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What Causes Stress at Work?

Back in January Ross Terry, founder of The Pursuit Is Happiness reached out to myself and Gemma through our website sharing his passion for mindset, by providing direction in peoples lives through Fitness, Health, Well-being and Mindfulness. We touched base (by zoom of course) and that was it, a connection was made, our visions entwined and here we are 2 months later.

I think you'll agree that as we reflect on the 1st anniversary of lockdown all working adults have experienced changes to their working environments, many people have shared positive changes in terms of a more work life balance and a flexibility that maybe without Covid some opportunities would never have arisen or been an option; others have deemed the experience of adapting to change (often more than once) to be testing and challenging on their focus, motivation and ultimately their mental health and wellbeing.

Ross, a keen blogger asked about making a guest appearance for Grow Your Mindset and so we're delighted to share with you his really insightful, thought provoking blog answering your questions and giving some great tips around What Causes Stress at Work? So, without further ado we'll hand it over you Ross.

Stress at work can be one of the worst kinds, as adults we will spend around 90,000 hours at work in our lifetimes. We spend a majority of our time there and spend an incredible amount of time surrounded by its struggles and demands and sometimes it can all become too much.

Here are some of the common signs that you are becoming stressed at work:

• Irritable, aggressive, impatient or wound up

• Anxious or nervous

• Unable to switch off or enjoy your hobbies after a day of work

• Depressed

• Fatigue or lacking energy to do anything for no reason

• Constant dread

Any of those sound familiar? Not only do they sound familiar, I bet you have all experienced one of those listed, stress is a common part of our lives many of which are not our fault but it is how we deal with each of these stresses that will define our lives and our happiness.

Stress can be caused in many different ways and from many areas of our lives, some of which we cannot control however there are some that are in our hands.


As our energy depletes and our responsibilities increase, slowly but surely if we are not careful we will start to burnout, especially whilst in lockdown were we cannot experiences life’s pleasures, we can easily become burnt out. With our usual outlets taken away from us, work for many of us seems like the only constant thing, and not having a good work/life balance can throw us into exhaustion without us even realising. As work pressures increase, more expectations are put upon us and we start to compromise our personal time to meet work deadlines.

Professor Marie Åsberg is an expert on burnout and the Exhaustion Funnel is how she describes it. As stress mounts on us we comprise our ‘less important’ things such as hobbies in order to squeeze more work in, to try and release the stress. It works for a while but the stress comes back and once again the ‘less important’ things start to get put to the side again, perhaps this time it is finding no time for exercise or taking up new interests, it gives us some rest-bite but once again the stress returns, ultimately leading to exhaustion. This can happen without us even realising we are doing it, and as many of us are currently working in our living spaces it can be hard to remove yourself from work and begin to wind down and relax. All is not lost, the best way to pull yourself out of the funnel is to start rekindling your passions you look forward to, or even finding new ones. Rediscover your hobbies and interests, find those outlets that will help you keep you busy and take your mind away from stressful situations. Yes, currently we may not be able to do some of our favourite hobbies, but all that means is we have time to find new ones we never even knew we loved, from painting to gardening, find new sports to watching that brand new documentary you had your eye on.

The world has endless possibilities so give yourself time to discover them. You can read more in detail about how to combat the Exhaustion Funnel in the book Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Remember you need time for yourself and your hobbies and this shouldn’t be compromised. Do what makes you happy rather than eliminating them in order to meet unsustainable work pressures.

‘Do not give the past the power to decide your future” - Dhiren Prajapati

Pre-Living a bad day at work?

Has Sunday evening ever approached and your start to feel that knot in your stomach again, the thought of Monday tomorrow has suddenly become a sickening feeling you cannot control. You think you will have a lot of work to do and worried about completing it before the deadline, thinking you’ll be on your own and have no help, feeling isolated and alone. Suddenly in just a few small jumps in the brain you have created a fictitious scenario in which you have failed at work and suddenly now dreading starting work tomorrow. Stop! If only it was that easy. Once you have the tools at your disposal it really is, you cannot predict the future and you cannot change the past, so every time you start to have those thoughts come into your head, immediately tell yourself stop and this is where mindfulness is a great tool.

There are some great apps like Headspace and CALM that focus on meditating, yes meditating is not just for Yoga enthusiasts or monks, it can be used by everyday people to fight anxiety and it is brilliant. It may seem a little alien at first, but after the first few attempts you will be a natural. Start with some simple breathing exercises, deep breathes in and out for 30 seconds, reset your thought process and set your mind to something positive.

