Work your stress away...

Work stresses are present and can lead to burnout if they are not properly managed. Stress management strategies are available for a healthier you – physically, psychologically and emotionally.


‘Work stress’ is something that we experience commonly in the work place. With the constant threat of a possible economic crisis looming before us, there is always the pressure for us to improve our work performance and increase our productivity.

Work stress often occurs when our capabilities or needs do not meet the requirements of our jobs. This could arise from a number of sources such as work overload, time pressure to meet datelines, not liking the job and having to deal with difficult people at work.

While some stress may be good in motivating us to perform better at our jobs and to increase our productivity, prolonged or excessive exposure to stress can lead to burnout. Burnout is the state of physical, psychological and emotional exhaustion which leaves you feeling overwhelmed or hopeless. When this happens, your productivity is reduced.

Effective management of personal and work stress can allow you to exert a positive influence over those around you and also prevent you from being affected by the negativity from others.

Here are some tips to help you reduce work stress: 

Tip 1: Recognise the different manifestations of wo rk stress and how it impact on us physically, psychologically as well as emotionally.

  • Physical impact: 
    • Breathlessness
    • Fatigue
    • Headaches / Migraines
    • Insomnia
    • Loss of appetite
    • Numbness
    • Problems in digestion
    • Reduced immunity
    • Tensed muscles
  • Emotional impact: 
    • Anxiety
    • Apathy
    • Depression
    • Frustration / Irritability
    • Restlessness
  • Psychological impact: 
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Diminished interest at work
    • Loss of confidence
    • Negativity
    • Poor judgment
    • Worrying
    • Increase drinking or smoking to cope at work
    • Social withdrawal

Effective management of personal and work stress can allow you to exert a positive influence over those around you... 

Tip 2: Identify yo ur sources of wo rk stress.

Work stress can come from one source or many sources. In order to deal with our stressors, we need to first know what is stressing us. Below are some examples of sources of work stress:

  • Work conflicts
  • Work overload
  • Information gaps
  • Blocked career
  • Meaningless job

Tip 3: Manage your stressors.

  • Resolve your conflicts at work.

    If you feel that you have been unfairly treated at work, consider expressing your grievances in an assertive, nonaggressive manner instead of suffering in silence.

    When you are faced with problems dealing with a difficult superior or co-worker, do bear in mind that we can only be in control of our own feelings and reactions, and not the behaviours of others.
  • Manage your time effectively.

    In order to achieve work–life balance, you require good time management skills.

    First, make a plan. Create a list where you identify important tasks that you need complete within the day, including leisure activity.

    Next, work out your priorities by determining what is most urgent or most important to you. Always target the difficult tasks at a time when you feel most energetic (such as in the morning) and leave the simpler tasks for later.

    Procrastination is often the main cause for our lack of time. Hence, self-discipline is very important.
  • Positively reframe your negative thoughts.

    Many of us experience recurring self-defeating thoughts when we feel stressed. These thoughts often tell us that we are ‘stupid’, ‘incompetent’ or ‘unable to cope’. Dwelling in these negative thoughts can deflate our morale and we become less motivated in our jobs. Therefore, it is important for us to reframe these thoughts in a more positive light.

    Consider what you would say to a friend who is having these thoughts. You will probably say something encouraging such as ‘Making one mistake does not mean that you are a failure.’ In the same way, we need to encourage ourselves and not beat ourselves up when we feel defeated.

    Dr Jaswyn Chin

    Dr Jaswyn Chin is a Clinical Psychologist from the Psychological Services Department in Tan Tock Seng Hospital. She is a registered Psychologist with the Singapore Psychological Society and conducts stress management talks for organisations on a regular basis.

  • Consider enhancing your skills and knowledge.

    The work environment is constantly changing rapidly due to advancing technology. Therefore, it is important that we upgrade our skills and fill up any knowledge gap in order to maintain our competitiveness. We are happy workers when we feel competent in our work.
  • Inject new meaning into your job.

    Do you find your job meaningful? If no, perhaps it is now time for you to consider other job options. Ask yourself what is meaningful to you. Being able to help the less fortunate? Working with the elderly, maybe? Or, you may even consider expanding your current portfolio or develop your skills in another area.
  • Seek professional help.

    Many a times, we keep things to ourselves to avoid burdening our loved ones with our problems. Therefore, it is sometimes advisable to seek professional help by consulting with a psychologist to help you manage your stressors.

Tip 4: Learn to relax.

Remember the saying, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’? It is important for us to engage in pleasurable activities in order to relax.

  • Have enough sleep
  • Eat healthily
  • Exercise
  • Confide in your spouse, a family member or close friend. Do not bottle up your feelings
  • Schedule ‘me’ time. Set aside time to engage in your hobby or favourite activities such as playing music, watching a movie or going for massages
  • Go for a vacation

Remember, work stress can lead to adverse impact on our physical, psychological and emotional health if it is not managed properly. So work, work, work those stresses away!