The Role of Occupational Therapy in Stress Management
calendar icon December 5th, 2019
author icon Seth Sobel
The Role of Occupational Therapy in Stress Management

My heart is pounding. I’m achy. I’m exhausted. My thoughts are completely scattered, much like the files and coffee cups on my desk.


“You need to relax, work stress is perfectly normal,” is what others would tell me. Most people look forward to the end of the work day so they can go home and relax. I, on the other hand, dread it. All I can think about is the never ending to-do list waiting for me at home.


Why can’t I seem to manage the things that everyone else seems to find so simple? I feel like I am barely able to keep my head above water while everyone else is swimming past me. How am I supposed to balance it all? How will I get through the rest of the day?


Let’s set the facts straight!


It comes as no surprise that we all experience stress at some point in our lives. In fact, 73% of all working adults between the ages of 20-64 report some level of stress. Furthermore, 1 in 4 Canadians report stress as the reason for leaving their jobs (Statistics Canada).


Stress is systemic; we all experience it in our daily lives. What differentiates good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress) is how we choose to think about it, feel it and respond to it. When we harness stress for the good, it energizes us, it nurtures positivity and it can help us develop great coping mechanisms. When we don’t combat bad stress, it beats us down to our core, and significantly impacts our ability to complete seemingly simple tasks.


How can Occupational Therapists help manage my stress?


Occupational therapists help to solve the problems that interfere with our ability to do the things that are important to us – everyday things like:

  • Self-care (eating, personal hygiene, getting dressed)
  • Being productive (going to work, grocery shopping, paying the bills)
  • Leisure activities (sports, gardening, social activities) 


Stress has no boundaries. When stress gets the best of us, it can impact all areas of function. And this is where Occupational Therapists come in. We are trained to help support people to regain function in the various areas of life.


The Canadian Association of Occupational Therapy upholds that occupational performance is the result of the dynamic interaction between the person, environment and the occupation – when one changes, everything else is affected and performance changes. Occupational Therapy is unique in that it take a holistic approach to health and wellness. When an Occupational Therapist sees an individual suffering from chronic stress, they don’t just look at individual factors, rather, they look at the interaction between the person, their environments and their occupations.


Here are just 10 of the ways Occupational Therapy can help manage stress:

  • Support with developing behavioural adaptations.
  • Intervene with mindfulness-based, stress-reduction techniques.
  • Provide training of energy conservation for those experiencing chronic fatigue.
  • Provide strategies and exercises for chronic pain management.
  • Cognitive restructuring to reduce reflection on negative thoughts.
  • Help identify strategies that distract or self-soothe an individual when they are feeling stress symptoms.
  • Provide recommendations for environmental modifications.
  • Facilitate and assist with return-to-work planning.
  • Develop a work-hardening program to minimize the risk of relapse.
  • Functional and cognitive job coaching to provide strategies in real life situations.


Want to learn more about the role of Occupational Therapy in managing stress in the Workplace?


PSHSA is hosting a webinar on Sensory Processing and Management of Chronic Stress in the Workplace on Thursday, December 19, 2019 from 12:00-1:00 pm. In this webinar we will discuss the sensory system, how to identify our own sensory needs and ways in which workers can identify stressors and take steps to better self-regulate sensory-related challenges.


Want to learn more about the role of Occupational Therapy in Occupational Health and Safety? We want to hear from YOU. Contact us by email at



Manager, Occupational Therapy

Public Services Health & Safety Association