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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How do I deal with work related stress?

    I work in a very fast-paced, demanding and stressful work environment. I am constantly needing to meet deadlines and work with high end clients on a regular basis. Not only am I stressed in the office but I seem to carry the burden when I am home trying to relax, eat and sleep. Any advice on how to deal with this work related stress?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 1


    Grant McKell


    Grant McKell is a counselling psychologist working in Sydney's inner west with over ten years' experience. He founded HeadsUp Psychology in August, 2011. Having worked in ... View Profile

    Sure. There are a number of techniques you could try to unwind and leave work at work, but it's difficult to know what might work for you. Some people love visualisation techniques to learn to relax, but others find it irritating. Mindfulness is good for some, mental stillness better for others. To find out which techniques could be best, you might find a few sessions with a psychologist is time well spent. But there are heaps of different techniques out there.

    A psychologist should also be able to help you learn some techniques to prioritise work and to manage your time to meet those deadlines more easily. Part of this would be making time for yourself to unwind and de-stress.

    Lastly, I can recommend something very basic that requires not seeing a psychologist. Watch your diet. Limit caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and other drugs. Eat a good low GI breakfast every day- make it a priority, You need to give your body and your brain the best chance to deal with each day. Also, make time for some vigourous exercise every second day. The increased blood flow to your brain that results will be of enormous benefit.

    Let me know if I can assist, or find a psychologist that you like the look of here on the Healthshare site.

    Take care of yourself.

  • 1


    Grant McKell


    Grant McKell is a counselling psychologist working in Sydney's inner west with over ten years' experience. He founded HeadsUp Psychology in August, 2011. Having worked in ... View Profile

    Can I just add that you should also be eligible for support under your workplace's Employee Assistance Program. Ask your HR department for assistance in accessing this.

  • 1


    I assist clients who are undergoing a challenging life transition in relationships or work which is affecting their well being. Person centred counselling can facilitate ... View Profile

    Cultivating mindfulness in our daily life is a practice which we can do in the work place as well as elsewhere in our life.  Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally to things as they are.  Focusing on your breath is  a first step in cultivating your attention on the present moment and a way of managing the flow of you thoughts so you are not overwhelmed by distractions.  

     We can make changes in the way we work even if they are only small.  Multi tasking is a source of stress as are continual distractions from the task at hand. Mindfulness in the work place might, for example, mean focusing all of your attention on one task at a time and only reading emails at selected times of the day.   

  • 1


    A HOLISTIC SERVICE.Would you like a more satisfying and rewarding life? Are you looking to get a great job? Or do you have important choices ... View Profile

    Stress and tension are normal reactions to events that feel like a threat to us. In your case, you say that your work situation is causing you stress.

    The level and extent of stress someone feels depends a great deal on their attitude to a particular situation. An event which may be extremely stressful for one person can be a minor event in another person's life.

    Also, stress is not always a bad thing because some people thrive on it and even need it to get things done.

    Regardless of whom you are or what you do, chances are you spend a lot of time involved in the busyness of life, worrying about getting everything done, and feeling out of control.

    Most people don't handle their stress well. They focus on the unpleasant and unexpected things that happen daily. This should just be called ‘life’ and we need to know that we can learn to better handle the stressors that life sends our way.

    The workplace is often a very stressful environment. Yes, Deadlines are a major cause of Work Related Stress. Other factors that might contribute to this type of stress are:
    - conflict with your boss/co-workers,
    - changes that happen abruptly, where you cannot cope with them,
    - threats to job security, or
    - A fear of not performing to expectations.

    When addressing the question about workplace related stress I would, apart from considering the normal stress relieving strategies, first ask if you are actually in the right career.

    When dealing with clients during career counselling or development sessions we often look at Work Related Values. Many people have never considered these values when choosing a career and this can cause stress. A value is something you value, something that is important to you. You may value your health and therefore eat healthy food or exercise daily.

    Let me explain WRV a bit:
    Identifying & clarifying personal values that are work related is an important part of a successful career plan. In this context, the word value refers to how you would feel about the work itself and the contribution it makes to society. A work related value means some part of your work that is important to you.

    Most people who do work that is in harmony with their values feel satisfied and successful in their careers.

    Work values can be divided into two functional categories.

    1) Intrinsic values are those that relate to a specific interest in the activities of the work itself, or to the benefits that the work contributes to society.

    2) Extrinsic values relate to the favourable conditions that accompany an occupational choice, such as where the job is located, inside or outside work, physical activity, earning potential, and other external features.

    Most people, in order to feel truly satisfied with their work, must find some personal intrinsic value in it.

    For instance; some people might enjoy working under pressure or working in situations where time pressure is prevalent. They may enjoy fast paced work environments (Work in circumstances where work must be done rapidly)

    But for others this is very low on their list of values. They may have stability (Have a work routine and job duties that are largely predictable) high on their list of values. Or Precision (Work in situations where attention to detail and accuracy are very important)

    Maybe you could visit a career counsellor and explore with them where you’re at in your current career and if there may be other options that would lower the stress and increase the satisfaction.

    However, if you decide that you are in the right career, you may want to look at the specific areas that cause stress and your career counsellor can also assist with strategies to manage and/or minimise the stress.

  • 1


    I am a Melbourne Relationship Counsellor and Family Lawyer who is skilful in helping people get out of the pain of relationship distress and create ... View Profile

    There are already a number of good suggestions here for you to try.

    I would add that focussing on the present moment and feeling a sense of grounded presence in your body can take you a long way in reducing the stress you feel. I teach “Focussing” which is a kind of mindfulness but which connects you to your inner experience in a way that enables a greater sense of presence in your life.  

