Signs that stress may be a problem

Stress can be both good and bad. In small doses, it can help us become motivated and be more decisive. In the long term, however, elevated stress levels can impact both physical and mental health.

People react to stress differently however there are some common signs, as shown in the illustration below, which may indicate stress is becoming a problem that needs to be addressed. Being aware of these signs can help individuals to take control and self-manage their stress, and also recognise when it may be time to seek support.


Work-related stress

Work-related stress arises when perceived work demands and pressures of various types and combinations are not matched to people’s capacity and capability to cope. In addition to the physical signs shown in the illustration, symptoms may include a drop in work performance.

Work-related stress is often made worse when employees feel they have little backing from managers and/or colleagues, or little control over it causes. That’s why it’s important to look out for those around you who may be showing signs of stress and seek to address work processes in an open, honest and constructive way. Try asking them: “Are you okay?”, which can be a soft but effective way to start a supportive conversation.

What next?

If you, a colleague, or an employee is experiencing signs and symptoms of stress over time, it’s important not to ignore them. While a GP or an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) provider is a good place to start for individual advice, work-related stress is also a management issue. Workplaces need to take steps to ensure employees are not subjected to unnecessary stress as it poses a significant health and safety risk.


State Government of Victoria. Better Health Channel. Work-related stress [Online; last updated June 2012; accessed May 2016] Available from:

Victoria State Government. WorkSafe Victoria. What is stress? [Online; accessed May 2016] Available from:

World Health Organization. Stress at the workplace [Online; accessed May 2016] Available from: