10 Ways to Cope with Workplace Pressures

Posted: 08/16/2019 - 05:12
10 Ways to Cope with Workplace Pressures
Here are 10 tips to help you cope with pressure at work. Each of the suggestions made has earned the right to be on the list because of the overwhelming evidence that they work. 


It’s very hard to make things worse by stopping and working out what to do. Take five, go for a walk or find a quiet corner to get your thoughts together. Give yourself the space to make sense of what is happening. Make a list if it helps, but above all, give yourself some time and space to think

Have a Trusted Cabinet

I’ve yet to meet one person who is brilliant at everything, but I’ve met a great many people who are exceptional in specific dimensions. Take my colleague John: he’s a creative person and whenever I am struggling to find a solution and a chat with John generally has me sorted, whereas Simon is brilliant at drilling down to the nub of an issue. What makes both John and Simon special is that they speak with candour, will tell me what I need to hear (and not necessarily what I want to hear) and above all, both are great listeners. Get yourself a great personal cabinet of people who you can turn to, depending on the help you need. 


To create the future, we first have to imagine it. Imagine how you want things to be, whether that’s the outcome of a difficult meeting or how you want the audience to react to your presentation. Unless you can imagine how you would like it to be, it’s very unlikely to happen. Once you’ve got a sense of what you want, then think about all the things you can do to help get you the outcome you seek. 

Control the Controllables

There's no point in getting stressed about something that’s outside of your control. Instead, take ownership of what you can do. For example, you might not be able to influence or control whether your company will make you redundant but you can make sure your CV is up to date, attend training programmes to keep your skills and capabilities fresh, and actively maintain your network to keep abreast of opportunities. 

Probability and Impact

If you are faced with a mass of issues work out what you think might happen, and for each issue determine the probability that it happen, and if it does the likely impact. Focus on those items that are very likely to happen and where the impact will be significant. Pay little attention to those things that are unlikely to happen and whose impact will be minimal. 

Have the Right Habits

When we are under pressure we default to our habits, whether good or bad. If you can work out the things you need to do when you are under pressure and make them a habit, then the next time you are under pressure, these are the things you will do. For example, if you find yourself overwhelmed and you get into the habit of taking five minutes to gather your thoughts, then you will find you cope better. If on the other hand, your habit is to bury yourself in the details of something to distract you from the bigger picture, then you are less likely to be effective. Whatever your habit is, that’s what you will do when the pressure mounts. 

What’s important now?

The American football coach Lou Holtz used to ask his players “What’s important now?” It’s a good question to ask yourself when your head is full of noise and all the things you have to do. It allows you to focus on the moment and what matters right now. If ask yourself this question in a meeting it will help you work out whether you should put down the distractions and focus on what people are saying in the meeting or whether you would be better excusing yourself to do something else.

Lines in the Sand

If you are struggling to work out whether to intervene or to change something, define your “line in the sand, “which is the point when you will do something. If  someone keeps interrupting in a meeting, a line in the sand might be to decide that if it happens three more times, you will step in and address it. If you find yourself overwhelmed by work, then you might define a line in the sand if you are still at work at 8 p.m. on more than three nights and arrange a meeting with your boss to review your workload and get support. 

Get Enough Sleep

Insufficient sleep increases your chance of having an accident and reduces your ability to take on new information and respond to challenging situations. It can also increase your appetite, weight and sometimes means you feel colder, slowing your reaction times and increasing your blood pressure. To get a good night’s sleep, practice good sleep hygiene. The NHS has some useful guidelines here. 

Move More

You knew there would be one tip on exercise-- and here it is. Move more! Whether it is getting up from your desk to walk around every 30 minutes, building a walk into your day or going to the gym for a hard session, do something! The evidence is overwhelming about the value of exercise. It is so beneficial that it will help you cope better.  

About The Author

Dominic Irvine's picture

Dominic Irvine, is the founding partner of management and leadership consultancy, Epiphanies LLP. With his colleagues, Dominic has grown the practice from developing executives using coaching, to the design and facilitation of international conferences, culture change and leadership development for multinational blue chip companies across the globe. Dominic is also a record-breaking ultra-distance cyclist and in 2018 competed in the Tour Divide cycling challenge, a self-supported mountain bike race, which goes from the border of the USA and Mexico to Banff in Canada – a total of 2,750 miles.