A mad businessman using the unhealthly coping skill of yelling in the workplace

Unhealthy Coping Skills For Stress That Will Stall Your Career

Stress has a way of worming its way into every aspect of our lives. And the workplace is no exception. It might not be as stressful as home life, but it does play a large part in our daily life. A survey paid for by Everest College showed that 83% of U.S. workers suffer from work-related stress. The stress points may vary among industries and different roles, but one aspect that holds true for all is that unhealthy coping skills for stress can stall your career. 

Regardless of what kind of work you do, whether you are an employer or employee, effective stress management isn’t always easy and requires time and practice.


Because we are all unique, what sets you off may not necessarily bother your co-worker in the least even though you are dealing with the same situation. There are, however, some common sources of workplace stress. Let’s look at a few of them:

  • Heavy workloads
  • Tight or unreasonable deadlines
  • Low salaries
  • Issues with co-workers
  • Tedious work or work that isn’t challenging
  • Lack of training
  • Little recognition for satisfactory job performance
  • Few opportunities for growth or advancement
  • Inability to make your own decisions related to your job
  • Downsizing/Job insecurity

I can say without a doubt that throughout my work history, I’ve had to deal with quite a few of these. In fact, as I was listing them, it brought to mind many situations where I felt stressed because of them. How about you?

When working through these conditions, we must handle them with healthy coping skills. Because if we don’t, instead of relieving any stress we are feeling, unhealthy coping strategies often leads to complications and higher stress levels.

Look below and see if you can identify any unhealthy coping skills you might use while encountering stress.


1. Difficulty Communicating

Becoming easily frustrated when stressed can hinder effective communication. When emotions are high, people can have difficulty choosing the right words to express things appropriately. It’s also easy for them to misunderstand the other person’s intentions or misinterpret what is trying to be communicated to them.

2. Over-reacting or under-reacting

Over-reacting or under-reacting are self-defense mechanisms used when someone feels out of control or overwhelmed in a situation—for example, lashing out when things don’t go their way. Their justification is that maybe if they yell or cause an uproar, it will quickly resolve the problem. Obviously, this is not an appropriate or effective response to stress.

Conversely, under-reacting isn’t effective either. If you tend to stuff your feelings down, chances are good you will run into the same negative situations repeatedly. Under-reacting also puts you at risk of being taken advantage of because you haven’t set boundaries.

3. Substance abuse (smoking, alcohol or drugs, etc.)

Unfortunately, this unhealthy coping skill is all too common. Using any substance to numb your emotions is an unhealthy and potentially dangerous coping mechanism. It might provide immediate relief to the stress you are feeling. However, your work performance will be negatively affected in the long term. It could lead to addiction, depression, and other health problems.

4. Aggression

It can be natural and even healthy to feel angry when warranted. However, destructive behavior (verbal abuse, harassment, manipulation, etc.) will damage your relationships, physical health, and career. It’s essential to manage the stress and appropriately deal with your feelings.

5. Avoiding the problem/situation

“Sticking your head in the sand” or burying your feelings is not a healthy way to manage stressful situations. It might give you a few minutes of reprieve but eventually creates more negative emotions leading to more frustration, lack of motivation, and discouragement.


Most people who procrastinate don’t want to or set out to procrastinate but resort to it as a bad habit. The reasons can be varied. For example, fear of failure, feeling overwhelmed, perfectionism, unpleasant tasks, unseen rewards, etc.

High levels of procrastination are associated with lower salaries, shorter durations of employment, and a greater likelihood of being unemployed or underemployed rather than working full‐time.

Change your reactions to stress.

As I’ve said before, you won’t always avoid the kind of stresses that occur on the job. However, what you can avoid is falling back on unhealthy coping skills that will stall your career. By having good coping skills in place or working with an anxiety coach to discover and master new ways to handle stress, you can begin to change your behavior. By controlling your reactions to stress, you can expect to be more successful in your career.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. The easiest way to start taking control of your anxiety is to take the FREE 5-Day Anxiety Detox Challenge. If you would like more personalized support, I invite you to contact me or make an appointment online. Numerous coping skills are healthy and helpful. Working together, let’s figure out which type of coping skill is likely to work best for you in your situation.

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