    Just try next time you feel stressed to take a deep breathe and relax into the present moment. Reminding yourself to live in the “now” can be a great stress relief, especially if you can be really all there with your whole body and mind. This creates a feeling of spaciousness which is the antithesis of stress. It takes practice but is a great way to access all of your power in a high powered environment.

    Also, create a ritual where you delineate work from home. An example of this would be for you to stop in your car before you arrive/enter your home environment and consciously let go of the day and create intentions about what energy you want to bring home with you. I recommend this to parents who come home to children expecting to see them full of energy etc. Just creating a signal to yourself of some sort that work has ended and making it a habit, can create the work/home separation you need. If you travel by public transport you could write some notes to yourself summarising what got done, what still needs to get done and then leave it all there on the page. 

    These are just some of the ways I would recommend to relieve work related stress and I wish you all the best in your endeavours.

  • 2


    Deborah Hill


    Ask yourself this question. Are you the person you really want to be, doing the things you’ve always dreamed of doing?Honestly … ask yourself, who ... View Profile

    Lots of good advice here. Mindfulness, staying connected in the present, diet - all good stuff. Other things you might like to consider:

    • That staying in the  moment means just that. Plan, but don't project an outcome. Usually the outcome's out of our control anyway and worrying about it  won't make any difference. Continually worrying about tomorrow's outcomes create unnecessary stress about situations. All we can do is our best!
    • Learn to trust yourself more. Listen to that still small voice within and learn how to follow it. I believe as human beings we are naturally intuitive we just need to practice it and the trust and experiences will grow.
    • Make lists, plan the day, but be open to changes and know when to go with the flow. Flexibility not rigidity.
    • Perfectionism - give it away. It's one of the biggest stressors of all!
    • Don't compare yourself to others. When we do this we always come up wanting. The only person we can compare ourself too is who we were last month, last year etc.
    • Finally journaling. Write. We write slower than we think and it's a form of meditation really. And when you have your thoughts in front of you in black and white it's easier to see what's really going on. I'm sure you know about Dr Who's tardis. From the outside it looks small but go inside and it's enormous. So it is with our minds and you can get lost in there, when all that's needed is 3 or 4 lines on a piece of paper. Much more manageable don't you think!

    I hope this has been helpful and feel free to contact me if you have any questions re the above.

  • 1


    Kristen Ross

    Counsellor, Kinesiologist

    Kristen Ross is a qualified Kinesiologist, Counsellor and Sports Therapist.Affinity Wellness is her holistic wellness practice offering a holistic wellness experience by focusing on all ... View Profile

    Sadly there are too many people who find themselves in this situation. 
    Pressure to perform, the threat of losing clients or of losing ‘face’, the pressure that we put on ourselves to excel and a perceived need to work long hours and be ‘successful’ are just some of the reasons people find themselves stressed in the workplace. 
    Firstly, whilst there is so much competitive pressure in the workplace what you must accept is that you have put yourself in this position and you need to get yourself out of it for the sake of your health and your home life. It's easy enough to say that a client is overly demanding or that deadlines or targets are unreachable but the direct truth is that if you say that work is to blame you are just making excuses for your own lack of ability to manage your thoughts and emotions and/or set boundaries or limits. 

    I agree with suggestions made that mindfulness meditation can help you on all of those fronts. It can help you to be present, and when practiced with concious reference to the basic principles which come from buddhism it can help you to  understand the concept of attachment which is the source of most of our daily stress.

    I would also encourage you to investigate your values and re-evaluate your position at this time, are you where you want to be in your life? If not, which of your values are you compromising? 

    Check out my website for a number of articles linked to workplace stress 

  • 1


    Dianne Zebic

    Counsellor, Psychotherapist

    Dianne Zebic has retired as of 31/01/2015 View Profile

    I agree with all the above suggestions and there is some excellent information for you to perhaps consider.

    With most of my clients with work related stress, I tend to use Cogitive Behaviour Therapy, Solutions Focused Therapy & Stress Management Techniques to assist people. Seeing a counsellor or psychologist could help you.

    However one important thing to consider is to make sure you are taking all your breaks at work rather than working through them. Most of my clients don't take their breaks, and this makes the stress very intense and impossible to manage. Taking a walk outside the office, during your lunch break can help you to take the stress off your mind, as walking can help to produce the endorphines which is a natrual antidepressant, and it can help to lower your stress levels naturally.

    Also good time management skills and perhaps making an action plan for the day the night before can perhaps help you reduce stress and manage your time wisely.

    Also getting an adequate amount of good quality of sleep and going to bed earlier rather than later can help you manage far much better and enhance better work performance with less stress.

    After work you could do the following to help reduce further stress levels:

    1. Go for a 20 minute walk
    2. Try Yoga classes  eg 2-3 times per week
    3. Join up with a gym and start exercising
    4. Meditate and rest when needed
    5. Delegate chores to others at home if you live with other people to help reduce your stress levels
    6. Make time for yourself after work and do something you really enjoy eg reading a book, or having a warm bath, or watch a movie/tv
    7.Play with your pet if you have one, it's amazing how animals can assist in lowering our stress levels
    8. Try a new hobby with a friend or on your own
    9. Eat dinner out 2 times per week to help reduce your stress levels
    10. Talk to someone how you feel and how stress is affecting your life
    11. Set realistic expectations in situations to avoid stress and challenge your thinking to make sure you are not creating more stress for yourself than what is required.
    12. Set some positive goals and set a time frame when you would like to make some changes to improve your work situation.

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