CBT for Work-Related Stress

Stress, of the right kind, at the right time and of the right amount, can help you achieve your objectives by stimulating thought and creativity, and providing the energy boost to improve performance. But if you find you’re being adversely affected by chronic stress, at my City-based private practice I specialise in using CBT to put you back in control.

What is Stress?

Stress at work is something we all experience to a degree, and at manageable levels it can sharpen our attention, help us to stay motivated and energise us to get things done. But as most of us are aware these days, too much stress can be harmful, putting us under both physical and emotional strain, with chronic stress potentially leading to sickness and depression. Stress is the activation of the body’s ‘flight or fight’ system. When our brain tells our body that it perceives a danger, the body reacts by producing larger amounts of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. While this short-burst rush of energy and increased vigilance served our ancestors well, it’s not helpful with modern, more chronic daily stressors.

What Causes Stress?

We can experience stress when we think the challenges within a situation overwhelm our ability to cope, and this perceived loss of control is one of the main underlying causes of stress. Recent client examples include:
  • High levels of responsibility without appropriate support
  • Lack of clarity in what is being asked of them
  • Limited say over their role
  • Volume of work exceeding time available but no one wants to hear it
  • Type of work required is outside their skill set
  • Chronically unstable work environment
  • Bullying from an internal or external person/body
  • Not meeting expectations, despite a sense that requests are unrealistic

Symptoms of Stress

Physical symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension
  • Changes in sleep
  • Appetite up or down
  • Dizzy spells
  • Skin rashes
  • Chest pain

Behaviours can include :

  • Socially withdrawing and avoiding situations we would usually enjoy
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Eating/drinking/smoking more
  • Anger outbursts
  • Tearfulness
  • Nervous habits such as nail biting

We may feel:

  • Overwhelmed
  • Despairing
  • Agitated
  • Anxious
  • Low


“Not taking control of the situation and doing nothing will only make your problems worse”

Professor Sir Cary Cooper, Psychologist, author & leading expert on stress & wellbeing

What are the benefits of CBT for stress?

Discover your patterns of thinking that trigger a stress response 

When it comes to getting through each workday with less stress, reframing our perspective can play a significant role in reducing tension and anxiety. Our emotions start with our interpretation of events – it’s not so much the facts that drive what we feel, it’s what we think about the event. The idea here is to be able to recognise themes that come up again and again, to challenge the thoughts and words you use to describe stress-inducing situations, and to recalibrate your emotional reactions to them. Begin by getting a notebook and writing down these thoughts, thus kickstarting the process of ‘thinking about thinking’.

Learn more helpful coping strategies:

Most of us know that delegation, learning to say no, taking appropriate responsibility and setting realistic deadlines would help the situation. So if you’re already doing those things, try these too:

  • Stay engaged in what replenishes. Very often the first things we give up are those that nourish us the most but seem ‘optional.’ The result is that we are increasingly left with only work or other stressors that often deplete us and exhaustion is the result. So make sure you stay in touch with friends, go to football practice, carry on with learning to play the guitar etc. Whatever it is for you, keep doing it, as these ‘top-up your tank’ and keep burnout at bay.
  • Many of us we buy into the illusion that we are capable of doing all of the things that are asked of us within the timeframe given. The first step is to reassess what our capacity is. Make a list of up to 15 tasks and accept that those few items at the bottom of the list are not only unlikely to ever be completed in the course of the day, but the truth of the matter is, they may not need to be done at all. The challenge comes in letting these go.
  • When you feel out of control in a situation, curb your stress levels by reminding yourself of what you can control. Ask yourself what concrete actions, small or large, you can take to improve a particular situation – even if you feel powerless, you can always control at least your own reactions.


For an effective, tailored approach to managing your individual stresses, act sooner rather than later and contact me.  



Overcoming Stress by Lee Brosan and Gillian Todd