Workplace Stress - Symptoms and Solutions
Author: Wendy Taormina-Weiss
Synopsis and Key Points:
Excessive workplace stress has potential to interfere with a persons productivity and have an impact on emotional and physical health.
Main DigestA certain amount of stress in the workplace is something to be expected, although excessive stress has the potential to interfere with a person's productivity, as well as having an impact on their emotional and physical health. Discovering ways to manage workplace stress does not involve make large changes, or pondering your career ambitions, it is more about concentrating on the one thing that is always within your control; yourself.
Workplace Stress - The harmful physical and emotional responses that can happen when there is a conflict between job demands on the employee and the amount of control an employee has over meeting these demands. In general, the combination of high demands in a job and a low amount of control over the situation can lead to stress.
Uncertainty and fear related to the troubled economy can make every worker feel as if they are riding an emotional roller coaster. With budget cuts and layoffs as corporate bywords during hard economic times, workers are experiencing higher levels of stress. Learning new and better ways of coping with the pressures of today's workplace is very important.
A person's ability to manage the stress they experience in their workplace not only has the potential to improve their emotional and physical health, it can also determine their failure or success on their job. The emotions you experience spread to others; the stress you experience does have an impact on the quality of your interactions with other people around you. The better you are able to manage your own stress, the more you will have a positive affect on the people around you, and the stress others experience will have less of an affect on you. There are some different things you can do to reduce the overall stress levels and the stress you experience while at work:
- Learn better communication skills
- Improve your relationships with management and co-workers
- Take steps to improve your own emotional and physical well-being
- Identify negative attitudes and knee-jerk habits that add to the stress you experience
Feeling overwhelmed at work can make a person lose confidence and become both irritable and withdrawn. A decrease in productivity and effectiveness on the job can be the result, and the work itself can seem to be less rewarding. If a person ignores the warning signs of workplace stress it can lead to larger issues such as emotional and physical health problems. The signs and symptoms of workplace stress that has become to excessive can include the following:
- Loss of sex drive
- Social withdrawal
- Problems sleeping
- Stomach problems
- Trouble concentrating
- Muscle tension or headaches
- Using alcohol or drugs to cope
- Apathy, loss of interest in work
- Feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed
Some of the common causes of workplace stress that has become too excessive include the fear of being laid off, additional overtime because of cutbacks in the numbers of staff members, as well as pressures to perform and meet rising expectations without an increase in a persons level of job satisfaction. Another common cause of workplace stress is pressure to consistently work at optimum levels all the time without reprieve.
Ways to Reduce Workplace Stress
If the level of stress at work is interfering with your ability to do your job, is having a negative impact on your health, or is affecting your ability to manage your personal life you need to take action and care for yourself. Begin by paying attention to your emotional and physical health, ensuring that your own needs are taken care of. When your own needs are taken care you are stronger and more able to deal with stress. As you begin to feel better you will have an increased ability to manage workplace stress without feeling overwhelmed.
Fortunately, taking care of yourself is something that does not require a complete overhaul of your lifestyle. Small things have the ability to lift your mood while increasing your level of energy, making your feel more in control. Do things step-by-step, making more positive lifestyle choices, and before you know it you will notice a reduction in the levels of stress you experience at work and at home.
Making good food choices is important. Eating too much can make you feel lethargic, while low blood sugar can make you feel irritable and anxious. Eating small yet frequent meals throughout your day can help you to keep your blood sugar at an even level while avoiding mood swings.
Make sure you get enough sleep. Stress and worry have the ability to cause insomnia, yet a lack of sleep can leave you open to even more stress! When you get enough sleep it is far easier to maintain your emotional balance - something that is key to your ability to cope with workplace stress.
Pursue aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise raises your heart rate while making you sweat and is an effective way to increase your energy level, relax your body and mind, sharpen your focus, and lift your mood. Thirty minutes of aerobic activity, several days a week, can provide maximum relief from workplace stress, although you can break the activity up into two or three shorter segments to accommodate your schedule.
It is important to avoid alcohol or drink it in moderation, and avoid nicotine. Alcohol might temporarily reduce your levels of worry or anxiety, but too much alcohol can actually cause anxiety as it starts to wear off. Drinking to relieve workplace stress can also lead to alcohol dependence and abuse. In the same way, smoking when you feel overwhelmed and stressed can seem to be calming, but the fact is - nicotine is a powerful stimulant and leads to higher, not lower levels of anxiety.
Ordering Life at Work by Organizing and Prioritizing
There are some steps you can take to regain control over both yourself and the situation when workplace stress is threatening to overwhelm you. A new ability to maintain a sense of self-control under stressful situations will many times be well-received by your co-workers, subordinates, and managers; something that can lead to better relationships in your work environment. What follows are some things you can do to reduce workplace stress through organization and privatization of your responsibilities.
