, light heart and does not feel like a burden.
  • Ask for help when you need it. It is not uncommon for people to be overburdened at work and yet be shy to mention it to anyone. What workers sometimes don't realize is that the higher ups may not be aware of the fact. You've never said anything about it, so they think you're good to go. Meantime, you're sinking daily and stressed to the max about it. Asking for assistance is not weak, it is strong. It shows confidence (unafraid because you know there's nothing wrong with asking for help), control (on top of things so the work doesn't fall behind), and self-respect (you know you deserve the needed assistance).
  • Bond with your loved ones. If you're not consciously destressing, work pressures never stay at work. They travel home with you and create or contribute strain with the very people you should be closest to. Deal with your stress in the beginning stages to avoid this happening. If you have a spouse or significant other, let them know you're stressed and dealing with it. Keep the connection intact with those you care about most.
  • If necessary, take a leave of absence or change jobs. If work stress has been allowed to reach a level that can't be ignored, these may be your best options. These choices can be used to best advantage if your new start includes working on your stress as it happens, rather than letting it build all over again.

The time to face and deal with work stress is long before the critical burnout stage. Ideally, a person has safeguards and strategies in place that are part of a daily routine of self care. If this doesn't currently describe you, please develop some healthy stress-busting regimes to protect yourself.

Drowning in stress at work is simply not worth it. If you can't remember that, then remember this: there are other jobs, but there is no other you.

Peace. :)

More by this Author

***** Comments & Tips Welcome! ***** 50 comments

Uninvited Writer profile image

Uninvited Writer 8 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

Great hub. I'll try some of those suggestions next time I get stressed out at work...which will probably be Monday :)

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thx, Susan. One that I didn't mention.....using a water pistol. I once had a wholesale customer that kept an empty water pistol under the counter. When she had to deal with someone unpleasant, she'd take out the toy and pretend to shoot them as they left. It works equally well with thumb and forefinger. Naturally, it's not something you do while there's a chance they'll see. Quite often, it breaks the tension.

Good luck tomorrow!

Lissie profile image

Lissie 8 years ago from New Zealand

Rather than insomina when I am stressed I can sleep for 12 hours straight! I thought it was just me but I have heard medical professionals say it is a stress reaction: it took months after I left my last stressful job but finally I was functioning quite happily on 7 or less hours a sleep: for the first time in my adult life!

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Hi Lissie - I can go either way re the sleep thing. I'm glad you've removed yourself from the source of the stress and are now sleeping well. I'll bet you're feeling more rested now than when you were sleeping tons.

Thx for reading!

compu-smart profile image

compu-smart 8 years ago from London UK

Thankyou for this article!

I was told prior that i would "burnout" eventually if i got too stressed over work and it sure was true, resulting into insomnia, anxiety and other symptoms you mentioned, and the funny thing is,, i though it could never happen to me! and i was not entirely sure what being burnout was!.... I will now be better protected with this information and implement your suggestions.

Thanks again!

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Compu-Smart, I'm glad you're protected from it happening to you again. We don't want Mr. Furry Pants to be ill.

Thx for reading!

robie2 profile image

robie2 8 years ago from Central New Jersey

Reaaly good, practical advice, Shirley--and important too. Prolonged stress can kill you and those stress reduction tips you givve can literally be life-savers. Good job, as always.

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thanks so much, Robie! Hopefully, someone will be helped by this article.

donnaleemason profile image

donnaleemason 8 years ago from North Dakota, USA

That was great Shirley.

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thanks, Donna Lee. I appreciate you reading and commenting. :)

Annette Rozen profile image

Annette Rozen 8 years ago

i love all your helpful practical tips. You dont mention anything about herbs or health supplements though. What about ginkgo biloba or golden seal tea?

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thx, Annette. Yes there are natural products to deal with stress, but that's a different hub. :)

Rob Jundt profile image

Rob Jundt 8 years ago from Midwest USA

I've been here more than once. Thanks for the great advice. Life's too short. We need to enjoy what we do regardless of the compensation!

