Managing Stress At Work Is Essential For Your Health
Workplace stress is a familiar emotion for virtually every working adult across the world, and April is Stress Awareness Month. Stress Awareness Month has been recognized every April since 1992, but this year it seems particularly important. Learning to cope with our stress and finding healthy ways to deal with these situations can go a long way in living a healthy and positive life.
Studies conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) have found that most Americans cite work as a significant source of stress in their life.
You’ve certainly seen memes about it, heard comedians base their monologues on miserable jobs they’ve had, or complained to your friends and family about how stressed work makes you. While a certain amount of workplace stress is normal and can even be a healthy source of motivation, uncontrolled or sustained stress at work can be detrimental to your physical and emotional health.
Managing stress effectively is important because when unchecked stress begins interfering with your daily life, you could be at risk of an anxiety disorder.
What Causes Stress At Work?
Workplace stress can be a dynamic and shifting problem, which is one of the reasons it can be so hard to manage. If the source of your stress is constantly changing, it can be easy to feel like there is no way to deal with it – but there are strategies you can use to help mitigate your stress level.
Some of the most commonly cited reasons that people stress about work:
- Low or insufficient pay
- Excessive or unreasonable workloads
- Few/no opportunities for growth or advancement
- Being bored or unfulfilled with the assigned work
- Lack of social support at work
- Feeling powerless to control working conditions or processes
- Conflicting demands or unclear performance expectations
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the things that may be causing you stress at work. It is also normal if what stresses you out at work changes from day to day or week to week. Some stressors may be seasonal while others remain constant.
Why Excessive Stress Is Bad For Your Health
Some of the physical symptoms and effects of excessive stress include:
- Body aches and pains
- Chest pains, feeling like your heart is racing
- Gastrointestinal issues such as upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
- Difficulty sleeping
- Weakened immune system
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Depression or anxiety
Too much stress at work can have a high emotional cost. Some psychological and emotional effects of excessive work stress are increased forgetfulness, lack of focus, short temper, and even relationship conflicts at home or work.
Tips For Managing Stress At Work
Identify and Track Sources of Stress
Understanding what makes you feel the most stressed is a great start to managing that stress. Try keeping a journal for one to two weeks of everything that stresses you out, including times of day, events that happen, and the people involved. Once you’ve tracked your stress over a period of time, you’ll be able to identify patterns and build solutions tailored to those findings.
Practice Mindfulness and Meditation
While meditation may call to mind images of new-age shenanigans, it’s actually a scientifically proven method for reducing stress. According to the APA, metastudies of mindfulness meditation show that it is effective in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) has been found to be particularly effective in helping reduce stress and depression. This style of therapy combines mindfulness practices and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Studies have shown that people who participate in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy are less likely to participate in negative thought cycles in times of high stress.
Mindfulness and meditation can be practiced individually at home using training videos or apps, or as a group activity in wellness centers, yoga studios, and therapist’s offices.
Change what you can, forget the rest
Once you have taken the time to maintain a “stress journal” for a week or two, you will be better prepared to make changes. Focus on what you can change and which solutions may be available for you.
Start by talking with your direct supervisor or Human Resources. There is significant evidence that links employee health to their productivity and overall engagement, so it is in your company’s best interest to work with you on providing a healthy and functional work environment, within the scope of their capacity. Remember, this conversation is not meant to be a list of complaints, but rather a positive, solutions-oriented conversation.
Try to position your requests as “here’s how you can help me help you.”
Take Time To Recharge
Managing stress at work can be much harder if you never get the chance to fully disconnect from it. For many workers, the boundaries between work life and home life have blurred substantially during the pandemic and our “new normal” is here to stay.
Your free time is your time. Don’t feel obligated to sacrifice your evenings or weekends if it isn’t required. You will be happier and healthier if you take the time to rest, pursue your hobbies and passions, exercise, and enjoy a full life outside of work.
Learning to set (and stick to) boundaries is an important part of recharging. Be polite but firm with your work hours, especially from your computer or cell phone. It is not necessary to reply to emails or texts immediately when they come in, especially if doing so is a stress trigger for you.
Learn Healthy Coping Mechanisms and Stress Management With CBT
Stress is, above all else, an internal reaction to external stimuli.
That means that you can learn how to better react to these situations, and experience less stress overall. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is an effective tool for learning new self talk and healthy coping mechanisms to better handle stressful situations.
Learning how to talk to yourself is one of the most valuable gifts that you can give yourself. Healthy internal dialogue is a critical factor in career and interpersonal success. CBT is a highly effective tool and widely researched tool for treating anxiety, depression, and stress.
When Does Stress Turn Into Anxiety?
Acute stress is a short-term stressor that goes away quickly. Examples of acute stress are when you have to slam on the brakes to avoid a crash, the moments and hours before a big presentation or meeting, or the butterflies you feel meeting someone new for the first time.
Chronic stress is a stress that lasts for a longer period of time, such as when you’re having ongoing trouble at work or school. Excessive worry or stress about multiple issues which lingers six month or more can indicate an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is a stress that continues long after the stressor is gone.
Stress vs. Anxiety
- A response to an external cause such as a job interview, big meeting, or project deadline.
- Goes away once the situation is resolved.
- Can be positive or negative. For example, it may inspire you to meet a deadline or it may cause you to lose sleep.
- Generally is internal, meaning it’s your reaction to stress.
- Usually involves a persistent feeling of apprehension or dread that doesn’t go away and interferes with day-to-day life.
- Is constantly there, even if there is no immediate threat.
Keep in mind that both stress and anxiety can affect your mind and body. You can experience physical and psychological symptoms such as headaches, high blood pressure, loss of sleep, and uneasiness.
Novum Psychiatry Can Help
If you are concerned that your stress level is affecting your day-to-day life, Novum Psychiatry has mental health providers who can help.
Novum Psychiatry serves Sudbury, Plainville, and surrounding communities. Our highly-trained psychiatrists and therapists offer a comprehensive and confidential approach to private, outpatient therapy and psychiatric care. Whether this is your first time seeking help or if you are seeking a new provider, Novum Psychiatry can help.