Ways to help eliminate unnecessary stress at work

  • Published: Friday, Oct. 15, 2010
  • Reviewed Date: Thursday, June 21, 2018

Nurse doing yogaStress can be a positive factor in our lives — some stress even energizes us. When we have more demands than we can meet, however, we may feel out of control. High levels of stress may have a negative impact on physical health, mental well-being and relationships. It’s important to know how much stress is appropriate.

Research by the Families and Work Institute reports that we are energized by our work when these factors are present:

  • We have autonomy to control our own schedule.
  • We have opportunities to learn new information or skills.
  • We feel that the work we are doing makes a difference to others.
  • We have the chance to get ahead personally.
  • We know that our job is secure.

How then can we use this information to reduce the stress in our jobs?

  • Eliminate interruptions when you need to get work completed. Close the door if you can. If you can’t, work out a system with co-workers so that someone can answer the phone, greet customers, etc.
  • Expect work to happen at work — the phone will ring, customers will come in, the copy machine will run out of toner, etc.
  • Personalize your work area with photos of family or pictures drawn by your children.
  • Schedule and take breaks during the day. Get away from the office by taking a walk.
  • Take your vacation days.
  • Speak up. When you want something, ask. Be clear about your ideas, appreciate being heard and don’t take it personally if your request is denied.
  • Ask your boss if a task seems unnecessary. It is surprising how many old habits or policies have never been reviewed or updated.
  • Make a suggestion if you think you have a better way to get a job done.
  • Use a support system of co-workers to share tasks and do what you say you will do to support them.
  • Take care of your body.
    • Strive to do some kind of physical activity daily.
    • Get eight hours of sleep every night.
    • Choose a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein, and limit your sugar and sodium intake.
    • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
  • Enjoy every day! Don’t wait for special days to celebrate the joy of living. Celebrate small successes with those who helped achieve them, which will make everyone feel less stressed.

Use these ideas to make a list of the stressors at your work and determine what strategies you can try to reduce some of the stress.

For more ideas about balancing work and life, see MU Extension publication GH6651, Stress Management and the Challenge of Balance.


Updates were made to this article by Julie Birsinger, former Nursing Student intern, and Molly Vetter-Smith MPH, MEd, RD, former State Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

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Kristin Miller

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