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

That's so true, Ron. I hope people take note of your comment and hard learned lessons, so they don't have to go through it themselves.

Thx, Ron.

pgrundy 8 years ago

Thanks for this hub! So well timed for me. Sadly, I am well inot the burnout phase at my job, but then I never planned to be at it for seven years--two at most, then up or out, but stuff happened. I realized today I simply have to do something else, anything really, just break up that toxic routine asap. I have a interview tomorrow afternoon for a 20 hour a week job that is more about paper shuffling, less about dealing with angry, stressed people one on one. I'm jazzed about it. Wish me well! And thanks!

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

You're welcome, PGrundy! I'm glad you're removing yourself from a place that is so stressful for you.

I do wish you well! I'll keep my fingers crossed for you. Good luck and let us know if you get the job!

ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Work stress can make you really sick! You are so right, it is not worth it. Now you know why I quit dentistry :) Love the helpful suggestions esp. the loving yourself enough to know when to quit. I did a lot of yoga and breathing exercises. That helped me a lot in coping with stress!


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

I haven't tried yoga, though I know some pretty peaceful people who do practise it regularly. I'm going to have to investigate it.

Thx for your comment, Ripplemaker.

Gawn Fishin' profile image

Gawn Fishin' 8 years ago from Vancouver, BC

Thank you Shirley Anderson, I believe in finding an outlet for stress, just to stay healthy. Gawn

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

That's a great idea, Gawn Fishin'. I didn't think to put that in there. I always try to put things into my hubs that aren't so commonly known, but sometimes in trying to be different, I miss the obvious.

Thx for mentioning it, I'm sure it will help someone.

bluebunny profile image

bluebunny 8 years ago

Omg, this article speaks out to me. Seriously, I've only tried turning off my cell phones two weeks ago and it's very nice to sleep at night without a 'ding' telling me there's an 'urgent' e-mail to read. I'm gonna try out the rest of the tips. Thank you for a wonderful hub :)

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

OMG yourself, you respond to your cell phone in the middle of the night? Oh my dear, you do need some time off! You poor thing, I'm glad you are finally going to get some sleep.

I hope something in this article helps you.

Die'Dre' profile image

Die'Dre' 8 years ago from The Great Pacific Northwest

You have a wide selection of topics. I enjoyed your hub on the stream.

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Die'Dre', thank-you so much for reading and commenting!

DiamondRN profile image

DiamondRN 8 years ago from Charlotte, NC USA

Shirley, after almost 30 years of pharmacy practice I stuck my mortar and pestle back on the shelf for the last time about four years ago. I was able to turn my hobbies of stock market investing and writing into a new way of life. Praise God.

I still have two more years until I can officially retire, but I'm just too busy doing what I love to even think about going back.

Bob Diamond R.Ph

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Dr. Bob, how wonderful! You are doing what you love, and I think that is the very best thing that a person can do for themselves. It must be a ton of stress eliminated from your life.

I'm very happy for you! Perhaps your post will inspire others who've been timid about taking that final step.

So glad you dropped in and commented, thank-you.

rmr profile image

rmr 8 years ago from Livonia, MI

Nice hub, Shirley! I gave up work related stress, this year. After two or three heart attacks, it was my only recourse.

When management hands down a rediculous list of expectations, I just say "I'll get right on it", and do my job to the best of my ability. If there's something I can't get done, I know it will still be there, waiting for me, tomorrow.

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

So true, RMR.  It takes us awhile to shake off that fear of disappointing management and come to the realization that we have to take care of ourselves first.  Do your best but your own health has to be a top priority.  Being too sick to enjoy the gold watch and retirement doesn't do anybody much good.

I'm glad you've dropped the stress!

Kulsum Mehmood profile image

Kulsum Mehmood 7 years ago from Nagpur, India

Nice hub on Work Stress Shirley. The tell-tale early signs of work stress and the corrective steps one should take are very nicely explained in this hub. This hub will help many people. Thanks for sharing.

