Stress in the Workplace: Why Do We Feel It?

Stress. It’s something that we’ve all felt. When the pressure piles on, it can feel as though you cannot control it. You may go into a panic and wonder, “Will the weight of this stress ever be lifted?” It’s tough, but it is manageable. 

In this blog, we will explore what stress is, why we feel it, what may cause it, why women are more prone to stress in the workplace, and most importantly, how to manage it. 

Ready for a crash course on how to understand and tackle the stress in your life? Let’s go.

What is stress and why do we feel it? 

Stress occurs when pressure turns into something that feels uncontrollable. This may come from having too much to do, or from problems in your life. It’s often that pit of worry you feel in your stomach. It can feel scary, but if we go deeper into the reasons why we feel stressed, and the type of stress that we are feeling, we can consider how to manage it. 

Ready for a (very brief) biology lesson? 

The feeling of stress is the body’s natural defence against danger. When we feel in danger, our bodies flood with hormones to prepare us for dealing with it. Cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine are released, which results in our physical reactions of sweating, increased blood pressure, and alertness that we feel when stressed. Otherwise known as the fight or flight response. It’s your body’s way of preparing itself for potentially dangerous or harmful situations.

Cortisol also helps to limit any functions that aren’t essential in a fight-or-flight situation.

Once the threat passes, your hormones return to their usual levels. This whole process can be a lifesaver. But when you’re under constant stress, this response doesn’t always turn off. Long-term exposure to cortisol and other stress hormones can wreak havoc on almost all of your body’s processes, increasing your risk of many conditions from heart disease and obesity to anxiety and depression.

Did you know that people who put themselves under constant pressure are three more times likely to suffer a cardiac arrest!

OK, science lesson over. 

Whilst stress can often be caused by having too much to do in too little time, there are many other reasons why we feel stress: 

  • When we experience something new 
  • Having little control over a situation 
  • Experiencing something unexpected 
  • A build-up of pressure 
  • Feeling unable to cope 
  • Having overwhelming responsibilities 
  • Going through a period of uncertainty 

These reasons are often caused by more specific stressors, such as family life, financial strains, complicated relationships, and of course, the number one stressor: work. 

Workplace stress 

Stress at work is something that most of us face. It is often the very few and very lucky (!) people who don’t. Since we have certain expectations in the workplace, we can feel under pressure to fulfil these expectations, and when we feel as though we cannot live up to them, we get stressed. 

Other than this, the main causes of workplace stress are:

  • Lack of job security
  • Conflicts with colleagues 
  • Unattainable targets 
  • Demanding management 
  • Constant change 
  • Lack of support 
  • Toxic organisational culture

All of which can lead to: 

  • Fatigue
  • Reduced productivity 
  • Illness 
  • Lack of motivation 
  • Hopelessness 
  • Increased absenteeism 
  • Disinterest 

…and many more.  

Why women feel more stressed at work than men

In the current world, we live in, almost everyone has experienced workplace stress and has teetered or gone over the edge into burnout. However, studies have shown that professional women are more likely to experience work-related anxiety and stress than men.

Is this a surprise? Let’s explore some of the reasons behind this.

More responsibility 

Furthermore, a study conducted by UK health and safety consultancy, Arinite, discovered women are 1.5 times more likely to suffer stress in the workplace. This was across the board but this pressure peaks between the ages of 35-44, when women are more likely to juggle a whole host of other responsibilities e.g., family. In addition, women are more likely to say yes to tasks even if they do not lead to promotion. Society has conditioned women to be compliant and more cautious than men. 

Can you see the picture starting to show? Not saying “no” equals heavier workloads and a higher chance for stress and burnout.

Sexism in the workplace

Women experience gender discrimination for numerous reasons whether that be sexual harassment, being paid less, or being demoted. One report discovered that 2 in 3 women have experienced some form of sexual harassment at work with an additional report showcasing that 7 in 10 disabled women surveyed on the topic of sexual harassment say they have been sexually harassed at work. 

The Gender Pay Gap

The Government’s Gender Pay Gap 2021 showed that for every £1 earned by a man, women were paid 90p. The Office of National Statistics also showcased that the gender pay gap increased by 0.9% in 2021 rising from 7.0% to 7.9%. 

Furthermore, a study discovered whilst all companies with an organisation with 250 or more employees are required to file a gender pay gap report, this number has fallen from 9,000 to 8,200. 

To tackle this, open communication between employees and employers should be the norm. Workers should feel comfortable opening up to their bosses about their feelings, when they are overwhelmed and when they feel as though they cannot cope with the work piling up. 

After all, at least 12 million working days are lost each year in the UK to work-related stress, so steps should be taken to facilitate the positive attitudes of your employees. 

How to manage stress 

There are plenty of practical steps you can take to manage your stress. Here are a few examples:

  • Exercise regularly – a daily 15min walk can do wonders
  • Breathing exercises 
  • Eating well 
  • Taking regular breaks throughout the day 
  • Making time for hobbies 
  • Meditation 
  • Getting organised through tick lists and stricter agendas 
  • Get enough sleep 

These are just a few examples that you could try as simple daily fixes that will aid your overall well-being and hence reduce your stress levels. What’s important is finding the best method of coping for YOU

Some people feel immediately refreshed after a 20-minute jog in the park, whereas others find sitting in front of a canvas with their paint brushes enough to bring them back to earth. 

The RE3 Effect 

Whilst the practical methods above can be useful in reducing stress, these can often just be a sticking plaster to temporarily cover the wound. 

A method that we swear by is The RE3 Effect, our positive mindset growth coaching framework that helps you find the answers to your challenges.  

Reflect. Reframe. Re-invent. Those are the three Rs. 

We begin by gaining some real self-awareness, which, I’ll warn you can be uncomfortable, but the most effective things happen outside of your comfort zone. Here we can consider some unproductive habits that you may have picked up. 

This nicely leads to reframing, where we can consider how to alter such habits to become positive ones. What’s important is the final step of re-inventing. 

Putting these new outlooks and habits into practice to set the wheels in motion for a more positive mindset – with minimal stress! 

Ready to ditch the stress? 

If you are ready to leave the stress at the door and want to embark on a journey of positive thinking, then you’ve come to the right place. Get in touch for an initial chat which could result in your reinvention. 


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