Excessive work stress might feel like a natural, yet unfortunate, part of being a working adult. However, studies suggest it’s not natural, or something you’re built to deal with. It’s something you should actively reduce.
What Is Work Stress and How Can Work Stress Affect My Life?
There’s no doubt about it, the effects of Work Stress can be detrimental to your mental health, your physical health, and your relationships, are real. In fact, it’s so real and so undertreated, the long-term effects are getting worse – specifically in American adults.
According to the American Institute of Stressover the last couple of decades “increased levels of job stress as assessed by the perception of having little control but lots of demands have been demonstrated to be associated with increased rates of heart attack, hypertension, and other disorders.”
The link is so significant that Psychology Todayconsiders whether employers are violating Human Rightswhen they ignore the wellbeing of their employees by putting unrealistic demands and extensive stress on their employees.
Work stress can disrupt your mental health, your physical health, and your relationships in very real ways. That’s why you shouldn’t just push through. You should actively identify and reduce it. In this post, I will show you how to do that – even if it’s just with one small step.
THE PHYSICAL OF WORK STRESS INCLUDE:
· Exhaustion and fatigue
· Muscular aches/tension and Joint Pain
· Irregular sleep patterns
· Changes in appetite and/or weight (increase or decrease)
· Gastrointestinal issues (i.e., diarrhea or constipation)
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL SYMPTOMS OF WORK STRESS INCLUDE:
· Anxiety, agitation, or restlessness
· Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
· Feelings of worthlessness, fixation on past failures, or self-blaming
· Difficulty with handling uncertainties
· Preoccupation with worry that something dire will happen
THE BEHAVIORAL SYMPTOMS OF WORK STRESS INCLUDE:
· Aggression, mood swings and/or irritability
· Interpersonal relationship issues
· Low tolerance of frustration and impatience
· Loss of interest or motivation
· Isolation (often missing work)
· Poor work performance
4 WAYS IN WHICH YOU CAN LIMIT STRESS AT WORK:
1. What can you do to reduce your stress levels at work?Take a moment to think, create, and implement a stress-reduction plan for yourself. How can you manage your workload?
2. What can people at your work do to lessen your stress?Meet and discuss your concerns with your supervisor, employer, or human resource manager and talk about it. I know it’s difficult, but it’s a priority.
3. You’ll have to prioritize. Organize yourself by making a list of your tasks in the order of priority. Check with your supervisor or employer as to what tasks takes priority. Your health is the first priority and that means not everything on the task list at work should take preference.
4. You’ll have to actively take breaks. Schedule a time to take a 15-minute break; one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Odds are, if you’re here, you’re feeling the effects of Work Stress in your life to some extent or another. That also means you’ve taken the first most significant step in reducing Work Stress, by identifying it. Next up is actively introducing ways to reduce it.
Work Stress is really complicated to deal with and ideally, it’s not something you should work through alone. I strongly suggest you connect with a therapist. If it’s not for you, you don’t need to commit. If therapy is not for you, here are some small steps that’ll help you to reduce your Work Stress.
HOW TO MANAGE LIMITED WORK-RELATED ANXIETY:
If you’re not suffering from serious work-related stress or work-related depression, managing your anxiety is a good place to start.
1. Get an adequate amount of sleep. “Too little sleep affects mood, contributing to irritability and sometimes depression.” (Harvard Health Publishing, “Tips for beating anxiety to get a better night’s sleep”)
2. Make time for good food. Jessica Shelton shared Godfrey’s advice that “The most important dietary change for anyone who has anxiety to make is to plan meals around whole foods, lowering or eliminating the number of processed foods including sweets and snack foods.” (Shelton, J., “8 Foods that Help with Anxiety and Stress”)
3. Find time to do something active. “According to some studies, regular exercise works as well as medication for some people to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and the effects can be long lasting.” (Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “Exercise for Stress and Anxiety”)
4. Don’t opt alcohol or tobacco as a stress-reliever. It has been found that “alcohol or pot may help you cope with stress or anxiety in the short term. But over time, this strategy can backfire – especially if you are using it to cover up or escape from anxiety or other difficult feelings. If fact, research shows that this quick-fix method to self-medicate actually makes things worse, and puts you at greater risk of alcoholism and other problems with substance abuse.” (Anxiety Canada, “Alcohol, Drugs, and Anxiety”)
HOW TO WORK THROUGH SERIOUS WORK STRESS OR WORK-RELATED DEPRESSION:
Depression is really a difficult mental health illness to work through and solve independently, but help isn’t far away if you are open to seeing a therapist. However, if that’s not for you, here are a few suggestions that might alleviate some emotional stress at your work:
1. Stop and examine if your current position makes you feel motivated to come into work every day.
2. Be honest in your self-examination on whether or not your work environment is a healthy place; is there bullying, discrimination, poor project practices, unclear guidance, and/or poor work conditions (i.e., lack of breaks).
3. Personalize your workspace by bringing in personal items, such as pictures, plants, etc. Being in a cubicle can make one feel boxed in and isolated.
4. Take short body breaks throughout the day to help you unwind and refocus.
If you have tried some of these things but you’re still experiencing work-related stress, anxiety, and/or depression, despite your best efforts, it might be time to consider:
· a career change
· seeking professional therapeutic counseling
HOW TO FIND A THERAPIST WHO SPECIALIZES IN WORK-RELATED STRESS, ANXIETY, AND DEPRESSION
Here are 4 key indicators a therapist is equipped to support you with your work stress:
1. Your therapist should provide you a safe space for you to explore and process your thoughts and emotions.
2. Your therapist should offer you practical communication skills and emotional tools to help you navigate your day-to-day stress and relationships at work. These should include tools like effective communication skills, conflict resolution skills, and emotional regulation tools.
3. Your therapist, based on their assessment, should make use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to focus and explore irrational or unhelpful cognitive thought patterns you fall into. This will help you develop problem-solving skills to actively reduce your work stress.
4. Your therapist, based on their assessment, should make use of Solution-Focused Therapy to assist you in creating some coping strategies.
If you feel that your work-related stress, anxiety, and/or depression is impacting your personal life and relationships, give me a call or schedule an appointment by sending me an email. I’ll get back to you in 24-hours.