Workplace stress is a major risk factor for anxiety and depression. Most jobs have some degree of stress, and this is often beyond our control – we can't always set our own workloads and deadlines, or change the workplace culture. However, there are some strategies everyone can adopt to manage and reduce their own stress levels, as well as finding a positive work-life balance.  

Part of taking care of your mental health is also about looking at your overall wellbeing. A balanced diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and avoiding harmful levels of alcohol and other drugs all contribute to mental wellness. 

What do we mean by 'work stress'?

Everyone knows what stress feels like and we've probably all experienced it in a range of settings – at home, school or work, or while getting outside our comfort zone. But when we talk about work or job-related stress, we're referring to situations where there's a mismatch between the requirements of your job, and your capabilities or available resources. As a result, you're put under an unsustainable level of pressure. 

A range of factors can contribute to job stress, including:

  • working long hours or overtime, working through breaks or taking work home
  • time pressure, working too hard or too fast, or unrealistic targets
  • work that's monotonous and dull, or which doesn't use your range of skills or previous training
  • roles where you have low levels of control or inadequate support from supervisors and/or co-workers
  • job insecurity
  • a lack of role clarity or poor communication
  • conflict with colleagues or managers 
  • bullying
  • discrimination – whether based on gender, ethnicity, race or sexuality.

Prolonged or excessive


can be a risk factor 

Signs of work stress

Stress is a normal response to the demands of work. It can be beneficial in short bursts, helping you stay alert and perform at your best. However, prolonged or excessive job stress can be damaging to your mental health. Stress can be a trigger for someone with depression and/or anxiety, and may cause an existing condition to worsen. And it's not just your health that can suffer – as well as affecting your relationships and life outside work, stress can increase your risk of injury, fatigue and burnout.

Physical signs of stress include:

  • chest pain or a pounding heart
  • fatigue
  • reduced interest in sex
  • nausea, diarrhoea or constipation
  • getting colds more often
  • muscle tension, pains and headaches
  • episodes of fast, shallow breathing and excessive sweating
  • loss or change of appetite
  • sleeping problems.

Non-physical signs include:

  • feeling overwhelmed or frustrated
  • feeling guilty or unhappy
  • being irritable
  • losing confidence and being indecisive
  • thinking negatively
  • having racing thoughts
  • memory problems
  • excessive worrying.

Finding a balance that works for you

With busy schedules, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with work and not find time for anything else. The trick is achieving a balance that promotes your overall health and the success of your career or business – often easier said than done.

We've put together some tips to help you manage your stress levels and look after yourself.

  • If you're feeling stressed or anxious, try and postpone major life changes such as moving house or changing jobs.
  • Finding someone to talk to can help – either a close friend, a family member, counsellor or psychologist.
  • Learn to relax. Make sure you set aside time for the things you enjoy, such as exercising, meditating, reading, gardening or listening to music.
  • Take your annual leave each year and make sure you have a proper break from work.
  • Get out of the workplace during lunch – even if it's just for a 10 minute walk. You'll feel refreshed and more productive in the afternoon. 
  • Try scheduling meetings during core work hours, not your personal time.
  • Restrict your overtime hours and speak to your manager if demands are unreasonable. 
  • If you frequently work late, try leaving on time at least a couple of times a week. Check out these helpful tips.
  • Avoid checking your email or answering work calls out of hours.

If you notice any changes in your thoughts, feelings or behaviour, see your GP or health professional. The earlier you seek support, you sooner you can recover.

If you notice any changes in your thoughts, feelings or behaviour, see your GP or health professional

Useful resources