Avoiding stress at work



It is said that about 65% of the global workforce is stressed, and if we bear in mind that 70% of all illnesses are stress-related, the picture makes for grim reading. Unofficial reports state the levels of stress are even higher amongst expats living and working overseas. Having lived in Moscow for 5 years, I can testify to the fact that Russia is not for everyone. It takes a certain amount of resilience combined with an attitude of flexibility, acceptance as well as an open mind to be successful here. In recent years Russia has become a more popular destination as it climbs up the OECD better life index as a more appealing country in which to live and work.

Working in your native language in your native country is stressful enough, but for those expats looking to forge a career in Russia, the challenge is much greater. They are faced with different workplace practices, differing ethics and approaches as well as a considerable language barrier, especially if they are not fluent in Russian. This is compounded by the added stresses and strains of relocating to a new country, which can make life a bit of struggle.


Stress is just the way we react to any given situation that could be threatening or dangerous. This gives rise to the flight, flight or freeze responses and is entirely normal as it’s the body’s way to protect us and help us to meet challenges, whilst keeping us alert and focused.

This is intended as a temporary state of response to deal with a specific event, after which, the body then reverts to normal. However, if we are ‘stressed’ frequently and we don’t have time to recover or rest, this is when the problems start.


There are 12 of stages that people tend to go through before they burnout completely, which were outlined by psychologist, Herbert Freudenberger. Burnout is really the eventual stage of not dealing with prolonged periods of stress effectively and not taking action in time.

1. The Compulsion to Prove Oneself

The person wants to prove their capabilities in a new working environment.

2. Working Harder

They work harder to fit in to the new culture and prove they can adapt to different working practices.

3. Neglecting Their Needs

They devote everything to work, they now have no time and energy for anything else. Friends and family, eating, and sleeping start to become less important.

4. Displacement of Conflicts

They realise that it’s wrong but cannot/ do not know how to change the situation.

5. Revision of Values

Work is the only important thing and they isolate themselves from others, avoid conflicts, and fall into a state of denial towards their basic physical needs while their perceptions change.

6. Denial of Emerging Problems

The person begins to become intolerant. They become more aggressive and sarcastic. Problems are blamed on the pressure of work and not enough time.

7. Withdrawal

Social contact is now at a minimum, almost isolation. They may start to use alcohol or drugs.

8. Obvious Behavioural Changes

Co-workers, family, friends, and other people that are in their immediate social circles cannot overlook the behavioural changes of this person.

9. Depersonalization

They lose sense of who they are and what they are worth. Life becomes mechanical and without meaning.

10. Inner Emptiness

They feel empty inside and to overcome this, they may engage in excessive amounts of eat, sex, alcohol, or drugs.

11. Depression

The person is exhausted, hopeless, indifferent, and believes that there is nothing for them in the future. Symptoms of depression arise.

12. Burnout Syndrome

They collapse physically and emotionally and should seek immediate medical attention.





1. The first task is to stop whatever it is that you are doing. This really means stop everything and have a good long look at your work and your private life.

2. Clarify your goals. Ascertain which aspects of work are important to you and prioritise your workload. Get clarification about your job description and responsibilities.

3. Talk to someone you respect. Find someone who has been in the same situation, who has moved to Russia and faced similar challenges and see how they managed and dealt with the issues.

4. Ensure that you make time for yourself daily. Looking after your body is as important as looking after your mind. Getting exercise and fresh air will ensure that your body is in a condition that can handle stress more effectively. Taking up yoga or meditation also allows greater clarity of thoughts and can relieve anxiety.

5. Learn to say no. Often when we arrive in a new country and a new company we are so keen to be accepted and to impress that we see saying ‘no’ as a negative, which will reflect badly upon us.

This being said, it is important to remember that stress in small doses is a positive thing. It can help us to find creative solutions, to achieve faster results and to push ourselves past our limits and out of our comfort zone. How we perceive ‘stress’ is key to determining our attitude towards any given stimulus. By developing a greater sense of self-awareness and choosing an attitude of openness and integrity, you will be able to partner with your Russian colleagues and create the type of working environment, which is low in stress, yet high in productivity.