How to Manage Stress at Work

Research has indicated that the percentage of Americans who are stressed at work is high—and it’s only getting higher. According to Pew Research Center, a little more than half of adults find that their job is stressful some of the time. However, 29% say that their job is stressful most of the time, with 19% suggest that this stress is overwhelming.

Work stress has significant health consequences that range from relatively benign (like getting more colds and flus) to potentially serious (such as heart disease and metabolic syndrome).

While stress at work is common, finding a low-stress job is hard (if not impossible). A more realistic approach is to adopt effective coping strategies to reduce stress at your current job.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the steps to manage work stress, like sticking to a positive morning routine, getting clear on requirements at work, and adopting smarter time management techniques.

On May 19, 2022, Verywell Mind hosted a virtual Mental Health in the Workplace webinar, hosted by Amy Morin, LCSW. If you missed it, check out this recap to learn ways to foster supportive work environments and helpful strategies to improve your well-being on the job.

Verywell / JR Bee

Create a Pre-Work Ritual

After scrambling to get the kids fed and off to school, dodging traffic and combating road rage, and gulping down coffee in lieu of a healthy breakfast, many people arrive to work already stressed. This makes them more reactive to stress in the workplace.

Evidence suggests that having some type of routine can be a great way combat the negative effects of stress. Plus, consistency helps you feel more in control and able to know what to expect.

You might be surprised by how affected by workplace stress you are when you have a stressful morning. When you start off the day with planning, good nutrition, and a positive attitude, you might find that the stress of your job rolls off your back more easily.

Make sure that you’re managing your stress before you even start your workday. If you are getting to work already frazzled, exhausted, and at your wit’s end, it’s going to much more challenging to handle other stresses that work might throw your way.

Get Clear on Your Expectations for the Day

A factor known to contribute to job burnout is unclear requirements for employees. If you don’t know exactly what is expected of you, or if the requirements for your role keep changing with little notice, you might become extremely stressed.

Not understanding your role in the workplace can be a source of stress. Trying to figure out and meet expectations can be exhausting. Plus, it’s tough to feel good about your work when you’re not sure whether you are meeting or exceeding expectations.

If you find yourself never knowing if what you are doing is enough, it may help to have a talk with your supervisor. You can take the time to go over expectations and discuss strategies for meeting them. This can relieve stress for both of you!

Avoid or Reduce Conflict With Colleagues

Interpersonal conflict takes a toll on your physical and emotional health. Conflict among co-workers can be difficult to escape, so it’s a good idea to avoid conflict at work as much as you can.

Don’t gossip, don’t share too many of your personal opinions about religion and politics, and steer clear of “colorful” office humor.

When possible, try to avoid people who don’t work well with others. If conflict finds you anyway, make sure you know how to handle it appropriately. Developing some effective conflict resolution skills can help you prevent minor disputes from becoming major headaches.

Plan Ahead to Stay Organized

Even if you’re naturally disorganized, planning ahead to stay organized can greatly decrease your stress at work. Being organized with your time means less rushing in the morning to avoid being late and less hustling to get out at the end of the day.

Keeping yourself organized can also mean avoiding the negative effects of clutter, and being more efficient with your work.

Create a Comfortable Work Environment

Another surprising stressor at work is physical discomfort, often related to where you perform most of your daily tasks (such as your desk).

You might not notice you’re stressed if you’re sitting in an uncomfortable chair for just a few minutes, but if you practically live in that chair when you’re at work, you might have a sore back and be more reactive to stress because of it.

Even small things like office noise can be distracting and cause feelings of low-grade frustration. Do what you can to create a quiet, comfortable, and soothing workspace.

Choose Chunking Over Multitasking

Multitasking was once heralded as a fantastic way to maximize one’s time and get more done in a day. However, people eventually began to realize that if they had a phone to their ear and were making calculations at the same time, their speed and accuracy (not to mention sanity) often suffered.

There is a certain “frazzled” feeling that comes from splitting your focus and it doesn’t work well for most people. Instead of multitasking to stay on top of your tasks, try another cognitive strategy like chunking.

Walk at Lunch

Many people feel the ill effects of leading a sedentary lifestyle. You can combat the physical and mental effects of work stress by getting some exercise on your lunch break.

If your schedule allows for it, you might try taking short exercise breaks throughout the day. This can help you blow off steam, lift your mood, and get into better shape.

Do Your Best and Reward Yourself

Being a high achiever might make you feel good about yourself and help you excel at work, but being a perfectionist can create problems for you (and those around you).

You might not be able to do everything perfectly every time, especially in a busy, fast-paced job. A good strategy to avoid the perfectionism trap is always striving to do your best and making time to congratulate yourself on your efforts. You may find that your results are better, and you’ll be much less stressed at work.

Listen to Music on the Drive Home

Music has many psychological benefits, including helping to relieve feelings of stress. Research has found that listening to music can help lessen the stress response. High-frequency music, in particular, has been shown to increase oxytocin and lower cortisol.

Listening to music offers many benefits and can effectively relieve stress before, during, and after work. Playing an uplifting song while you make breakfast can help you start the day off feeling better prepared to interact with the people in your life. Likewise, combating the stress of a long day with your favorite music on the drive home can help you wind down and feel less stressed when you get there.

Press Play for Advice on Coping With Stress

Hosted by therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares how you can change your mindset to cope with stress in a healthy way.

Follow Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts


Workplace stress can seriously affect your happiness and well-being. Since work takes up so much of our day, it’s important to find ways to manage this stress effectively to avoid burnout and other serious health consequences.

In addition to maintaining a healthy work-life balance, taking steps to minimize stress before work can be helpful. Managing conflicts, staying organized, and having a comfortable workspace can also be very helpful. Finally, be sure to create routines that work for you. With the right strategies, you can keep workplace stress to a manageable level.

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Pew Research Center. How Americans view their jobs.

  2. Li J, Loerbroks A, Bosma H, Angerer P. Work stress and cardiovascular disease: a life course perspective. J Occup Health. 2016;58(2):216–219. doi:10.1539/joh.15-0326-OP

  3. Hou WK, Lai FT, Ben-Ezra M, Goodwin R. Regularizing daily routines for mental health during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. J Glob Health. 2020;10(2):020315. doi:10.7189/jogh.10.020315

  4. Lu X, Wang Y, Chen X, Lu Q. From stress to screen: Understanding cyberloafing through cognitive and affective Ppathways. Behav Sci (Basel). 2024;14(3):249. doi:10.3390/bs14030249

  5. Lata F, Kourtesis I. Listening to music as a stress management tool. Eur Psychiatry. 2021;64(Suppl 1):S609. doi:10.1192/j.eurpsy.2021.1621

By Elizabeth Scott, PhD

Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *