How Stressed Are We At Work and What Can We Do About It?

Work life can be incredibly stressful. Whether you’re gunning for a raise or promotion, or simply concerned about your performance in general, stress can invade and affect you in unexpected ways. It doesn’t matter if you are a surgeon or an IT specialist, stress just comes with the territory of holding down any job. While stress can be helpful in certain situations, spurring innovation and generating urgency to meet deadlines, too much is harmful. Learning to manage your work-related stress is necessary for long-term success.

Work Stress

Work-related stress negatively impacts both employees and the companies that employ them. For employees, the side effects of stress can manifest in both physical and psychological symptoms, ranging from general irritability and anger to chronic fatigue and headaches. For companies, the negative impacts of workplace stress on their employees tend to be financial in nature due to higher healthcare costs for stressed employees and potential profit lost by underperforming and unengaged employees.

Not only can stress cause you to underperform at work, but if the stress is bad enough it can cause you to miss work altogether, cutting into your wages and generating even more stress and anxiety. While it is a good idea to take breaks every once in awhile in the form of a vacation, missing out on work simply because you’re feeling stressed can be counterproductive. Learning how to successfully manage stress caused by your work not only impacts your mental and physical health, but your financial health as well.

Common causes of work related stress include low salaries, excessive workloads, a lack of opportunity for advancement within the company, and a scarcity of social support within the workplace. Work that isn’t engaging or interesting to you can also lead to stress, as does conflicting demands or unclear performance expectations from your higher-ups. All of this can make coping with stress at work challenging, but not impossible.

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It Can be Dangerous

The stress you experience at work can do far more than inconvenience you; in fact, stress can lead to very serious medical conditions if not properly addressed. Stress can often go undetected as people tend to underestimate the effects of stress or attribute the negative impact to something else. The ability to identify the stress in your life allows you to deal with it head on, avoiding the majority of the dangerous effects of stress.

Stress can actually weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to illnesses of any variety. Aside from physical illness, stress can also lead to depression, which can compound the negative effects of stress and bury you deeper until it feels like it’s impossible to lift yourself out of it. A few signs that your job might be causing you emotional or physical harm are either a lack of or too much sleep, extreme weight loss or gain, an uptick in illness and lengthier recovery times, and a tendency to withdraw from your social life.

Other effects stress can have on your body range from mild discomfort to debilitating mental and physical symptoms. Headaches, muscle and chest pain, fatigue, and chronic upset stomach are all commonly reported in stressed individuals and can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Stress can also lead to general anxiety, restlessness, feeling unnecessarily overwhelmed by small tasks, irritability, depression, and drug or alcohol abuse. While individually these can be managed, when they are all bundled together it can quickly become too much to handle for anyone.

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How to Destress

While we tend to spend more time at work than necessary, that doesn’t mean that we can’t mitigate stress while on the job. Relieving stress at work is important, as it helps to clear your mind and refocus you on the work that needs to be done. This can be as simple as keeping some fun games and toys at your desk to help momentarily distract you from stressful situations at work. Taking short breaks is also a fantastic way to reduce the impact stress has on you, and can give you a chance to unwind before things become too stressful. Listening to music, drawing or coloring, and decorating your workspace are all simple ways to help you to mitigate the stress of your workday.

Outside of work you can employ a whole host of techniques to help manage your stress. Eating right and following a healthy diet can help you to deal with stress from the inside out, making sure to avoid sugars and load up on healthy fats like Omega-3s. Engage in some light meditation or breathing exercises to help calm yourself and focus on the positive.

Our outward appearance is a reflection of how we feel inside, and maintaining a consistent grooming schedule can help to keep you motivated. It doesn’t have to be a chore to take care of your appearance — for men, using an electric shaver is a quick way to improve your image without too much effort. If you’re a woman, improving your image can be as easy as putting your hair up in a bun or ponytail, showing you at least took a minute out of your morning to address your appearance.

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