Experiencing stress from your job is normal, and short-term stress can actually help you to be a more productive worker and complete tasks effectively. However, experiencing high levels of long-term stress is harmful.
There have been numerous studies and surveys conducted that have found that prolonged stress can lead to both physical and mental health issues. Therefore, it is incredibly important for your health, sanity and future job performance that you take necessary steps for coping with stress in the workplace.
Common Sources of Stress
No matter what job you have, you are very likely to have experienced stress in some way. There are many common sources of stress, including:
- Excessive amounts of work.
- Limited growth opportunities.
- Low wages or salaries.
- Unclear performance expectations.
- Conflicting demands from superiors or coworkers.
- Negative relationships with superiors or coworkers.
- Work that is boring and unchallenging.
- Work that is high-pressure and overwhelming.
- Disorganized workspaces or projects.
The truth is that everyone deals with the stressors they experience at work in a completely different way. Some people thrive in a work environment that is high-pressure, such as a job in a hospital emergency room. Others perform better in a low-pressure environment instead. However, it should be noted that even a lower-pressure environment can cause some people a lot of stress. Perhaps you do not get along with your coworkers, or you aren’t making enough money to live comfortably. No matter what type of work you do, you need to be mindful of what is causing you stress so that you can work to make changes and cope with those feelings.
Are You Stressed?
If you are experiencing ongoing stress, there are many different symptoms that you may exhibit. A few common stress-related symptoms include the following:
-Behavioral symptoms. This includes changes in your appetite, procrastinating, increased drug or alcohol usage, and exhibiting nervous behaviors such as nail biting or pacing.
-Cognitive symptoms. These symptoms may include racing thoughts, inability to focus, being overly pessimistic and near-constant worrying.
-Emotional symptoms. An emotional symptom may include being moody or easily frustrated, feeling overwhelmed, experiencing low self-esteem, and avoiding interaction with others.
-Physical symptoms. You may also experience physical symptoms such as having low energy, getting sick frequently, experiencing more aches and pains, having more frequent headaches and now being able to sleep.
If you find that you are experiencing any of those symptoms more often than usual, it is important to speak with a health care provider so that you can effectively determine what the causes of those symptoms are, and if they are at all related to stress.
Stress Related Health Issues
Being stressed every so often is not something that you need to be worried about, although chronic ongoing stress can be very detrimental to your health. Excessive stress can aggravate certain health problems, including but not limited to:
- Cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attacks and stroke.
- Obesity and eating disorders.
- Skin and hair issues such as hair loss, acne, eczema and psoriasis.
- Gastrointestinal issues such as gastritis, heartburn and ulcers.
- Sexual dysfunction.
- Menstrual issues.
- Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
Steps to Minimize Work-Related Stress
Again, as mentioned before, regardless of the type of job you have, you likely experience stress, and that is normal. However, if you find that the stress is ongoing and is beginning to impact your job performance, mental and physical health negatively you need to consider the options you have for reducing that stress.
Reducing the stress you experience can be done in a number of different ways. A few examples of things you can do include:
-Understand your stressors. One of the most important things that you can do to help combat stress is to first identify what it looks like. Figure out what it is that is causing you to be stressed and what your responses are to that stress. A good way to determine what is causing you the most amount of stress is to keep a journal to record daily situations so that you can assess what is making you most upset. You should also make note of what your reaction to the stress is to see if you can spot unhealthy behaviors such as yelling or stress eating.
-Create boundaries. Years ago, when a professional went home for the day, he or she was completely disconnected from the office. However, with all of the technology we have today, it is much more difficult to do that. You may feel pressured to be available by phone or email 24/7, but that certainly not healthy, and it can be leading to your high stress levels. Make sure that you set boundaries between your work like and personal life so that you can take the time to relax and recharge.
-Recharge. As mentioned in the section above, it is so important for your health that you fully disconnect from work frequently. There are so many different ways to do this, so it may take some time for you to discover what helps you to switch work “off” and relax. There are a lot of little things that you can do to unwind on a more frequent basis, such as heading to the spa, playing a round of golf, taking a bath or watching your favorite TV show. Additionally, you should also make sure that you do not let your vacation days go to waste – plan a fun trip that will allow you to relax and recharge for a longer period of time.
-Create healthy habits. When you determine what is making you the most stressed, it is also important to pay attention to how you handle that stress. If you find that you are doing things that are not quite healthy, such as getting in frequent arguments or stress eating, make sure that you work to change those behaviors. If you instead decide to do something like take your dog for a walk, talk with a friend or go to the gym, you will likely find that you can deal with the stress much better. Exercise is a great option for coping with stress because it releases endorphins that help you to feel happier, and you are making your body healthier as well.
Find support. Oftentimes, having someone to speak to about the issues going on at work can make all of the difference in how you handle the stress. If you accept help from trusted family members and friends, it can drastically improve your ability to cope with the stress. Or, you may find that
-Make a change. If you are constantly feeling stressed because of your work environment, and the stress is not something that you can simply cope with and move on from, it may be time to make a change. Speak with your supervisor to see if there are changes that can be made so that you are able to work more efficiently. Most supervisors will be happy to make simple changes so that you can be more productive, whether that be providing you with additional training, allowing you to work from a different location, or considering a different position in the company.
If you find that nothing can be done to reduce the stress you experience through your job, and the coping mechanisms you attempt do not help, you may want to consider a career change. Just remember that your mental and physical health must be a top priority, so whatever decisions you make, you need to keep that in mind. Reducing your stress level is very important so take the time to identity your stressors, learn healthy behaviors to cope with the stress and make changes if necessary. Once you have followed those steps, you are on your way to being a much healthier and happier worker.
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