5 Easy Ways To Stop Feeling Overwhelmed At Work (And Show Your Leadership)

Business woman having headache at office

Don't let work get to you. Take control, and manage your stress.

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Work is stressful enough; try not to add to it. Practices or behaviors you follow can lead to worry, tension or anxiety. Take stock in what causes you stress, and take steps to reduce it. To get you started, here are five ways to decrease stress at work:

1. Don’t respond to all email.

The number of emails in your inbox can pile up. Professionals receive, on average, 120 new emails each day and spend 2.6 hours every day reading and answering email (about 28% of your workday). 

Free up some of your time, and try not to respond to all of your emails. Replying to an email with only a “thanks” or “okay,” for example, is unnecessary. This is especially true when you are not the only email recipient. While you may feel like you need to respond to be polite, it is not critical. Unless the email is specific to you and requires a definite answer or explanation, you don’t need to respond. Unless the email requests that you confirm receipt, you don’t need to respond. Respect your time, and don’t allow email to use up too much of your time.

2. Say “no,” politely.

If you have a lot on your plate and are approached with a task that does not further the organization’s current priorities, try to ‘punt’ the task. Communicate what you are currently working on and inquire if you can consider the task at a later date. Or suggest a colleague that is working on a project that more aligns with the suggested task. Leaders focus on what is important and know how to prioritize.

3. Avoid engaging in office gossip.

Engaging in office gossip can add to your stress. It can sap your time and drain your emotional energy. While gossiping can be a way to bond with coworkers, it is unprofessional to gossip about others. Don’t engage in office gossip. Try not to get sucked into talking about, for example, your coworker’s tension with your boss. Leaders know what conversations to avoid. Demonstrate your leadership.

4. Don’t make assumptions. Ask.

Not knowing information can create stress. Instead of staying in the dark, ask questions. If you are unsure as to whether you are going to get a promotion, ask your manager early on the criteria to advance in the organization. If you were not invited to a meeting, try not to automatically think that you did something wrong and are now being kept out of the loop. Ask if you should have been at the meeting. It may have been a mistake, or last week’s meeting was specifically focused on a project with which you are not involved. 

Leaders speak up and ask questions. When you have information, you rely less on assumptions, which can be a source of stress.

5. Be nice to your colleagues.

Tension between colleagues can be stressful. While you may not have control over other people’s behaviors and actions, you have control over how you behave. Don’t create or escalate existing tension. 

You do not have to be friends with your colleagues or even like them, but you can be cordial. It is not difficult to say “hello” or ask how a coworker is doing. Part of leadership is taking the high road and not letting petty behavior get to you.


Don’t make the workplace more stressful than it already is. Be judicious with your time when it comes to email and unimportant or irrelevant tasks. Guard your reputation by not gossiping. Avoid assumptions by speaking up. Be kind to reduce tension. Demonstrate your leadership.


What helps you to decrease career stress? Share with me your stories and thoughts via Twitter or LinkedIn.

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Work is stressful enough; try not to add to it. Practices or behaviors you follow can lead to worry, tension or anxiety. Take stock in what causes you stress, and take steps to reduce it. To get you started, here are five ways to decrease stress at work:

1. Don’t respond to all email.

The number of emails in your inbox can pile up. Professionals receive, on average, 120 new emails each day and spend 2.6 hours every day reading and answering email (about 28% of your workday). 

Free up some of your time, and try not to respond to all of your emails. Replying to an email with only a “thanks” or “okay,” for example, is unnecessary. This is especially true when you are not the only email recipient. While you may feel like you need to respond to be polite, it is not critical. Unless the email is specific to you and requires a definite answer or explanation, you don’t need to respond. Unless the email requests that you confirm receipt, you don’t need to respond. Respect your time, and don’t allow email to use up too much of your time.

2. Say “no,” politely.

If you have a lot on your plate and are approached with a task that does not further the organization’s current priorities, try to ‘punt’ the task. Communicate what you are currently working on and inquire if you can consider the task at a later date. Or suggest a colleague that is working on a project that more aligns with the suggested task. Leaders focus on what is important and know how to prioritize.

3. Avoid engaging in office gossip.

Engaging in office gossip can add to your stress. It can sap your time and drain your emotional energy. While gossiping can be a way to bond with coworkers, it is unprofessional to gossip about others. Don’t engage in office gossip. Try not to get sucked into talking about, for example, your coworker’s tension with your boss. Leaders know what conversations to avoid. Demonstrate your leadership.

4. Don’t make assumptions. Ask.

Not knowing information can create stress. Instead of staying in the dark, ask questions. If you are unsure as to whether you are going to get a promotion, ask your manager early on the criteria to advance in the organization. If you were not invited to a meeting, try not to automatically think that you did something wrong and are now being kept out of the loop. Ask if you should have been at the meeting. It may have been a mistake, or last week’s meeting was specifically focused on a project with which you are not involved. 

Leaders speak up and ask questions. When you have information, you rely less on assumptions, which can be a source of stress.

5. Be nice to your colleagues.

Tension between colleagues can be stressful. While you may not have control over other people’s behaviors and actions, you have control over how you behave. Don’t create or escalate existing tension. 

You do not have to be friends with your colleagues or even like them, but you can be cordial. It is not difficult to say “hello” or ask how a coworker is doing. Part of leadership is taking the high road and not letting petty behavior get to you.


Don’t make the workplace more stressful than it already is. Be judicious with your time when it comes to email and unimportant or irrelevant tasks. Guard your reputation by not gossiping. Avoid assumptions by speaking up. Be kind to reduce tension. Demonstrate your leadership.


What helps you to decrease career stress? Share with me your stories and thoughts via Twitter or LinkedIn.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

A lawyer and strategist, I help individuals and organizations position and advocate for themselves and leverage opportunities to advance their priorities. I advise clie

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