Kelvin Brown, MD, MPH

Surgeon, Bariatric Specialist, and Public Health Expert

Dealing with Job Stress

Job stress getting you down? Try the following suggestions to unwind, de-stress, and get back in control of your emotional state.


1.     Identify and eliminate your stressors.


While identifying work stress may be easy, eliminating problems is a challenge. Stepping back from time to time and removing yourself from stressful situations at work such as tight deadlines, ringing phones, or even irritating coworkers is often the best way to handle stress overload—before it makes you ill.


2.     Talk it out.


Talk to a friend, family member, or mental health counselor if your work stress level is too high.  Getting your feelings out without being judged is crucial to good mental health. 


As a rule of thumb, psychological counseling can help you to develop coping skills so job stress does not overwhelm you. Some effective options include:

·       Individual counseling--a one-on-one session with a therapist in which individual problem areas are addressed.  These sessions may include specific help with alleviating depression, anxiety, or stress, along with other personal problem areas.

·       Family counseling--family members can gather to understand and accept your problems and the possible impact these may have on your family's lifestyle.

·       Group counseling--sessions led by trained therapists that allow for the sharing of feelings, as well as the development of effective coping strategies. The exchange of ideas at group sessions is often the most productive way to revamp your thought processes.


If you are feeling angry, frightened or depressed, talk to your doctor and see if medication or behavioral counseling might be helpful.


3.     Take time out.


Before you reach your breaking point from unending work stress, take a time-out for solitude. Take time to nurture yourself away from the cares and responsibilities of the world and find time for inner strength and healing.


By taking time out daily to focus on relaxation techniques such as music, prayer, or meditation, you can help to relieve ongoing worry and stress.

Volunteering to help others is yet another way to feel more connected as you stop dwelling on work stress and focus on giving to others.


4.     Set limits.


Never hesitate to say “no” before you are overextended with too many commitments. Especially if you are balancing career with children and other commitments, you should not feel guilty about prioritizing what is humanly possible.

Take time weekly to evaluate your commitments and only do those that are most important, saying “no” to the remaining tasks. Saying no, when appropriate, can bring your work stress to a manageable level and give you some control over your life.


When you are able to follow through with your commitments, you can live your life without undue pressure and stress.   


5.     Strengthen your social support.  


Connections to a partner, family and friends, or a support group have been shown to improve mood and ability to cope and can even strengthen our immune system.  Most people who are able to cope with job stress have strong social support networks with family, friends, and even pets. Some important types of support include:


·       Emotional support. This is someone you trust with your most intimate thoughts, anxieties, and fears, and who trusts you.

·       Social support.  This is someone you enjoy being with, who helps you cope with disappointments, and who celebrates your joys.

·       Informational support. This is someone you can ask for advice on major decisions.

·       Practical support. This is someone who will help you out in a pinch (neighbors, a relative, or co‑workers).


Who can you turn to for emotional, social, informational, and practical support? Try to identify these key people in your life and work to nurture these much-needed relationships.


6.      Consider joining a support group.


This form of mind/body therapy is geared toward the unique needs of its members, providing both emotional support and education in dealing with illness or life's stressors. While support groups are not psychotherapy groups, they can give you a safe and accepting place to vent frustrations, share personal problems, and receive encouragement from others. The assurance is given that "someone else knows what I am going through," as people share their personal struggles.


7.     Laugh! 


No matter how bleak situations look, life goes on. Learn to laugh more and worry less. During stressful times at work, rent some funny videos and watch these instead of the nightly news. You’ll sleep better after a good laugh, and your job stress may not consume your thoughts.