Most of us spend at least a third of our life at work. For many of us it adds up to even more. Work is commonly cited as a major cause of distress and there are many reasons for this. Work stress can be self-imposed or due to problems with the boss or co-workers, staff or associates. It is important to identify the causes of your stress at work and deal with those, but there are measures that you can put in place to help you cope with the pressures of work stress...

1. Learn to say “No”.

Some people find it very difficult to say ‘no’ to requests from friends and colleagues. Are you one of those who, even though you feel unable to cope with more work, feel that refusing to help may prejudice you in some way or affect your relationship with others. These requests may not even be directly related to work but could include helping with another fund-raiser, organising an office event, giving lifts. If you feel that you cannot take on more work then be honest, clear and assertive in your reply. Point out how much you are doing already and explain that time and energy does not allow you to take on anything extra. Whatever your situation, if you do take on more than you feel able to handle then you feel pressured, harassed and rushed, and you will suffer. Jobs will take longer to do and your stress levels will rise. So saying ‘no’ and being realistic about what you can and cannot manage makes sense in the long run.

2. Recharge Your Batteries.

Take a few minutes to relax even if it is in the middle of a demanding task. When you are relaxed your cortisol and other stress hormone levels are lowered and your bodily activity is opposite to that experienced during the stress response. You can relax by doing a simple breathing exercise, repeating a positive affirmation, doing visualization or giving yourself a hand massage. These procedures must be learnt and practised regularly but if made part of your daily life, can take you to a state of relaxation quickly and make work stress much easier to manage.

3. Breathe Correctly.

This may seem an obvious question but ‘are you breathing correctly?’. Incorrect breathing is more of a problem than you may imagine and can cause feelings of discomfort, ill health and distress. Of all the tips to cope with stress at work, this should get the most attention. Stress causes your breathing patterns to change and you could find yourself breathing more rapidly or more deeply. Stress could also cause you to sigh often. Incorrect breathing can lead to hyperventilation and your blood becoming too alkaline. The trick is to learn how to breathe from your abdomen – mastering the abdominal breathing technique will help you correct faulty breathing patterns and you can then use the technique as a relaxation and stress relief exercise at work whenever you feel tense and anxious. It is a useful quick method that can be applied anywhere.

4. Delegate.

This may seem an obvious and often repeated tip for handling work stress, but how often do you do so. You may tend to believe that jobs will get done better and quicker if you do them all yourself, but this is often not the case. You can become overloaded with tasks which could be delegated to someone else. The sign of a good manager or supervisor is one who is in a position to delegate. When you delegate, choose someone best suited to do the job. Give clear instructions and information about what you expect and reassure the person of your confidence in them. And delegating has many other positive spin-offs besides lessening your workload. Giving someone else responsibility makes them feel trusted and part of the team. If you have multiple roles and have domestic duties as well as job demands, then delegating tasks at home can reduce your stress at work. Remember, once you have delegated, let go and let them do the job.

5. Avoid Perfectionism.

Perfectionism must not be confused with doing your job well. Perfectionists are often not realistic and this leads to unmet expectations, unrealistic demands and unachievable deadlines. Perfectionists are often obsessive and this is not healthy. Being insecure and lacking self-confidence can also lead you to be unreasonable in your demands on yourself and on others. So question your underlying motivation for making unnecessary demands. Getting rid of perfectionism does not mean paying less attention to your work or doing a poor job, but rather it means paying attention to your feelings, settling for your best effort and being content with your achievements. Learn to manage your time well and to enjoy the task and you will learn to produce good results without ending up distressed.

Author's Bio: 

Margo Bastos is passionate about holistic healing and natural stress-free living. Her abiding interest, continuing personal research and every-day philosophy is in alternative mind, body and spiritual modalities.
She has a real estate business in South Africa and her formal qualifications include a MA in Jewish Studies from the University of Cape Town.
Together with Alan Mounter, a practising holistic therapist, she has a website dealing with natural remedies for managing the negative effects of stress. Visit at