How to manage stress in your first role

Friday 11 October 2019
Don’t give yourself a headache or burn out – spot the signs quickly and combat work-related stress with these tips
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The Oxford English Dictionary defines stress as a “state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.” Meeting a team of strangers while getting inundated with unfamiliar projects and problems does indeed sound “adverse and demanding”. While a first-time job can be exciting, it can also be a uniquely stressful experience.

At normal levels, stress can be a positive thing, encouraging you to focus and engaged with reaching the finish line of your project or task. However, too much stress can have the opposite effect, resulting in long-term mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. It is vital to manage stress properly – so we’ve got a few tips on how to cope with work-related stress and anxiety in your first role.


Exercise has been consistently found to be one of the best means of reducing stress and improving mental health; studies have found that it can reduce fatigue, improve alertness, and enhance overall cognitive function. Through the release of endorphins, physical activity can make you feel more tranquil and at peace. It can also help with the quality of your sleep.

An effective workout doesn’t have to be a gruelling hour after work at an expensive gym, it can simply involve getting off a stop earlier on the way to work, a little jog before bed, or even a lunchtime stroll.


The UK is one of the most sleep-deprived countries, with adults averaging just six hours and 19 minutes a night. Sleep is proven to be crucial to mental acuity, with our volume of sleep directly impacting our ability to solve problems, handle challenges and feel happy during the day.

Getting a full eight hours of sleep a night is easier said than done. You may get into bed at a reasonable time, but actually falling asleep is a different issue. Stress at work has been proven to interfere with people’s ability to sleep, so getting our routine correct can be crucial. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to a good night’s sleep – though you can help yourself by creating transition rituals, clearing your room of devices and clutter, using sleeping apps, exercising before bed, lowering afternoon caffeine consumption or visiting a sleep clinic to give yourself the best chance at getting that hallowed 8 hours.


First-time jobs are both busy and stressful – and that goes hand in hand with poor nutritional choices. It’s often easier to pick up some pre-packaged food than to seek a healthy alternative when we’re in a hurry. A poor diet has been proven to exacerbate stress, through lowering our energy levels, reducing our ability to fight off sickness, and weakening our ability to stabilise blood sugar levels. The most proven successful way of achieving a healthy diet is foresight, and doing a thorough weekly shop and planning your meals can be both rewarding and cost-effective – and have a significant positive impact on workplace stress.


A natural perception exists within a first job that asking questions of a co-worker or boss can be interpreted as a sign of weakness, or even of feeling like you’re pestering your new colleagues. Here at CMI, we don’t agree! The best managers listen. Asking questions actually shows an eagerness to learn and can also avoid the potential of messing up a problem. Asking questions also encourage interactions with co-workers helping to generate relationships and useful rapport, whilst displaying a degree of honesty.

Ultimately, communication is key when dealing with the stress in first-time jobs. Speak to family, friends, or better yet, a career coach or even a professional therapist about stress and anxiety. Sitting on issues or trying to brave them out will not make them go away; communicating honestly is the best way to achieve a productive and worthwhile work experience.

If your first job is feeling overwhelming and you want to speak to someone who knows how you feel, see how CMI Mentoring can help connect you to people who have been in the same boat.

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