Stress At Work

What is stress?

What is stress? What causes stress? Perhaps many of us do not realize we’re under stress.

Stress occurs when demand exceeds the ability to cope. It can cause emotional disturbance which interferes with the process of thinking. There are many factors that can be a source of stress and one of which is employment.

Causes of stress

Why people stress at work and what are the common causes of stress? There are many reasons that can cause stress in the workplace. Among them are:

  1. Lack of staff and job overload.
  2. High job demand.
  3. The competition between colleagues.
  4. Employers who do not take into account the welfare of workers.
  5. Salaries or allowances unsatisfactory.
  6. Fails to reach the expected standard or quality.
  7. Work is not appreciated.
  8. Continuous working pressure.
  9. Miscommunication among colleagues and employers.
  10. Unfavourable working environment.

Signs and symptoms of stress

Signs and symptoms of excessive job and workplace stress can be divided into 5 main groups:

  1. Physiological symptoms
  2. Behavioural symptoms
  3. Mental symptoms
  4. Emotional symptoms
  5. Social symptoms
  1. Physiological symptoms
    • High Blood pressure and pulse rate.
    • Muscle tension (back, shoulder, neck).
    • Chest pain.
    • Frequent headaches / migraines.
    • Fainting.
    • Difficulty swallowing.
    • Frequent urination.
    • Itching of the skin (allergy).
    • Sleep disturbances / nightmares.
    • Excessive sweating.
    • Easily tired.
    • Diarrhoea or constipation.
    • Susceptible to colds, asthma.
  2. Behavioural symptoms
    • Irritability.
    • Overeating / loss of appetite.
    • Smoking / drinking excessively.
    • Shivering (prone to accidents).
    • Abuse of sleeping pills / tablets tranquilizer.
    • Fatigue.
    • Restless.
    • Loss of sex drive/ interest.
  3. Mental symptoms
    • Difficulty concentrating.
    • Easily forgetful.
    • Easily offended when criticized.
    • Negative thoughts / self-criticism increases.
    • Rigid attitude worsen.
    • Easily confused.
    • Not being able to keep track of time.
    • Loss of interest in work.
  4. Emotional symptoms
    • “Moody”.
    • Silence / quiet.
    • Anxiety, fear, panic.
    • Sad, depressed, feel like nobody cares.
    • Humility / shame.
    • Feeling guilty.
    • Feel disappointed.
    • Easily irritable / angry.
  5. Social symptoms
    • Social withdrawal / Prefer to be alone.
    • Hold a grudge.
    • Criticizing others.
    • Always suspicious of others.
    • Often nagging inappropriately.
    • Lack of an intimate relationship.
    • Relationship with family is not good.
    • Relationship not very good with colleagues or employers.
    • Feeling uncomfortable interacting with others.
    • Mute (silence) in group discussions.

How to handle stress?

What should you do when you find yourself experiencing stress at work?

When you experience stress, you should try to remain calm. This is because, when you are calm you will able to find the cause of the problem and also to find alternative solutions. In some cases, talk to someoneto express the feeling can help to alleviate stress incurred.

Stress should be treated properly as persistent stress and not controlled will lead to a detrimental effect in terms of health and work performance.

We should learn to control stress caused by work. There are a variety of ways or tips that can be practiced to help reduce stress in the workplace. There are some tips that can be practiced to minimize stress inthe workplace:

Tip1: Identify signs and symptoms of stress in the workplace.

This is the most important and many of us have overlooked about it.

Realize when you’re stressed, recognize your particular stress response, and become familiar with sensual cues that can rapidly calm and energize you. If signs of stress are ignored, it will result the worse effects on physical health, emotional and so interfere with job performance and outcome.

When we think too much about work, it can cause us to become irritable and avoiding people and cause us to be less confident in the ability of self. This will eventually lead us to less productivity in work and makes us feel less satisfied with the work.

Tip 2: Reduce stress in a healthy way 

  1. Exercise

    Do exercise at least 30 minutes a day to get the maximum effect for relieving stress. Exercise is an effective way to restore mood, increase energy and relax the body and mind.

