LEADERSHIP: Surviving workplace stress


Have you ever felt so stressed at work you thought your head might explode?


Stress happens all the time in environments where high pressure, unhappy customers, and poor work conditions exist. Stressful work environments can lead to anxiety, sleeplessness, headaches, and chest pains. Studies confirm, if left unfettered, workplace stress can cause countless ailments up to and including death. Your work could actually be killing you. That’s pretty serious business!


As a consultant, I often encounter people feeling hopeless due to the nature of the work itself, high pressure or lack of support from management. Sometimes we feel like we don’t have a voice and the ensuing lack of control can lead to feelings of anxiety and overwhelm. Most often, our need for positive customer outcomes and making good on our promises leads to emotional responses when these things don’t come to fruition. Those that care the most, are often impacted the most. Below are 7 strategies for dealing with workplace overwhelm.


  1. You are not a victim. When you give in to victimhood, you diminish your own power to help yourself and all those around you. This includes the customer, who may not receive any help at all unless you provide it. Your environment and workplace scenarios can provide a stimulus, but it’s up to you how you react to that stimulus. You have the power to alter the outcome, should you choose to do so.


  1. Focus on things within your control. There’s often something that can be done to change or improve the outcome, however slight. If you can’t provide the customer what they need, is there a reasonable alternative? If you can’t make the delivery date can you provide timely communication?


  1. Are you making a difference each day? We often focus on the big picture, but if you can’t provide high level solutions, what incremental progress can you deliver? Can you chip away at the problem? If the customer didn’t get what they needed, did they have a positive experience interacting with you? Did you get back to them? Were you empathetic and compassionate to their situation?


  1. Focus on others not yourself. Stress and overwhelm often indicate focus on how the situation directly affects you. When you lead with empathy you feel compelled to get off the sidelines and assist others. Once you embrace this approach, you become so consumed with helping others you stop focusing on how it affects you directly.
  • Focus on delighting your customer. If you can’t fully meet their needs, what CAN you deliver? Isn’t some percentage better than nothing? Did you take the time to listen?
  • Focus on supporting your team. - Whether you realize it or not, you may be a source of wisdom, experience and support to others around you. Would you deny them that?


  1. Focus on the things that matter. We are often so consumed by the situation at hand we lose sight of the things that really matter. Instead of worrying about the customer’s reaction, or our bosses feedback you can direct your thoughts toward your spouse, your kids, your parents, or your own well being. Basically, focus on the things that really matter and truly bring you joy. When you look at things from the appropriate perspective, the path forward suddenly comes into focus.


  1. Cultivate gratitude. Focusing on what you have versus what you don’t, can distract you from feelings of negativity and overwhelm. You are actually employed vs. you have a horrible job. Your customer is upset vs. you have no customers at all……


  1. HEV – High in Entertainment Value. This may seem basic . . . and it is, but I’ve used it for years with great success. When things are at their worst, look for the humor in the situation. Sometimes you can’t see past the problems, but teams who find ways to laugh together have a greater chance of surviving a crisis.



It’s up to you how you react to your environment and daily activities. You can internalize the chaos and risk your mental and physical well being, or you can choose to look at the task at hand as just what it is, a task. Redirect your focus to the things that are meaningful to you and truly bring joy into your life.

“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” – Lou Holtz

What you do to earn a living does not define or complete you. You get to choose what you allow to take up space in your mind. What will you choose?



Do you agree?

Let me know what stresses you out and what you’ve tried in order to work through it. We can all learn from each other.

Download a copy of the workplace stress guide!

Stay up to date on the latest Leadership insights and receive FREE stuff we don't often share anywhere else.

Immediately get a FREE pdf copy of the workplace stress guide sheet up above.

Join our e-mail list. Get FREE stuff.

Spamming is not OK. We will NEVER share your information with anyone else.


50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.