Time Management and Reducing Workplace Stress
Make an effort to leave for work earlier in the morning. Leaving for work even ten or fifteen minutes earlier can mean the difference between making a hasty rush towards your desk and having time to relax and begin your day. Dashing into work late adds to your workplace stress levels.
Be sure to plan regular breaks. Making sure that you take short and regular breaks throughout your day to sit back or take a walk and clear your mind helps to relieve workplace stress. Try to get away from your desk for lunch as well. Taking a moment to get away from work and briefly relax and recharge helps you to be more productive.
Create a schedule that is balanced. Take the time to analyze your schedule, responsibilities, and the tasks you perform on a daily basis. You will burn out if all you do is work and you do not give yourself time to relax and enjoy life. Find a balance between work, family life, social activities, daily responsibilities, solitary activities, downtime.
Do not over-commit yourself. Many times, people underestimate how much time it will take to accomplish things. It is important to avoid scheduling things back-to-back, or attempting to fit too many things into a single day. When you have too much going on it is important to distinguish between what must be done and what should be done, dropping the things that really are not necessary to the bottom of your list, or eliminating them entirely.
Task Management and Reducing Workplace Stress
Take the time to prioritize your tasks. Make a list of the tasks you have to do and pursue them according to their level of importance, doing the ones that are of highest priority first. If there is something unpleasant that you have to do then do it early in your day; the remainder of your day will be more pleasant.
Break up projects into smaller steps. If a large project feels overwhelming make a step-by-step plan. With the plan you can focus on managing individual steps instead of attempting to tackle everything at once.
Delegate responsibility to others. Remember that you do not have to do everything by yourself. If other people have the ability to perform a task, let them. It is important to let go of the desire to control and oversee every single step. Delegating tasks to others relieves you of unnecessary workplace stress.
Be open and willing to compromise. When you ask a person to contribute differently to a task, change their behavior at work, or revise a deadline - be willing to do the same things. If both of you have the ability to flex a bit you will also be able to find an agreeable middle ground that reduces the workplace stress for everyone involved.
Emotional Intelligence and Reducing Workplace Stress
Whether or not you are in a job where the environment has become increasing stressful, you can keep a great measure of self-confidence and control through understanding and practicing emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to both manage and use your emotions in ways that are constructive and positive. In relation to work and success, emotional intelligence is just as relevant and important as intellectual ability. Emotional intelligence involves communicating with others in ways that draw them to you while overcoming difference, defusing tension, stress, and repairing wounded feelings.
The Four Major Components of Emotional Intelligence
Self-Management: Self-management is the ability to control your emotions and your own behaviors, adapting to the circumstances you find yourself in.
Self-Awareness: Self-awareness is the ability to recognize your own emotions as well as their impact, using your gut feelings in order to guide the decisions you make.
Social Awareness: Social awareness involves the ability to sense, understand, and react to the emotions others are experiencing and the ability to feel comfortable socially.
Relationship Management: Relationship management involves the ability to inspire, connect with, as well as influence others and the ability to manage conflicts that arise.
Emotional Intelligence - Five Key Skills
Emotional intelligence in the workplace includes five key skills you need to master. Doing so will increase your emotional intelligence while giving you the ability to manage the levels of stress you experience at work. Mastering these skills can relieve stress for both you and the people around you.
Develop the ability to respond to challenges with humor. Humor is the best stress reliever; a good mutual laugh reduces stress quickly. However; if the laugh is at someone else's expense - you might wind up with more, instead of less stress.
Realize when you are stressed. Recognize your own particular responses to stress and get familiar with the sensory cues that have the ability to quickly calm and energize you. The best way to reduce stress rapidly is through your own senses; sound, sight, smell, touch, and taste. Each person responds in a different way to sensory input- find the things that are soothing to you.
Stay connected with your internal emotional experiences. Doing so can help you to appropriately manage your own emotional experiences. The emotions you have from moment-to-moment influence the thoughts you have and actions you take; pay attention to your feelings and take them into consideration in your decision-making. Paying attention to your own emotions gives you the ability to better understand your own needs and motivations, as well as a better ability to communicate with others.
Resolve conflicts in a positive way. Resolving conflicts in ways that are healthy and constructive can strengthen the levels of trust between people while diffusing tension and stress. In highly-emotional situations, remain focused in the present by disregarding past resentments and hurts. Connect with your own emotions and hear both the words and the nonverbal cues that are being used. If the conflict is something that cannot be resolved, end the argument even if disagreement is the result.