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thanks, Kulsum! I really do hope that it helps people.

Stephen Beck profile image

Stephen Beck 7 years ago

That's a great hub on how to better manage stress. Thanks for a really comprehensive picture on the causes, symptoms and suggestions for improving stress...very helpful.

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thank-you, Stephen! I really appreciate it, and glad that you found it helpful for improving stress.

Wadey101m 7 years ago

This is a fantastic hub, and one that has proven very helpful. The symtoms that you have mentioned have helped show that I have been too stressed to realise that I actually am. Think its best that I now follow some of your advice before the stress affects my relationship with my hamster :-)

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Wadey, we don't want your relationship with your hamster compromised! Now that you know you're stressed, you can relax. :)

Thanks for coming by and reading!

SamSurvivor profile image

SamSurvivor 7 years ago

I appreciate this Hub on stress. I didn't realize that I was showing symptoms of stress until I read this. Now I'm finding the sources and dealing with them. Thanks again!

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

I'm glad this hub helped you, Sam. Best of luck in finding some peace and relaxation. You'll feel so much better when you do and we all deserve it. :)

Thanks for reading and commenting.

breakfreeofstress profile image

breakfreeofstress 6 years ago

you hit it right on!

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thanks, BreakFreeofStress.

scheng1 6 years ago

Actually work stress is not so bad. What is bad is the backstabbing by colleagues, just so they can get a bit higher bonus.

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Gee Scheng, that sounds like work stress to me but I understand what you mean. If your colleagues would leave you alone to work, you'd be okay. I've been in a job like that.

Try not to let them get to you, Scheng. The more attention you pay to the problem, the worse it is likely to get.

Best of luck to you, thanks for your comment.

RGraf profile image

RGraf 6 years ago from Wisconsin

Boy, did I have all that when I worked in the corporate world. There was no mercy there. Great piece.

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Hi, RG. Glad you're out from under all of that stress! Some things just aren't worth the money. Enough strain to ruin your health is one of them.

Dmitriy bestlife profile image

Dmitriy bestlife 6 years ago from Moscow


Let me introduce another way to prevent the problem of stress and human endurance and prodactivity. Onece and forever. It is about the luck of energy. All the adaptation resources and vital energy has gone to fight the consequiences of the pathogenic influences. It is possible to restore the organism energy state by means of drinking structured water. The depression and stress will be gone in a daytime! No compromise with such a newsanse as stress. There is no place for it in a healthy organism. Your abilityto work will rise dramatically with the rise of the organism vital energy.

marvin 6 years ago

up reading this a 5:02 am has helped a little but not much because i still have the things from my job on my mind. but this is one of the many things that is on my mind right now.

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thank-you, Dmitriy, for the tips! Water and exercise are both so important, especially when the body is overstressed.

Marvin, sorry to hear that you're too stressed to sleep. Hope you are able to relieve your stress soon!

Joe 6 years ago

Great hub. I really needed to hear this. thank you so much!

I am been dealing with alot of work stress and i could not concentrate. I can idenitify with everything that you are saying. I know now how to deal with my work stress properly.

I came across this great website for stress management I would highly recommend this site.

Thanks again

cballi316 profile image

cballi316 5 years ago from USA

Interesting. I think I you to suffer from this but now I work from home which is still stressful at times, but not nearly the same.

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thanks, CBalli. I too, work from home and I agree that it is still stressful but for different reasons. Love that there are no office politics, too!

ian  5 years ago

Hi Shirley and everyone... wish I had recognised the effects of a highly stressed environment...before i hit the "crash barrier" at 200mph and complete burnout! Fortunately I have a very good doctor who immediately diagosed the problem. I have been off work for nearly two months now and learning to walk away from the wreckage. I am putting a new life plan together which includes all my loved ones .... my great regret is so much time wasted.

Love to all out there suffering

Rachel Richmond profile image

Rachel Richmond 4 years ago from California

I agree with all the signs and symptoms, plus how to address and deal - in the end, I still changed career paths. We all do the best we can..

Great hub.

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