Coping with job stress: A guide for recent graduates

5 December 2023 dot 5-minute read
Healthy Mind Managing stress First job
Job stress is inevitable, but there are ways to mitigate them. (Credit: Getty Images)
Entering the workforce after university is a significant life transition. It can be an exciting time filled with new opportunities, but it can also bring about its fair share of challenges. One of these is job-related stress, which is common among recent graduates. In this guide, we'll explore what causes stress and provide strategies to help you manage your wellbeing as you embark on your career journey. 

Understanding first job stress

Research from reported high-stress levels among Gen Z and younger millennials as they navigate the early stages of their careers. Understanding the caues of stress can help you manage them effectively. Here are a few common examples:
  • Performance pressure:
  • Striving to excel in a new role can ignite a drive for high performance. However, the pursuit of perfection and a desire to meet performance standards may sometimes cause stress levels that are amplified during the early stages of your career.
  • Adapting to workplace culture:
  • Striving to excel in a new role can ignite a drive for high performance. However, the pursuit of perfection and a desire to meet performance standards may sometimes cause stress levels that are amplified during the early stages of your career.
  • Work-life balance:
  • The desire to excel in a new role often drives an initial eagerness to invest significant time and effort into work. However, this commitment to career success can inadvertently lead to a work-life imbalance, with long hours and intense workloads encroaching on personal time. The struggle to find an equilibrium between professional aspirations and personal life can be inherently stressful, as young professionals grapple with the expectations of the workplace while trying to nurture personal wellbeing.
Time management can reduce stress. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Coping strategies for first job stress

Managing job stress effectively is crucial for a successful transition into the workforce. Here are some practical coping strategies:
  • Time management techniques:
  • According to a Skillshare article, “10 Time Management Methods to Reduce Stress”, efficiently managing your time and setting realistic expectations can help reduce stress. Prioritise tasks, set achievable goals, and allocate time for breaks to recharge.
  • Building effective work relationships:
  • Developing positive relationships with colleagues and supervisors can create a supportive work environment. Seek mentorship and guidance from experienced co-workers. For instance, it could mean seeking guidance from a senior colleague who's been with the company for years. Their mentorship can provide insights into the company's culture and help you navigate your role effectively. This support contributes to a positive work environment and aids your professional growth.
  • ​Relax and disconnect
  • Adapting new lifestyle habits can also effectively reduce stress. Experts recommend setting aside 10-20 minutes a day to engage in stress-releasing activities. Simple actions such as stretching, walking, or meeting a friend for lunch can help ease tension. Taking 30 minutes of “me time” each day can also help calm the mind.
  • Realistic goals and self-motivation
  • At any stage of your career, mastering self-motivation is an important step in managing work stress. Learning to self-motivate can mean setting achievable goals for yourself, finding inspiration in your achievements, and focusing on personal growth. Having self-drive helps you to excel at work and keeps stress levels in check as you feel more in control of your performance and career path.

"Insert small pockets of positive moments that lift your mood every day. These moments can be unexpected, done by others unto ourselves, or deliberate ways we know help us feel a little more relaxed or happier."
Dr Anabelle Chow

Recognising the signs of overwhelming stress

It's important to be aware of the triggers and symptoms of overwhelming job stress. Recognising these indicators early can help you take proactive steps to manage stress effectively. Common signs include:
  • Persistent anxiety:
  • Experiencing ongoing feelings of anxiety or unease related to your job.
  • Physical symptoms:
  • Physical manifestations of stress, such as headaches, sleep disturbances, or digestive issues.
  • Feelings of hopelessness:
  • Persistent feelings of hopelessness or helplessness regarding your job.
  • Difficulty concentrating:
  • Struggling to concentrate, make decisions, or complete tasks due to stress-related distractions.
Familiarising with your commute to work can help you feel more relax. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Additional strategies for a smooth start

In addition to the strategies mentioned, here are some extra tips to ensure a smooth start in your new job:
  • Prepare the night before:
  • Streamline your morning routine by preparing your outfit, planning your route, and having essentials like coffee and lunch ready.
  • Practice your morning commute:
  • Familiarise yourself with your commute to minimise last-minute surprises, especially if you're in a new city or using public transport.
  • Get regular exercise:
  • Incorporating exercise into your routine can alleviate stress and promote overall well-being. Find an activity you enjoy and make it a habit. A Heathline article “How to use exercise as a stress reliever” mentioned that three 10-minute workouts have been shown to be almost as effective as working out for a solid 30 minutes. So, even with a busy schedule you can incorporate exercise to manage stress such as a 10-minute brisk walk or a 15-minute stretch before bedtime.
  • Have patience with yourself:
  • Remember that every job has a learning curve. Be patient as you adapt to your new role, and trust that it will get easier with time and experience.
Starting your career journey is a significant life event. While job-related stress is common, it's manageable with the right strategies and support. By understanding the challenges, you may face and proactively practicing these tips and techniques, you can manage stress effectively and thrive in this new stage of your life.
Joining a wellness programme like AIA Vitality can provide valuable benefits for managing stress. Engaging in activities with like-minded individuals reduces isolation and provides a support network for sharing experiences. The rewards that members receive for achieving health goals serve as a bonus to the social connection they gain from participating in the programme.
10 Time Management Methods to Reduce Stress  10 Time Management Methods to Reduce Stress [online] [Accessed on 23 September 2021]
Evolving employee benefits to address employee stress and widening health protection gaps. (n.d.).  Evolving employee benefits to address employee stress and widening health protection gaps. (n.d.). [online] [Accessed on 23 September 2021]
Madell, R. How to use exercise as a stress reliever. [online] [Accessed on 27 March 2020]

This is general information only and is not intended as financial, medical, health, nutritional or other advice. You should obtain professional advice from a financial adviser, or medical or health practitioner in relation to your own personal circumstances.