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How Can I Manage Work Stress? Coping Mechanisms To Use At Work and Home

December 30th, 2022 | 5 min. read

How Can I Manage Work Stress? Coping Mechanisms To Use At Work and Home
Mallie Wilson Rickard

Mallie Wilson Rickard

Licensed Physical Therapist, PT, DPT // EW Pilates Instructor // EW Yoga Instructor // TPI Level 1 Certified // EW Motion Therapy Homewood

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Stress is a universal experience. Some times of the year are busier than others, and life events can often come up unexpectedly. But for many adults, work is a relatively constant source of stress. It is easy to carry whatever pressure you have during the workday outside your workplace and into your home, where it can take a toll on anyone you live with and, most importantly, your own physical and mental health. So what can you do to manage stress from work in healthy ways? And which coping mechanisms will help in the long run? 


It is easy to fall into coping mechanisms and habits that are not the healthiest choices, but taking care of yourself at work and home will preserve your mental and physical well-being. For our clients at EW Motion Therapy, whether in physical therapy or a wellness program, we tailor treatment to their lifestyle so they can maintain a sustainable plan and see the results they want. Even if you decide that our services do not fit your needs, we still want to help you manage stress throughout the day. 


This article discusses how work stress can affect your body and ways to cope with stress at work and home, including how physical therapy can help. With this information, you can maintain healthy habits and leave your work stress at work. 


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How does work stress affect your body?

Whether you work in an office or on a construction site, most jobs have some stressful elements, no matter how fulfilled you feel or how skilled you are in your field. While some jobs are likely better for your body physically, you probably experience mental stressors, like a lack of variety in your day, conflicting demands, and fewer advancement opportunities. Mental stress can be equally impactful on your body as physical stress, especially if you turn to coping mechanisms like food, alcohol, or other substances. 


However, desk workers in offices face a unique predicament: they sit for most of the workday. Prolonged sitting can adversely affect your body. Most people do not practice good posture, leading to rounded shoulders, headaches, and pain in your neck, shoulders, hips, and back. 


How can you cope with stress at work? 

It can be hard to de-stress in your stressful work environment, but you can try a few things to calm and clear your mind and body. 


  1. Don’t feel pressured to be “on” all the time. Rest can help you be more productive in the long run and can prevent burnout. You can take short breaks at your desk or workstation between tasks. 

  2. Drink plenty of water. Not only is hydration essential for a healthy body, but it can also improve focus and help you feel more awake.

  3. Try different breathing techniques and stretches. Whether standing or sitting, breathing and stretching can reset your body and brain. 

  4. Listen to music. If you can, put on one of your favorite songs and have a quick jam session. Or listen to classical/instrumental music to block out distractions. 

  5. Make a to-do list. This is excellent practice when you get to work first thing in the morning. A list can often help you have a more productive day and not feel as overwhelmed by the tasks you have to accomplish.

  6. Go for a walk. Whether around your office or in the parking lot, taking quick walks throughout the day can help keep your mind alert and your body moving.

  7. Talk to your supervisor. If you have tried de-stressing, but your stress level is impacting your productivity and ability to function during the day, be honest with your supervisor, and together you can work to find a solution.


What can you do at home to combat stress? 

When you get home from work, you may feel like you only have the energy to collapse in front of the TV with your dinner. However, if you try to practice healthy habits in your home, you can get some real rest and feel ready for work the next day. 


  1. Set aside time for activities you enjoy. Whether you like to read, knit, go to a yoga class, or just get chores done around the house, doing things you want can help you transition from a stressful work environment to a peaceful night routine.
  2. Set healthy boundaries. With our phones in our hands almost 24/7, you may feel pressured to answer work emails at any time during the day, and that does not have to be the case. You can turn on “do not disturb” or just set a boundary to not check or answer work correspondence after a specific time. 

  3. Turn off the screens. You may enjoy unwinding to cooking or home makeover shows, but any screen is a stimulant, including your TV. Take time to shut everything off and give your eyes and mind a well-deserved break, especially in the hour leading up to bedtime. 

  4. Write it down. Before going to bed, grab a notebook and dump every thought out of your brain onto paper. You can write about what stressed you that day, plans for tomorrow, or anything else. The more thoughts you get out of your brain, the easier and quicker you can fall asleep.


How can physical therapy help with stress?

Now you know more about how to combat the physical and mental effects of work stress. Finding healthy coping mechanisms that work for you is essential to your overall well-being. If you need professional advice on doing this, a physical therapist can be a great person to see. They can address your specific concerns, including pain and muscle tension, and help you develop an exercise and treatment plan that works with your lifestyle and schedule. You could even try dry needling during a session to relieve stubborn trigger points or implement specific posture exercises to decrease stress on your cervical and lumbar spine.


Work stress can become chronic and decrease your overall quality of life if left to grow. Finding ways to cope that work for you and help you feel better is vital. We enjoy helping our clients at EW Motion Therapy relieve stress, whether with manual therapy, personal training, or Pilates classes. If you are interested in working with us, fill out the questions in our Program Match Tool to find the program that best fits your needs.


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