Do You Love Your Job?

This is something I feel extremely strongly about, do you love your job? We spend an enormous amount of time in and around our workplace and for me it is absolutely vital that in some form you love what you do. You may be feeling stressed and anxious because simply, you don’t love and believe in the work you do anymore. It can be a common cause of stress at work, but there are ways to deal with this. Now each person is different, everyone gets stressed over different things and for different reasons, and there are some things you can do before you look towards a new job.

Positivity and Optimism

When things go wrong it is easy for the mind to instantly take the negative thought process, it often is the go too for the brain to start that negative chatter, why is this happening to me? When will this end? Why is this happening to no one else? When you add in deadlines, overbearing managers and large workload everything can become too much, but what if we stopped the negative chatter and started to flip it on its head. What if we don’t accept the default negative mindset and try to think in a more positive and optimistic way.

Rather than when will this end, try to think of solutions that can provide the answer for you. Speaking to your peers and line managers can help, you never know who might be going through the same thing as you are, the company you work for might even be able to offer a professional to talk to, or someone in HR to speak about your mental wellbeing at work, don’t suffer alone. If you are feeling lonely at work or struggling to make connections with your colleagues, Grow Your Mindset have a great blog post on the 10 of the best team building activities at work, some great ideas you could suggest to your team.


Sometimes when we are stressed we cannot think straight, all our thoughts are jumbled inside our head unclear or what the answer is. Exercise is an amazing tool to clear our thoughts of all the mess and really find the answers to the important questions. Lunch time walks, morning runs or afternoon cycles are amazing for your mental wellbeing. It doesn’t have to be long, but it does need to be done, even when you think your work schedule is too busy to go for a walk, the benefits it can give you will be worth it, it will not only give you room to breathe, break up the day and give you some time within nature and the outdoors, but it will improve productivity and peace of mind. The book ‘Jog on’ from Bella Mackie is a fantastic story about how running changed her life and rid her of crippling anxiety, it doesn’t matter how fit you are or whether you’ve never run before exercise is a fantastic anxiety and stress reliever.


Stress can occur at any moment, whether it is something someone has said or that new workload that just got lumped on your desk; it can make your body feel red and that horrible knot in our stomach starts to reappear, it can hit at any moment and the more we feel stressed the more other side effects start to kick in. But before we jump to to that immediate reaction of worry and fear can we look at things a little differently? Is there someone you can talk to, someone who might be able to help shift the workload, a colleague or line manager, no one will think you are weak or incapable, we all need a bit of help sometimes. Can you break down the workload into smaller, more manageable chunks in order to become more achievable? This gives you little goals you can hit and you will feel great after hitting each milestone. Perhaps even keep a journal of each of your stresses and what has caused it, when you know where the issue lies, you can begin to improve and work on these situations. Developing healthy responses to your stresses can dramatically improve your mental health in these situations.

Moving On To Your New Passion

As responsibilities and dependencies increase it can become difficult to change jobs or even find the time to apply for somewhere new, it can become overwhelming especially if you don’t know somewhere you want to go too. The trick is to break it down into smaller pieces, a big decision such as this can seem like this huge object in the way of your happiness, breaking it down into manageable pieces can set you up for a happier life.

• Start by creating a CV and Cover Letter for yourself.

• Then identify where you think the issues are, is it the people, the role, the work style or hours?

• Once you’ve done this, start looking around for roles that appeal to you, sometimes all you need is a fresh start to get that motivation back, but make sure that the jobs you are looking at offer what your current role doesn’t.

• Apply! Apply! Apply!

One thing to remember when applying for new jobs is not to get knocked off course when facing rejection. Don’t get down or demoralised if you don’t get the first job you apply for, or even your 10th or 20th. Remember you will get there in the end and the right job will be just around the corner, never give up.

Stress at work is something we all experience at some point in our lives and it is key not to feel alone or isolated, there are many steps that can be taken to help you get back to your best and heading towards your infinite goals.

There is excellent material on the Grow Your Mindset website that can help you learn and improve your mindset.

You can find a more in-depth look inside my mindset programme, it looks at self-improvement, positivity & Optimism, adding structure to your life and ultimately helping you to live a healthier and more fulfilled life.

In the PURSUIT you will find HAPPINESS

Ross Terry

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