Everyone who has ever had a job has, at some stage or another, felt the pressure of stress at work. All jobs have some stressful parts, even if you really love what you do. In the short term, you might experience some pressure to meet a deadline or to fulfil a challenging task. However, when work stress becomes chronic, it can easily become overwhelming, which is very harmful to both physical and emotional health.
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Long-term stress is common. Work is often given by people as their main source of stress. You can’t always avoid the tensions that happen at work, and there’s only so far that keeping sensory toys like Pop its on your desk can go, although they can help. You can take some steps to better manage stress at work.
Common Sources Of Work Stress
Some factors often come with work-related stress. The most common factors are:
- Low salaries
- Excessive workloads
- Few opportunities for growth or advancement
- Work that isn’t challenging or engaging
- Lack of social support
- Not having enough control over decisions
- Unclear expectations
- Conflicting demands
Effects Of Uncontrolled Stress
Work-related stress won’t just go away when at home-time. When stress lingers, it can take a toll on your health and well-being.
A stressful workplace can contribute to problems like headaches, stomachaches, sleep troubles, short temper, and difficulty concentrating. When stress becomes chronic, it can result in anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system. It can also increase the likelihood of depression, obesity, and heart disease. To make the problem worse, people often turn to bad habits to cope with stress, like smoking, overeating, eating unhealthy food, or using drugs and alcohol.
Taking Steps To Manage Stress
Track your stressors. Keep a journal for a couple of weeks to find which situations create stress for you and how you respond to them. Write down your thoughts, feelings, and information about the environment, including the circumstances and people involved. Include the physical setting and your reaction. Did you raise your voice? Did you get a snack from the vending machine? Did you go for a walk? Taking notes like this can help you to find patterns among your stressors and how you react to them.
Try to develop healthy responses. Instead of fighting stress with fast food or alcohol, try to make a healthier choice when your stress levels are rising. Exercise is an excellent stress-buster. Yoga is one of the best choices but any physical activity can help. Make time for hobbies and favourite activities, whether that’s reading, cycling, going to gigs or playing board games with the family. It’s also important to get enough good-quality sleep. You can build some better sleep habits by limiting your caffeine intake later in the day and cutting back on activities that stimulate the brain, like using a television or computer, at night.
Establish clear boundaries. In today’s digital working world, it can be very easy to feel under pressure to be available 24 hours a day. Establish some clear work-life boundaries for yourself. This could be not checking your work email from home in the evening, or not answering the phone during a family dinner. People will have different preferences when it comes to how they blend their work and home lives, but boundaries between the two can reduce the potential for work-life conflict and the stress that can cause.
Take time to recharge. To avoid chronic stress and becoming burned out, you need to replenish and return to your pre-stress level of functioning. Usually, this requires you to switch off from work, where you have periods of time when you don’t engage in work-related activities or think about work. You need to disconnect occasionally in a way that fits your needs and preferences. Don’t let your vacations days go to waste. Take time off to relax and unwind, so you can return to work feeling refreshed and ready to perform at your best. When you can’t take time off, recharge by turning off your phone on focusing on something outside of work for a while.
Learn how to relax. Techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, and mindfulness (where you actively observe your experiences and thoughts without judging them) can help to reduce stress. Take a few minutes every day to focus on a simple activity like walking, breathing, or eating a meal. The skill of being able to focus with purpose on an activity without distraction will get stronger as you practice, and you will find that you can use this skill in many different areas of your life.
Talk to your supervisor. Employee health has been linked to productivity at work, so your boss should want to create a work environment that promotes well-being. Start by having an open conversation with your supervisor. You don’t want to lay out a list of complaints, but instead, try to come up with an effective plan for managing the stressors that you have identified, so you can perform at your best at work. While some parts of this plan might be designed to help you to improve your skills in areas like time management, other parts might mean finding employer-sponsored wellness resources that you can make use of, your employer clarifying what’s expected of you, getting some resources or support from colleagues, enriching your job to include more meaningful or challenging tasks, or making some changes to your physical workspace to make it more comfortable.
Get some more help. It can be tough to accept help, but if you can, letting trusted friends and family help you can improve your ability to manage stress. Your employer might also have stress management resources available through an employee assistance program, including online information, counselling, and referral to mental health professionals, if you need this. If you continue to feel overwhelmed at work by stress, you might find it helpful to talk to a psychologist, who can help you to better manage stress and change any unhealthy behaviour.