Creating a WORLD of Difference


Reacting – Or Not – To Work-Related Stress

Share Article:
man sitting on chair wearing gray crew-neck long-sleeved shirt using Apple Magic Keyboard
As part of our Stress Awareness Month series, Life Balance Coach and Trainer Emma Pennycard, discusses the effects of work-related stress and what we can do to modify our behaviour when we feel under pressure.
When was the last time you fired off a sharp response to a frustrating email? Have you ever shouted at a colleague for questioning a decision you have made? Do you react to things at work that you later regret?

It is highly likely you have work related stress and you are not alone. The most common cause of stress in the UK is work related stress with 79% of workers in the UK saying they frequently feel stressed at work.

Work related stress affects our mood, our engagement, and our performance. Our behaviour changes, we become illogical, indecisive, and reactive.

Our stress behaviours can seem out of character, and it can take us and others by surprise. This is because we lose the ability to choose how to respond in situations and instead we react, often unconsciously and usually with regret when we return to a state of calm.

Our stress behaviour maybe unconscious and unintentional but it is still our responsibility as it has a knock-on effect on our personal and professional relationships as our behaviours are absorbed by those around us increasing their own stress and negative emotions.

When our behaviours become a habit

When we are triggered by stress our brain works to change that emotional state to calm.

Different people will have different responses to how they will try and achieve a calm state for example drinking a few glasses of wine, comfort eating or shouting at someone. Sometimes we may respond in several ways, or just one, but it is the automatic response that we do without thinking and despite consequences that is our habitual behaviour.

These unhelpful and often unhealthy habits are what we believe at the time to be our coping mechanisms for getting through the stress.

I call them the overs!

For some it may be over drinking, or overeating, others it may be over thinking, or over exposure to TV or social media. For me it was overworking (as well as a few of the others I have mentioned!).

And of course, there are others too, all involving over doing things to the extent that we continue despite any adverse consequences.

We may be ok with our habits and see them as just part of who we are and there is nothing wrong with that unless of course we realise that these habits are adding to our stress, and we end up in a vicious cycle that we can find it hard to get out of.

So how can we change our automatic response?

When we become aware that we are stressed and understand that our brain is now working to change that state to one of calm, we can try alternative ways to find that calm.

For example, if we have a habit of having a drink to feel calm when we are stressed, would stopping to do some breathing exercises, or going for a walk give the same result? Probably, if nothing else, it would help us become calm enough to return to a logical place where we could then make a choice about how we want to respond instead of automatic habits taking over.

How can this help us at work?

Becoming self-aware that we are feeling the effects of stress and then taking action in the moment to pause and return to a calm state, has a significant impact on our behaviour.

For example, doing some breathing exercises before your next meeting, delaying a response to an email that triggers you, pausing to think before you speak to avoid saying something you might later regret.

Introducing helpful habits into your workday to proactively reduce your overall stress levels will also make a difference to how you think, feel and act at work.


  • Go into a meeting stressed
  • Reply to emails when you are triggered
  • Work through your breaks
  • React wait until you can choose how you want to respond
  • Think that it is just you that feels like this

Introducing helpful habits into your workday to proactively reduce your overall stress levels will also make a difference to how you think, feel and act at work.


  • Take your breaks so you can eat well and recharge your energy
  • Go for a daily walk in the fresh air
  • Take movement breaks every 60-90 minutes
  • Allow buffer time in between meetings
  • Schedule time to check and respond to emails instead of hurried responses in between things
  • Talk to someone about how you are feeling

These are simple behaviours that when applied consistently overtime will become helpful healthy habits that will increase your presence, positivity, productivity and your behaviour towards yourself and others.

Not only that but your stress induced unhealthy habits will become a thing of the past as you create new ways to cope with stress and find calm.

Don’t spend your time at work regretting the way you speak to your colleagues or feeling guilty about your email etiquette. Take the time to calm down before you behave in a way you will regret.

Your colleagues will thank you for it but most of all you will thank yourself.

World Wellbeing Week 2024

June 24 – June 30

Follow Wellbeing World

Sign up to our newsletter

Fill out the form below to get all the latest straight to your inbox!

Search Wellbeing Providers, Articles & More...