How to Beat Job Stress Before It Beats You

While everyone has heard reports on rising levels of job stress, and most everyone would agree that their own job is stressful from time to time, not everyone has a proper realization of how much job stress can impact their life. Hopefully, the tips given in this article will help you to diffuse the stress that might seem overwhelming in the short term.

Don't Let Conflicts at Work Escalate

Communicate with coworkers -
Keep the lines of communication open. When a problem arises, talk through it as soon as possible.
Accept Responsibility -
If you were wrong, accept responsibility, apologize and look for ways to make it right. Even if the fault wasn't completely yours, look for what might have been your part in the disagreement and acknowledge it.
Recognize and accept differences -
We don't all see things the same and that's o.k. Sometimes we have to agree to disagree.
Focus on the problem, not the person -
Don't allow disagreements to become personal attacks. Resolve the conflict and move on.
Validate other people's feelings and acknowledge your own -
Use language like "I can see that you are upset" or "When you said "X" it made me feel annoyed."
Brainstorm for solutions -
Ask the other person what you can do to work through the problem.

Be Smart in Your Interactions with Difficult People

  • Listen to your heart - If it's racing, stop and breathe!
  • Hold your immediate response - Sometimes your first thoughts aren't the best to say. Take a deep breath and think.
  • Ask yourself, "What do I want to happen?"
  • State clearly what you want - Be specific.
  • If the other person is yelling, do nothing until (s)he stops yelling - talk softly to help them calm down.
  • Ask "What would you like me to do?" And mean it.
  • Depersonalize the interaction.
  • Let the other person have the last word

Take Care of Yourself

  • Get enough sleep (7-9 hours/night)
  • Eat small meals or snacks throughout the day
  • Plan at least one self-care technique per day (deep breathing, exercising at your desk or station, progressive muscle relaxation, telling or reading a joke)
  • Exercise for 30 minutes at least 3 times/week
  • Learn to relax and then take time to do it!
  • Reframe negative events into positive ones
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs
  • Keep a stress diary to see what events trigger your stress throughout the day

Manage Your Time Effectively

  • Prioritize
  • Keep a calendar
  • Make a daily reminder list
  • Establish long and short-term goals
  • Learn to say "No"
  • Be flexible
  • Use your energy wisely
  • Plan ahead

Keep the Professional and Personal in Balance

  • Remember you are only one person!
  • Remember time limits (24 hrs/day)
  • Set and maintain boundaries with others
  • Use the Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
  • Use support from friends and family
  • Listen to your body
  • Use transition time between work and home to relax (listen to a book on tape, catch up with your friend on the cell phone - using your headset of course!)
  • Eat lunch away from the office or away from your work area, if possible
  • Leave stress at the door (if you change the way you think you can help change the way you feel!)

Dealing with stress is an ongoing process - you will have good days and bad days. The more you commit yourself to the strategies in this article, the less likely job stress will rule your life.

Additional Resources*


60 Ways to Relieve Stress in 60 Seconds, Rubin (1993)

Instant Calm: Over 100 Easy-to-Use Techniques for Relaxing Mind and Body, Wilson, (1999)

The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workshop, Davis, McKay, and Eschelman (2000)

Stress Management: a Comprehensive Guide to Wellness, Charlesworth (1985)

The Stress Management Handbook, Leyden-Rubenstein (1999)


“Dealing with Angry Customers”

“Action Ideas To Deal With Difficult Customers”
Fairweather, Alan

“Top 7 Ways to Handle Difficult Customers – Verbal Aikido”
Golden, Myra

“Dealing with Difficult Customers”
Kahle, Dave

My Daily Yoga: at-your-desk exercises to reduce job stress

Work Health

* Inclusion of a resource (book, website, etc.) does not imply an endorsement nor are claims made about the quality or accuracy of the information.