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Dealing with stress at work

Updated on March 22, 2010

Stress costs U.S. businesses about $10,000 per worker each year and about $300 billion a year overall, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Dealing with stress at work

If you feel that you are experiencing a stress-related problem, don't keep it to yourself. Take steps to nip it in the bud before it becomes a bigger issue. The following tips may help you to help yourself and add some extra calm to your working day.

Take your time

Coming into the office, sitting at your desk and launching into the day's workload is not necessarily the best way to start your day. Instead, make a list of all the tasks you have to achieve that day, estimate how long each task will take, and allow a little extra time to complete each task. Next list them in order of priority.

Be sensible

If you simply have too much work, talk to your manager. Trying to hide the way you feel or cover up the fact that you can't meet your deadlines will increase your stress. You're only human, and there are only so many hours in the day. If you don't highlight a problem, no one will be any the wiser. If you do highlight a problem, then someone can help you resolve it.

Be professional

Make sure your desk is clean and your papers are organized. It may seem obvious, but clutter can cause disarray and make you appear unprofessional. If you are genuinely organized and using your time effectively but still cannot meet your targets then you should talk to your manager. If you are completely disorganized, and your work pattern is erratic then you should reassess why you aren't meeting your deadlines and why you are working long hours.


Taking the first step toward speaking to someone about your workload is the hardest. Think carefully about which colleagues you are comfortable talking to. Arrange a 20-minute meeting with them and take a little time to get organized beforehand. Think about what you want to say, how to present your case and what you want to the resolution to be. For example, will extra resources, more time or help prioritizing your work resolve your issues? Think of solutions and suggest these to your manager.

Break it up

If you're really busy, taking a break can seem like a bad idea. But working too much can cause your productivity to drop2. Even taking 5 or 10 minutes to calm your mind can make a huge difference depending on how you choose to spend your time. Relaxation exercises can seem a little strange at first, especially if you haven't tried them before. But if you're feeling stressed and they work for you, what have you got to lose? It's better to try new coping strategies and discover they are not for you, than plod along being stressed and feeling sorry for yourself.


  1. National Audit Office, 02/01;
  2. Eliot R and Breo D. Is it worth dying for? How to make stress work for you and not against you. Bantam books. 1989


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