Taking care of yourself at work

Achieving a meaningful work-life balance is important for our mental health. Without clear boundaries and healthy habits, work-related stress can take a big toll on our wellbeing. So how can we reduce the risk and set ourselves up for success?

What can cause stress at work?

A lot of things can contribute to workplace stress, and while mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression are different from workplace stress, unchecked stress can lead to greater mental health and wellbeing issues like these. This is why it’s important to prioritise your wellbeing and take appropriate steps to reduce stress when you’re working.


Some examples of things that might cause stress for someone at work include when:

  • The demands of our role exceed the time available to us
  • There are inadequate resources available to succeed in your role
  • You’re exposed to potentially toxic or traumatic environments
  • There is a lack of support from your colleagues or management
  • Reward and recognition for contributions aren’t given
  • Your environment isn’t physically or psychologically safe.



“It’s important to prioritise your wellbeing and take appropriate steps to reduce stress when you’re working.”


How to make your workday less stressful

Take regular micro-breaks

In whatever way is possible for your line of work, try to take regular micro breaks each hour or two. Use this time to stretch, have a drink of water or get some fresh air for a few minutes. While it’s tempting to work for longer periods of time and get as much work done as possible, without short breaks this can cause extended micro stress on the body and ultimately will limit your productivity.


Get a change of scenery

Getting away from your working environment is a helpful way for the mind to switch off and relax. For example, if you spend most of your day inside sitting down, try going for a walk outside on your lunch break. Or if you are mostly on your feet throughout the day, you might like to read a book in your car on your break for some downtime. Do what works for you, ensuring you find a way to separate your working time from your personal time.


Plan your time effectively

Taking the time to plan certain things ahead can significantly reduce stress levels throughout the week. Simple steps such as preparing a few healthy meals to take for lunch, ensuring the car has petrol in the tank, or that your work outfits are clean and organised ahead of time can save a lot of stress during a busy work week.


Go home on time

Working long hours each week reduces the time and energy we have for the things we enjoy, leading to prolonged stress and risk of burnout. While occasionally it might be needed to hang back to get things done, try not to fall into the trap of working late often. Make a point of leaving on time to ensure you set a clear boundary with yourself and your colleagues around the value of your personal time.


Leave work at work

Consider ways to disconnect with work after hours. This could mean switching off your email notifications after hours, not taking extra work home with you to finish in the evenings, taking off your uniform as soon as you get home or keeping your tools/equipment in a separate room, so they are out of view when you are relaxing.

You may be surprised by how little it is necessary to be connected and by how much better you feel as a result of letting go.


Practice saying “no”

If something is outside of your realm of responsibility, or perhaps you’re swamped and can’t prioritise new requests, now may be the time to speak up and clearly outline why you have to say no.


If you are struggling to cope, call one of our SuicideLine Victoria counsellors on 1300 651 251.

If it is an emergency, call 000.

More from mental health

What is PTSD?

Learn about what PTSD is as well as the signs, symptoms and situations that may cause this condition.

Read more

What are the symptoms of anxiety and what can cause anxiety?

Many of us feel anxious when we have a stressful event or situation coming up, and we are worried about it. This feeling is temporary and usually goes away after the event or situation has ended. Anxiety is when that feeling of anxiousness does not go away and is long term. Find out more about the symptoms of anxiety and what can cause anxiety.

Read more