Managing Work-Related Stress — Finding Your Balance

Managing Work-Related Stress — Finding Your Balance

By Alexa Fry

We do our best to balance life’s priorities — work, family, and self. But there comes a time when something must be put on the back burner because we start to feel overwhelmed or stressed. This feeling is very familiar to us all.

In this blog, you will learn to identify stressors in your workplace and become more resilient when faced with occasional stress. We cover 5 strategies to help you manage your work-related stress, empowering you to find your balance and to create long-term health habits to support your quality of life.

What Is Stress?

The term stress was first defined by scientist Hans Selye in 1936. He defined stress as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change.”1,2

Another definition of stress is when something happens that we think could harm us, and we have to use mental, physical, or behavioral efforts to manage the event and its outcomes. While the definitions of stress vary, the medical community widely acknowledges that there is a strong relationship between stress and a person’s overall health and well-being.2

According to data from a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, there has been an increase in the percentage of Americans who report experiencing at least one physical or emotional symptom of stress. Symptoms include headache, feeling nervous or anxious, feeling overwhelmed, or feeling depressed or sad.3

We are all looking for that ideal work-life balance but often feel like we are supersaturated with deadlines and deliverables. The projects on our to-do lists frequently outweigh the hours in our day, and the immediacy of getting them done only adds to the stress of managing a full workload.

Are you aware of how you respond to situations like these?  If you are unsure, the next section will help you self-reflect and identify some common stressors so that you can find ways to manage your work-related stress. 

Assess the Source of Your Stress

If you perceive or feel that your work environment is contributing to your overall stress, then you may be experiencing job stress. Here are some job-related stressors outlined by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH):4

  • Assessing the task at hand. You may feel overwhelmed by a daunting workload without a chance to take a break. You are hyperextending your day, working long hours, and there is an urgency to get things done. You are tasked to do things that don’t utilize your skills and feel these ‘asks’ are growing beyond your control.
  • Management style. You don’t have a role in decision-making regarding your job. There is a lack of communication in the organization and no company policies that acknowledge work-family balance. 
  • Interpersonal relationships. You may feel like everyone is working in a silo. There doesn’t seem to be a collaborative work environment, and everyone has their own agenda with a lack of support or help from coworkers or your supervisor or manager.
  • Work roles. You know what your job description entails. However, you start to note conflict or uncertainty regarding job expectations. You feel as if there is too much responsibility and too many “hats” you must “wear.”
  • Career concerns. You wonder if your job is secure and if there is any opportunity for growth, advancement, or promotion. Things are changing fast, and you and your coworkers may not be proactively informed or prepared.
  • Environmental conditions. You may be working in unpleasant or dangerous physical conditions.

Now that we have discussed some ways for you to assess your stress triggers, we’ll explore ways to improve your overall ability to handle stress and better manage your work-related stress.  

Managing Work-Related Stress—Finding Your Balance

Stress management interventions can be a positive way to improve yourself and help you reach your change goals. Here are 5 strategies to help you find your strength and motivate change.

1. Prioritize Your Day

Multitasking can be difficult when you have a lot going on, but it can improve your productivity. Try the following prioritization tips:

  • Block off time. This will help you prepare for your day and minimize distractions. You can use this time to read your emails and catch up on anything that may have transpired overnight, polish up that presentation, or run those reports you wanted to get to.  
  • Keep a to-do list. Assessing your tasks and drafting a to-do list at the start of each day can help you work with greater intention. It allows you to revisit what needs to be prioritized and what can wait.   
  • Set time for breaks. Set a time on your calendar to take a walk or connect with a coworker, grab a healthy snack, or make an appointment. Even when you’re feeling overwhelmed, taking breaks can help increase your productivity. 

2. Practice Mindful Moments

If you tend to focus on making time for meeting with others, make sure you’re also scheduling time for yourself. Self-care time allows you to center yourself and relax. Here are some ways to incorporate some relaxation methods during the day.5

  • Embrace stress management techniques. Practices such as tai chi, yoga, and other physical activities, are widely regarded as helping combat stress. 
  • Practice deep breathing. There are a variety of deep breathing exercises that you can experiment with. Research shows that deep breathing exercises can help to promote health by reducing blood pressure and psychological stress.6
  • Be mindful of your stress response. Being mindful means being in the moment. Focusing on the situation at hand lets you remain in control of how you respond. For example, stress can lead to mindless eating, while building awareness of your physical reactions can help you enjoy food mindfully

3. Evaluate Your Sleep Hygiene

Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is a critical factor that may help you deal more effectively with a stressful day at work. People who get adequate quality sleep are more likely to successfully respond to stressors throughout their day without losing patience. 

When there is a disruption in your natural sleep cycle or circadian rhythm, you may experience an impairment in your cognition, causing irritability and underperformance in the workplace.7 Proper sleep hygiene is necessary for good quality sleep and is something you should talk to your healthcare practitioner about if you believe you have sleep disturbance.


4. Stay Active 


The benefits of being more active have been outlined in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. Research has shown that physical activity improves sleep quality, cognition, symptoms of anxiety, and fatigue and also reduces the risk for chronic conditions.8


5. Use Work Wellness Benefits 


Take advantage of wellness benefits offered by your employer, like health coaching, gym or yoga classes, nutrition counseling, or resources for managing stress by a trained professional. Some employers or health insurance plans offer discounts for gyms, nutritional support, and other health resources. 
We hope that you feel empowered to practice mindfulness and embrace stress-reducing behaviors. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but these tools can help you manage your work-related stress and create long-term health habits that support your quality of life.

‡ The products and claims made about specific products on or through this Site have not been evaluated by the United States Food and Drug Administration and are not approved to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.

‡ This Site is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice. Products, services, information and other content provided on this Site, including information that may be provided on this Site directly or by linking to third-party websites are provided for informational purposes only. Please consult accredited healthcare professional organizations, evidence-based herbal monographs, and published clinical research regarding any medical or health related diagnosis or treatment options.



  1. Jackson, Mark. “Evaluating the role of Hans Selye in the modern history of stress.”, University of Rochester Press, 2014, Accessed 19 March 2024.
  2. Fink, G. “Stress: Definition and history.” ScienceDirect, edited by Larry R. Squire, Academic Press, 1 Jan. 2009, pp. 549–55, Accessed 19 March 2024.
  3. American Psychological Association. “Stress in America: Coping with change, part 1.” Washington, DC: American Psychological Association; 2017. Accessed 22 March 2024.
  4. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. “Stress at work.” 2014, Accessed 1 April 2024.
  5. Can, Y.S.; et al. “How to relax in stressful situations: A smart stress reduction system.” Healthcare 2020, Accessed 22 March 2024. 
  6. Tavoian, Dallin, and Daniel H Craighead. “Deep breathing exercise at work: Potential applications and impact.” Frontiers in Physiology, 2023, Accessed 22 March 2024.
  7. Jehan, Shazia et al. “Shift work and sleep: Medical implications and management.” Sleep Medicine and Disorders: International Journal, 2017 Accessed 17 March 2024.
  8. Department of Health and Human Services. “Executive summary: Physical activity guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition,” 2019, Accessed 16 March 2024.

Alexa Fry is a health educator with a certificate in technical writing and 10 years of experience in the medical field. She has held roles as a science writer and clinical trial specialist at the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service. She also wrote, edited, and coordinated content for,, and Alexa is passionate about making meaningful, actionable medical information available to everyone.