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Workplace Stress - are you hitting a 'bum' note?

I’ve come face to face with the harsh realities of work place stress again. It’s ugly. I’ve had my fair share of anxiety & stress during my 30's, but this time I watched it consume and spit out my 21 year old nephew. It made me ask the question how do we manage to hit a 'bum' emotional note?

He’d been promoted from a job he knew like the back of his hand to a more managerial position. Although he was technically being ‘trained’ it lacked structure and clarity. This didn’t stop the caveman urge to climb mountains, swim seas and generally try to impress the boss (and his colleagues).

I’m talking:

  • Getting in early (7am instead of 8am)

  • Leaving late (8pm instead of 6pm)

  • Not having breaks (mid-morning or afternoon)

  • Not having lunch (…literally no food)

  • Endless cups of coffee, espressos & energy drinks

  • No water

Saying ‘yes’ to the extra work being put on the plate …when you actually mean ‘f*** off’

Something had to give, as he’d also started sleeping badly, feeling anxious and feeling out of control. I guess we could call it an emotional & psychological burn-out? But as it developed over a short period of 3 weeks, all I can say for sure is the mini-breakdown or burn-out was inevitable.

This is what happens to the human emotional machine when we push ourselves hard for long periods of time without clearly knowing ….......what the hell the solutions are or what we’re meant to be doing!

Plus depending on whether we give ourselves the necessary high-grade fuel, water and self-care the inevitable might be +3 months instead of 3 weeks. However we all have an upper limit and our mind and bodies are masters at letting us know. I call it mind- body intelligence and its really efficient at ‘taking us out of the game!’


So is there an antidote? Well the good news is yes there is.

Feeling out of control and inadequate or incompetent are not places you want to visit too often

As it spirals quickly into fear which triggers acute stress & anxiety symptoms, and a flood of negative automatic self-talk.


1. Recognise your own stress responses sooner rather than later. Anything that is out of the ordinary e.g. not sleeping well or too much - loss or increase in appetite - racing thoughts - inability to turn-off and relax etc.

2. Check-in with your thoughts regularly. Are they positive and generating creating good feelings? Or negative and generating a sense of dread, apprehension, worry and fear etc. Negative mental thoughts will have physical sensations such as, racing heart, headaches, tummy problems, tense muscle, sweating etc.

3. Be kind to your mind and your body. Look after it. (Unless you have a spare body hanging up in the wardrobe), give it water (the average body is 75% water and the brain needs fluids to focus and think straight), provide sensible fuel during the day.

Would you drive your expensive Lamborghini or Rolls Royce for weeks on end with no fuel, water or service check?

4. Maintain friendships at work and outside of work with friends & family. Not only could this maintain a good work/life balance, it also gives others the opportunity to highlight when you are not seeming yourself.

5. Avoid over-dosing on caffeine; it can stay in your system for + 6 hours. Symptoms include feeling restless (‘wired’), anxious/ panicky, increased heartbeat, rambling thoughts/ speech etc.

6. Introduce some balance and be ‘sensible’. We need down-time, we need to relax and play! So take care of your mind, it’s the only one you’ve got …because sometimes the damage cannot be easily reversed

7. Finally visit your Doctor /medical practitioner or a qualified therapist if you are worried about your emotional state, and encourage friends to do likewise



Karen has experienced a somewhat varied and interesting professional life.

Starting out with a Degree in Chemistry & Business, Karen then ventured into the world of celebrity, working in Fashion & Music Promotion, running an R&B newsletter in the 90's - interviewing many unknown artistes including "Beyonce" (now a global superstar).

Karen then went on to complete her Psychotherapy & CBT Therapy Diploma and has since then spent 7 years as a College Counsellor, working within Higher Education, helping young people with emotional issues. For the last 4 years she has been in private practice offering Coaching / Therapy and is immensely passionate about the profession.


If you you'd like to get in touch with Karen you can email her at
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