This might sound surprising, but a certain amount of pressure at work can be a good thing.  It can improve performance and mentally prepare you for challenges. It’s a balancing act though. If pressure builds up it can lead to stress, which in the workplace results in over 10.4 million working days lost each year.

Work-related stress can be caused by a multitude of factors. Poor working environments are regularly cited as factors, as are difficult relationships between co-workers or managers. As a result, psychological, emotional, physical and behavioural problems can occur and with lasting effects.

Being aware of stress levels and what triggers them is the best first step in taking control. Identifying regular factors and finding ways to best manage your responses to them won’t just make you happier, but has the potential to make you healthier and more productive. Here are some top tips on how to cope with stress and what you can do to keep on top of things:

  • Know your limits – don’t take on too much work or something that is beyond your ability.  This is easier said than done, but it’s the starting point to managing stress levels.
  • Accept the things you can’t change and start concentrating on the things you have control over – it might be that the work canteen is unhealthy and expensive, which is unlikely to change but you can plan ahead and bring a packed lunch.
  • Exercise can be helpful as it reduces stress hormones and stimulates the release of endorphins – hormones that make you feel good.  It doesn’t matter what type of exercise you do, as long as you enjoy it and can do it on a regular basis.  If you feel like you don’t have time to exercise try to incorporate it to your everyday life, such as walking or cycling to work, or going for a brisk walk during lunch.
  • Make time for the activities you enjoy and for the things that make you feel relaxed – you’re more likely to neglect this if you’re stressed.
  • Don’t drink too much alcohol, or caffeine, or use tobacco or illegal drugs as a way to cope. In the long term, these things will only make you feel worse.

Feeling stressed at work can start to feel like part of normal life, so half the battle of coping with stress is identifying that you’re suffering from in the first place.  It’s important that you’re happy with what you can cope with and ask for help when for the things you find difficult.

Dr Lizzie Tuckey is a Medical Director at Bupa UK