Workplace Stress

Updated: July 23, 2022

At some point it’s normal to experience stress at work.  Stress happens when we feel stretched beyond our capacities, and today this is increasingly common due to compromised work-life balance.  In today’s fast-paced lives, we exert pressures that can even be self-imposed, leading to burnout.  There are also other reasons for workplace stress.  Read on to learn more…

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What Is Workplace Stress?

There are several reasons that might lead to workplace problems and stress.  For example, you might be working long hours but still fall behind deadlines and feel unable to deliver on your work commitments.  There may be issues with colleagues which leave you feeling misjudged, discriminated against, or bullied.  Some people may feel dissatisfied with what they do for work, and this can bleed into their general experience of life.  These issues can lead to arguing with loved ones due to irritability and the pressures felt, causing problems with relationships.  Any of these issues can impact mental health, but stress is a very particular experience.  Feeling stressed can be experienced as pressure and a lack of control, such that people feel stretched beyond their limits.  If this pressure remains unaddressed, the effects of stress can impact physical and mental health, and your personal life too.

What Are The Symptoms?

Appetite Changes

Some people can come home stressed from work and snack more, or binge on food for comfort.  Others may experience a dip in hunger, and therefore not eat, or forget to eat if they are overly preoccupied with work tasks or the stress itself.  Some people experience both at different times.

Avoidance & Withdrawal

When people are feeling stressed, and especially if they experience low mood alongside it, they are likely to withdraw.  This means they may avoid work (workplace stress is one of the major reasons cited for absence).  Or if at work, some people avoid colleagues, and socialising as normal, where possible.


Occupational burnout was recognised in the 70s and is thought to result when stress is not effectively managed so worsens and becomes chronic.  Burnout is a combination of psychological and physical symptoms that lead to increased dissatisfaction and demotivation.  People become disinterested, negative, cynical, and feel exhausted, leading to compromised productivity.

Disturbed Sleep

When someone is feeling preoccupied with work stress, they are often unable to experience normal sleep.  They may find it difficult to switch off at night, wake at various times throughout the night, or wake very early and find it hard to sleep.  Some people even dream about work, and this can make them feel unrested too.

Feeling Out Of Control

When we feel overly burdened and stretched, we can start to feel as if we have less control of our lives.  This can stretch beyond work, for example you might start to exhibit some of the other symptoms listed, which can make you feel even less in control.

Feeling Pressure

The word ‘stress’ relates to tension and pressure.  When we experience adverse situations, over extended periods, tension builds and the building of this creates pressure.  Pressure needs release for relief.  Until that happens, we experience stress and other problematic symptoms.

Irritability & Lashing Out

When we experience the pressure that stress brings, we have less resilience and a very limited threshold.  This results in the inability to regulate our emotional state as we normally would.  This can mean we snap at others or lash out in ways.

Mental, Emotional & Psychological Strain

Stress at work can make us feel strained mentally, emotionally, and psychologically.  The mental strain and fatigue affect concentration, or memory, causing even more stress and pressure at work.  The emotional and psychological burden impacts in various ways.  We may feel low, anxious, panicked, or depressed, in addition to the stress.  This can lead to feeling overwhelmed and the inability to regulate emotions, sometimes resulting in anger or tearfulness.

Physical Health Problems & Injury

A demanding job and work environment can cause physical problems.  Some people experience shortness of breath, headaches, migraines, stomach problems, sleep disturbances, inability to concentrate, a short temper, and exhaustion.  Stress is also known as the ‘silent killer’, impacting cardiovascular disease, and cancers.  It is also linked to the fourth leading cause of death, physical injury.

Relationship Strain

Due to all the possible impacts that workplace stress has, relationships can suffer.  For example, when someone is overworking, they can’t give time to loved ones.  Even when they are free, they can be irritable, fatigued, and stressed – not a great combination for relationships.

Substance Misuse

A significant cause of substance misuse is stress.  Many people will use substances as a way of coping with stress and the feelings that accompany it.  This means people increase their use of substances like caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, or prescription and illicit drugs, and can form a dependence on them.  This however is a form of avoidance and exacerbates other symptoms.

What Causes Workplace Stress?

There are many factors that can impact workplace stress according to the American Psychological Society, and often there is more than one stressor at work.  These can relate to factors specific to individuals or the organisation they work for.  Some reasons for work related stress include:


  • Some people may find working from home to be quite isolating, whereas others experience long and tiring commutes, leading to exhaustion and stress over time.
  • As societies have advanced, productivity has been a keen focus for employers.  In the current climate this means people work long hours and this impacts the ability to balance work and life.
  • Some people may be worried about job security, or find it difficult to budget due to a low salary, with little opportunity to grow and advance at work.  They may also experience an unsatisfactory level of control in relation to decision making around their job
  • Too many meetings, feeling overloaded by emails and colleagues’ demands, and feeling the pressure of too many (sometimes meaningless) targets, as well as unrealistic deadlines, all result in an impersonal environment.
  • Practical issues like constant changes at work, with processes, or technology, or inconsistent job demands, as well as confusing performance expectations can make people feel as if they are being setup to fail.
  • We can’t choose who we work with, and sometimes this means we may find colleagues challenging or difficult.  Some may feel as if they are being micromanaged by incompetent or unfeeling managers.  This lack of social support can cause and exacerbate stress at work and lead to feelings of devaluation.
  • Unfair treatment, bullying, and discrimination are often cited as sources of stress and absenteeism. This can impact employees’ abilities to do their job, leading to mental health problems.

How Phinity Therapy Can Help

At Phinity we offer customised mental health care.  We are aware of the issues that impact workplace stress and provide services that are tailored to individual needs.  We will begin with a thorough psychological Initial Assessment, and together identify the issues that are relevant for you.  Depending on the outcome of our assessment we can agree a useful course of treatment.


For example, we may recommend a practical approach like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help you build resilience and build the capacity to manage stress efficiently.  This entails understanding what factors are within your control and which are not.  If there are factors that can be changed, we will help you to do this in a manageable way.  If there is no possibility to affect change in a situation, you can learn how to respond emotionally in a way that helps you to feel more in control of the situation.  This CBT approach has shown success in reducing stress by helping individuals better manage situations.


There are also other ways we manage workplace stress, and these will be discussed with you, depending on your specific needs.  For example, sometimes workplace stress might occur due to a pre-existing source of stress, or mental health problem.  If so, we would wish to discuss the best way to help work with the core issue(s), and in turn, reduce overall emotional distress.


Ultimately, we will work with you to help you develop more helpful ways to manage work and life, this may relate to coping strategies, creating boundaries, establishing self-care, relaxation techniques, breath-work, mindfulness, or practical strategies that help you to manage at work.  Essentially, you will build resilience and learn how to manage, rather than suppress your emotions.

What Causes Workplace Stress?How Phinity Therapy Can Help


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