Do you leave work feeling completely drained? Do you lose sleep thinking about all of your to-dos for the next day? Are you regularly ready to pull your hair out? If this sounds like you or someone you are close to, then you know firsthand that work-related stress spills over into your personal life and impacts your emotional well-being and physical health.
Our culture promotes hard work, achievement and success in the workplace. The pressure to produce results can be a short-term event like a big project deadline or a chronic situation like those that many people experience in the helping professions. In either case, work stress is a major determining factor of our quality of life and that’s a topic that is worth talking about.
There are numerous studies that show that many people feel extremely stressed at work. Research indicates that between 30 – 40% of American workers report feeling frequently stressed or burned out due to their jobs. These statistics may not be alarming to many people who think that work-related stress is just the norm. But the consequences on our collective health and well-being are very high and need to be taken seriously.
The fact is that we probably won’t be able to eliminate stress altogether. However, we can learn ways to better manage the stress we do experience so we can live happier and more joyful lives, at home and at work.
What Causes Stress at Work?
What causes stress for one person may not necessarily cause stress for another person. No matter what your job responsibilities are, there are some common themes when it comes to what stresses people out in the workplace. Some of the most prevalent stressors for American workers include:
- Difficult coworkers or supervisors
- Limited opportunities for growth
- Unclear expectations
- Low pay
- Long hours
- Lack of recognition or support
- Criticism from supervisors
- Dangerous or uncomfortable work conditions
- Job insecurity
Warning Signs of Work-Related Stress
Stress can have a range of physical and emotional effects that vary from mild mood changes to very severe physical issues that can result in hospitalization or worse. If you are unsure if you are being impacted by stress, you may not be recognizing some of the mind and body changes that frequently occur when we are experiencing high levels of stress.
Do you experience any of these common signs and symptoms of stress?
- Body aches or pains
- Cold sweats
- Difficulty breathing
- Frequent illnesses like colds, headaches or stomachaches
- Rashes or itchiness
- Panic attacks
- Changes in appetite
- Sleeplessness or increased tiredness
- Racing thoughts
- Mood changes
- Drug or alcohol use
- Increases in risky behavior
Ways to Deal with Work Stress
The first step is to pinpoint the primary causes of your stress at work. Once you determine the top stressors, you can begin to identify the best strategies for dealing with and managing them. Here are some proven techniques that have helped many people manage their stress in positive and healthy ways. If you find that your stress is impacting your health in a negative way, you should always contact a medical professional.
Treat your body well.
When we feel healthy and strong, we are better able to handle stressful situations. Eating well and maintaining a regular routine of exercise and self-care will help keep your mind clear and your body energized. If you aren’t sleeping well or sleeping enough, explore using various natural sleep aids like essential oils or melatonin.
Establish a positive morning routine.
Start the day with a set of morning rituals that provide you with calm, positivity, strength or whatever it is that you need to manage your day. You can tailor your routine to your personal preferences, but many people choose to include things like meditation, exercise, reading, stretching, journaling or walking outdoors.
Get clarity on your job description and responsibilities.
One of the largest sources of work stress is confusion around responsibilities and expectations. It is not uncommon for workers to take on too much work when they aren’t sure of their job requirements – or they are expected to always go above and beyond by their supervisors or coworkers. Schedule time with your boss to discuss how you can be most successful in your role.
Resolve any conflicts (and avoid them altogether).
Conflict at work not only causes stress but it can create a toxic work environment that is unpleasant for everyone in the office. Make an attempt to resolve any current conflicts and decide to avoid future issues. This may mean establishing a strong set of boundaries with coworkers around job responsibilities, communication and social interaction.
Get yourself organized.
When you are feeling stressed, it can be easy to become disorganized in your work and life. Carve out some time to organize your calendar or make a list of your must-dos for the following day. There are plenty of books available that provide great resources and ideas for getting organized, managing your time and being more efficient in your work.
How do you manage stress? Share your tried-and-true strategies with us in the comments!