Stress at Work: Learn to Reduce and Manage

Emergency situations, understaffed shifts, anxious patients are all aspects that can affect your mental state and blood pressure while on the job. In the medical field, jobs have these added stressors of working with patients in difficult situations, long hours, demanding doctors and more.

April is #StressAwarenessMonth! How do you keep is zen? Check out these tips from @TriageStaff:Tweet This!

It is pretty likely that you’ve experienced workplace stress, as a shocking 80% of employees report being stressed out by work. Not all stress has to be awful. A little stress here and there can serve as a motivator and a catalyst to finish a big deadline or push through a long shift. Stress can become as detrimental as a chronic illness.

Can You Feel Your Blood Pressure Rising?

It’s no secret that your job can impact your mental and physical health, but you’re probably unaware on how big of a toll it is truly taking on you.

A 2015 HBS and Stanford University study pulled evidence from 228 other studies that found high job demands increased the odds of having an illness diagnosed by a doctor by 35. A 2016 study on Burnout Research confirms this by stating that job demands are directly associated with burnout, overall life satisfaction and even symptoms of depression.

The 2015 study also notes that long work hours increased the chances of early death by almost 20%. According to research published online in BMJ Open, shifts lasting 12 hours or longer were associated with a 40% greater level of job dissatisfaction and a 31% higher risk of planning to quit.

“When you think about how much time individuals typically spend at work, it’s not that surprising,” says study co-author Joel Goh, an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School.

Theses facts are alarming, but not surprising. Medical travelers have likely felt the effects of what stress puts on the mind and body. Day in and day out stress compiles, leaving lasting effects the body cannot withstand.

Make Sure You Are Taking Care of Yourself

By nature, some industries are more prone to having stressful days than others. In a Health and Safety Executive 2015 study, health related jobs showed higher levels of stress as compared to all other jobs. Health was followed by teaching, business, media and public service professionals. UNMC confirms the high stress levels found in the medical profession, noting that physicians have the highest burnout rate of nearly every occupation. The article also suggests that this rate is double the burnout rate of attorneys, typically thought to be one of the most demanding jobs.  

No surprise there! Medical professionals are literally dealing with life and death situations, enduring extreme mental, physical and emotional fatigue.  For these reasons, it is crucial to take care of yourself.

How to Deal Stress at Work

Stress has solidified its place in the workplace. We are feeling the negative effects slowly, but surely. Due to the nature of your job or industry, stress may be something you cannot change. However, we can control how we deal with it.

By using our simple Stress Level Color Guide, you can easily be conscious of your stress levels at work.

Stress Level Green: We’ve all been here. You enjoy your jobs, daily tasks, your coworkers and your company, but occasionally you get worked up over stressful situations like unpleasant patient visitors or a particularly overwhelming day.

This stress isn’t necessarily bad. It can keep you in check when that pesky paperwork is getting pushed to the backburner yet again, or give you a sense of urgency when your day goes from 0 to 100 in the blink of an eye. However, it is important to note this level of stress, as it can easily escalate and become an issue.

When you are feeling this low level or stress:

  • Take a break
  • Stretch it out
  • Change your scenery
  • Talk to coworkers

“You shouldn’t be working more than 90 minutes at any one time. It’s been proven that the brain cannot concentrate for more, so after that time you need a break. You won’t be functioning well.” – Joan Kingsley, clinical and organizational therapist

As Joan notes, your sharp focus begins to get fuzzy after focusing on the same thing for an extended amount of time. Set up short breaks throughout your day to refocus on the tasks ahead.  Take a timeout to get up and move around. Stretch out those muscles and your brain.

If it is possible, try to shake up your viewpoint. Even changing where you’re sitting can refresh your mind.

Call over a coworker, or drop in on a chatty patient, to discuss something going on in the world. Be sure to keep this brief conversation positive so that it does not bring your mood down.

Stress Level Yellow: You are taking it one day at a time. You are stressed out, and maybe even feeling a bit under appreciated by others at your job. At this point, you are consistently overworked and stressed, but are still expected to deliver.

Try a few of these tips to help reel you back to sanity:

  • Get organized
  • Talk to someone outside of work
  • Do an outside project

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” – Reinhold Niebuhr

Often times, stressors are out of your hands. You are unable to control the way that others are interacting with you, or when your days become extra long and demanding. Take a deep breath, and realize that you cannot do anything to help those situations. As for the things that you can control, stay on top of them. Keep yourself in check by taking a few minutes out of each day to get your work life in order. Prep your lunches for the week, layout your scrubs the night before work and read ahead on patient’s charts when things begin to slow down. Get to know what is ahead of you and tackle the hard stuff first. If you’re still feeling a medium level of stress about work, ask around for tips and tricks that coworkers have found to be helpful. Try the suggested ideas that you feel will best apply to you.

Get your mind off of work. Take a step back to realize the bigger picture of things. Remember what is important in life, and take a break from work. Talk to your best friend, your daughter or your father about something totally unrelated to work.

Shift your thoughts to a hobby, or a pleasing pastime to give your brain a rest. Journal, paint, antique. Do more of whatever makes you happy and relaxed. Anything besides work. 

Stress Level Red: You’ve had it, and you’re over it. You’ve consistently tried to make things better, but are fed up with just about every aspect of the job. You are not appreciated, and not getting the support you need to continue with the job.

  • Take a vacation
  • Switch departments
  • Quit

Sometimes getting out of the building, or even city, for a few days can reset the mind. 55% of workers in America left unused PTO in 2015. 

Still not helping? See about moving to a different department or position for a change of pace or new leadership. When all else fails, you owe it to yourself to leave that company for a better fit for you.


Stress can be a stimulant. Right before a big presentation, or when trying to close a deal, it can be an asset to the job. However, when unbalanced and overrepresented in the job, stress can be the negative Nancy in the room leaving everyone worse off in the end. Take a minute to assess your stress level, knowing the negative effects it has in the long term, to see if any necessary jumps need to be made. Be sure to check in with yourself frequently, as your stress levels change in every situation. Life is too short to be losing sleep over a job. Fortunately, Triage has a wide range of opportunities to change your outlook, position and even the city in which you’re living.