  2. Choosing to eat right

    Low blood sugar can cause an individual to become anxious and irritable. However, overeating is also not good because it can cause people to feel tired. Eat the right amount in moderation will help maintain the level of sugar in the blood and can avoid these swings in mood.

  3. Avoid alcohol or nicotine as a method to relief stress

    Drinking to relieve job stress may also eventually lead to alcohol abuse and dependence. Smoking when you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed also does not help because nicotine is a powerful stimulant that causes anxiety worse.

  4. Get enough sleep

    Not only stress and worry can cause insomnia, but a lack of sleep can leave you vulnerable to even more stress. When we are adequately rested, it’s much easier to keep your emotional balance, a key factor in coping with job and workplace stress.

Tip 3: Reduce job stress by prioritizing and organizing

We should learn to choose priorities in the work to avoid the stress that we feel be due to too much work.

There are some suggestions for reducing job stress by prioritizing and organizing your responsibilities:

  1. Create a balanced schedule.
  2. Prioritize tasks and do checklist.
  3. Break projects into small steps therefore easy to manage.
  4. Delegate responsibility to others.
  5. Be willing to compromise and negotiable.
  6. Don’t over-commit yourself and know your limits.
  7. Try to leave earlier in the morning therefore no need to be rushes.
  8. Plan regular breaks or vacation.

Tip 4: Reduce stress by improving communication

As a manager, we should try to maintain a minimum stress environment to maintain productivity. Communication is a basic skill that is particularly important in an organization. There are some tips to improve communication at the workplace:

  1. Make communication friendly and efficient.
  2. Provide opportunities for social interaction among employees.
  3. Share information with employees to reduce uncertainty about their jobs and futures because this can help to reduce the miscommunication.
  4. Discuss with employees about scheduling and work rules. This can minimize miscommunication.
  5. Give workers opportunities to participate in decisions that affect their jobs and they will feel like they are part of the team.
  6. Recognize and effectively use the nonverbal cues such as eye contact, facial expression, voice tone, posture, gesture and touch. In many cases, what we say is less important than how we express it through nonverbal signals.

Tip 5: Appreciation and support

Appreciation and support of employers, directly or indirectly, can helps to increase productivity. This can be done by:

  1. Show that individual workers are valued and make them feel appreciated.
  2. Offer rewards and incentives to encourage them to be more productive.
  3. Praise good work performance, both verbally and officially, through schemes such as Employee of the Month.
  4. Provide opportunities and support for career development.
  5. Developing friendships and support with some of your co-workers can help buffer you from the negative effects of stress.

Tip 6: Talking Therapy

Ventilation or sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust can help reduce stress. Talking over a problem with someone who is both supportive and empathetic can be a great way to let off steam and relieve stress.

Tip 7: Take time out

There were times when stress can escalate at work. When this happens we should:

  1. Try to take a quick break and move away from the stressful situation.
  2. Take a little time to breathe the air outside the workplace.
  3. Spend a few minutes meditating in the break room.
  4. Physical movement or stretching can quickly reduce muscle tension and stress.
  5. Talk it over with someone to ventilate and to relief the pressure.

Tip 8: Practice appropriate therapies regularly.

Examples of other therapies that can be chosen are:

  1. Breathing exercise
  2. Music Therapy
  3. Aroma Therapy
  4. Massage Therapy
  5. Hydro Therapy e.g. swimming
  6. Colour Therapy
  7. Spiritual Therapy
  8. Therapy Sauna/ steam





  1. Stress at work booklet. By the Health and Safety Executive.
  2. Overview of work-related stress. Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.
  3. Work-Related Stress, a Guide for Employers. By Health and Safety Authority.
  4. Stress at Work. Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., Melinda Smith, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, and Robert Segal, M.A.
  5. Stress Effects. The American Institute of Stress.
  6. Stress symptoms. WebMD.
  7. Stress.
  8. Five tips to help manage stress. American Psychological Association.
  9. 10 Tips to manage Stress. WebMD


Last Reviewed : 29 Mei 2017
Writer : Dr. Surina bt. Zaman Huri
Accreditor : Dr. Nurashikin bt. Ibrahim