Work Stress: What It Is, How to Identify It, and Strategies to Relieve It

Work Stress: What It Is, How to Identify It, and Strategies to Relieve It

What is Stress?

The Mexican Social Security Institute defines stress as a set of physical and mental reactions that a person suffers from when subjected to various external scenarios that exceed their coping ability. There are different kinds of stress. The most common type is work stress. This is a state of mental and physical fatigue caused by demands which are higher than normal. Does this sound familiar?

Everyone has felt work stress at some point in their lives, even if they enjoy the work they do. Nonetheless, this type of stress can cause a physical and/or mental saturation, causing serious consequences that affect not only our health, but also our environments, as there is an imbalance between your work and personal life. A little stress is motivating, since it can help you achieve favorable results. However, when stress is constant, it can trigger serious problems in your health.

Did you know that stress is contagious?
Being around or seeing other people in stressful situations increases the levels of cortisol in the observers

What Causes Work Stress?

Stress is different for each person and it also depends on the person’s job. The causes of stress in a doctor are different from the causes stress in a cook. Regardless, their stress will have the same symptoms and causes:

  • Workload: long hours, overtime hours, few breaks or heavy workloads.
  • Working conditions: physically strenuous or dangerous jobs can be stressful.
  • Problems with other people: the work environment of a company is a common source of stress. In addition, problems with managers or co-workers can also trigger stress.
  • Fear of the future: worrying about sudden dismissals or feelings of professional stagnation.

How Does Work Stress Affect my Health?

Compared to other types of stress, prolonged and untreated work stress can directly affect your health and increase some health risks such as:

  • Emotional: anxiety, fear, irritability, bad mood, frustration, exhaustion, impotence, insecurity, demotivation, intolerance.
  • Behavioral: decreased productivity, making mistakes, reporting sick, speech difficulties, nervous laughter, moody or tough in social relationships, crying, clenching jaw, increased consumption of tobacco, consumption of alcohol and other substances.
  • Cognitive: concentration difficulties, confusion, forgetfulness, less effective thinking, lesser ability to solve problems, reduction of learning capacity.
  • Physiological: contracted muscles, headaches, back or neck problems, upset stomach, fatigue, infections, palpitations, agitated breathing, increased blood pressure, exhaustion, risk of obesity and cardiovascular problems, memory impairment, and sleep problems.
Strategies to Fight Work Stress
Untreated work stress can directly affect your health and increase some health risks.

Strategies to Fight Work Stress

Proper stress management includes activities that focus on keeping stress under control at the workplace, as well as establishing healthy practices that will help minimize the symptoms that may occur in the body. As part of a Wellness lifestyle, it is essential to know how to handle stress efficiently and effectively. The strategies presented below are validated by our team of medical specialists at CMQ Hospitals:


Exercising is a great tool to counteract the effects of stress on the brain. Regularly performing 30 minutes of physical activity promotes a good rest, which is usually disturbed by stress. In addition, it reduces depression, increases self-confidence, the production of endorphins and the neurotransmitters that help one “feel good.” (Click here to read more about benefits of the exercise)


While this may sound very obvious, achieving a state of relaxation is almost impossible for some people. Dedicating a moment of your day to focus only on your body and mind immediately reduces your blood pressure, agitation, muscle tension, and speeds up your metabolism.


Cultivate friendships. Spending too much time at work can affect not only your mental health but also your heart. Take a moment and call a friend or relative. A familiar voice, even for a minute, can put everything in perspective.


Laughing tricks your nervous system. Laughter releases endorphins, which improves our mood and reduces the levels of cortisol and adrenaline (stress-causing hormones). In addition, it burns up 20% more calories than stress.

Think Positively

Most of the tips we have suggested provide immediate relief, but there are also many lifestyle changes that can be more effective in the long term. The concept of “positive thinking” is a large part of the approaches to optimal mental health, and therefore the elimination, or correct control, of stress.

How Can I Identify my Stress Level?

In order for the aforementioned stress management strategies to be effective, the first step to take into account is to detect the level of stress you have, depending on which symptoms you feel. We have prepared a test that will allow you to know your level of work stress.

Instructions: Guiding yourself by the numbers 1-6, choose where you are in the following symptom chart based on how you have felt for the past 3 months:

Almost never
A few times
Relatively frequently
Very frequently
Inability to fall asleep 1 2 3 4 5 6
Migraines and headaches 1 2 3 4 5 6
Indigestion or gastrointestinal discomfort 1 2 3 4 5 6
Feeling tired or exhaustion 1 2 3 4 5 6
Tendency to eat, drink or smoke more than usual 1 2 3 4 5 6
Decrease in sexual interest 1 2 3 4 5 6
Difficulty breathing 1 2 3 4 5 6
Decreased appetite 1 2 3 4 5 6
Muscular tremors and nervous twitches 1 2 3 4 5 6
Sudden lesions in different parts of the body 1 2 3 4 5 6
Demotivation 1 2 3 4 5 6
Excessive sweating or palpitations 1 2 3 4 5 6

Results: You can review your results with the sum of the selected numbers. Then locate your result in the following table.

No stress
(12 points)
There are no stress symptoms. You balance emotions well.
Very Low Stress
(24 points)
There are no stress symptoms. You balance emotions well.
Low Stress
(36 points)
Alarm phase. Identify the causative factors and take care of them.
Medium Stress
(48 points)
Alarm phase. Become aware of your situation and try to locate what you can modify before the stress is prolonged.
High Stress
(60 points)
Phase of physical and mental exhaustion, can bring serious consequences to your health.
Very High Stress
(72 points)
Unbalanced and uncontrolled stress. You need to seek professional help.

When Should I Get Help?

If the symptoms continue, despite having taken the right measures to control your stress, or if you are not completely sure that the cause of your stress is work, consult your doctor. It is possible that your doctor verifies the existence of other possible causes, as sometimes stress symptoms can be warnings of something else that is attacking your body.

Seeing a professional therapist can help you, in a very personalized way, to identify the cause of your symptoms, as well as support you to affront complicated situations.