Recognize and effectively use nonverbal cues. These cues make up 95 to 98% of our communication process. Many times the things we say are less important that the way we say it, or the additional nonverbal signals we present such as facial expressions, eye contact, posture, our tone of voice, touch, or our gestures. The nonverbal messages you send can create a sense of interest, desire for a connection and trust, or they can create a distrust, confusion, and stress. You need to have the ability to read and respond to the nonverbal cues others send to you as well.
Employers, Managers, and the Reduction of Workplace Stress
Where managers are concerned, it is in their best interest to keep the stress levels in the workplace to minimum levels. Managers can act as positive role models, particularly during times of high stress, by following the tips above. If a manager has the ability to remain calm in work situations that are stressful it is far easier for their employees to remain calm. In addition, there are several organizational changes that employers and managers can make in order to reduce workplace stress, presented below.
- Offer rewards and incentives
- Show that individual workers are valued
- Provide opportunities for career development
- Establish a zero-tolerance policy for harassment
- Clearly define employees' roles and responsibilities
- Consult employees about scheduling and work rules
- Provide opportunities for social interaction among employees
- Make management actions consistent with organizational values
- Make communication friendly and efficient, not mean-spirited or petty
- Give workers opportunities to participate in decisions that affect their jobs
- Share information with employees to reduce uncertainty about their jobs and futures
- Promote an "entrepreneurial" work climate that gives employees more control over their work
- Be sure the workload is suitable to employees' abilities and resources; avoid unrealistic deadlines
- Praise good work performance, both verbally and officially, through schemes such as Employee of the Month
Reducing Workplace Stress Through Breaking Bad Habits
Learning to manage workplace stress and improve work relationships allows you to gain more control over your ability to think clearly and act appropriately. It gives you the ability to break habits that only add to the levels of stress you experience in the workplace. You will be able to change negative ways of thinking about things which only add to your levels of stress.
Eliminating self-defeating behaviors is an important way to relieve stress in the workplace. Many people increase the stress they experience through negative thoughts and behaviors. Turning these self-defeating behaviors around can help you to handle employer-imposed stress more easily.
Do not attempt to control things you cannot. A number of things at work are out of our control, in particular the behaviors of other people. Instead of stressing out over them, concentrate on the things you can control like the way you choose to react to issues.
Focus on positive thinking. Viewing downsides to each interaction and situation will find you drained of motivation and energy. Try to think positively about your work while avoiding co-workers who think negatively. Give yourself a pat on the back about small accomplishments, even if no one else recognizes them.
Resist your sense of perfectionism. There is no single project, situation, or decision that is perfect; trying to achieve perfection will only add unnecessary stress. When you set goals that are unrealistic for yourself, or attempt to do too much, you are setting yourself up for more stress and to fall short. Do your best - no one can ask for more than that.
Get yourself organized. If you have a habit of running late, set your watches and clocks fast to give yourself extra time. Make to-do lists, crossing each item off as you accomplish it. If your desk is messy, file and throw away items - knowing where everything is saves time while cutting stress. Plan your day and keep to your schedule, you will feel less overwhelmed.
Some Different Ways to Dispel Stress
Be on the lookout for humor in situations. If you use it appropriately, humor is a wonderful way to dispel stress. If you or others around you start taking things too seriously, find a way to lighten the mood by sharing a funny story or a joke.
Connect with other people in your workplace. Developing friendships with some of your co-workers can help you to create a buffer from the negative effects of workplace stress. It is important for you to listen to them and offer support when they need it too.
Talk about the stress with another person. Sometimes, just sharing your feelings and thoughts with someone you trust can help to reduce the stress. Talking over a problem with another person who is empathetic and supportive can be a wonderful way to relieve stress.
Take a little time away. When the stress at work is climbing, try to take a short break and get away from the situation that is causing the stress. If you can, get outside of your workplace, or spend a few minutes meditating in the break room. Physically moving, or finding a quiet place in order to regain a sense of balance can rapidly reduce the stress you are experiencing.
Relaxation Techniques for Stress Relief
"For many of us, relaxation means zoning out in front of the TV at the end of a stressful day. But this does little to reduce the damaging effects of stress. To effectively combat stress, we need to activate the body's natural relaxation response."
Stress in the Workplace: A Costly Epidemic
"Three out of every four American workers describe their work as stressful. And the problem is not limited to these shores. In fact, occupational stress has been defined as a "global epidemic" by the United Nations' International Labor Organization."
The American Institute of Stress - Job Stress
"Numerous surveys and studies confirm that occupational pressures and fears are far and away the leading source of stress for American adults and that these have steadily increased over the past few decades."
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- 4 - Control Your Emotions by Talking to Yourself in the 3rd Person : Michigan State University (2017/07/26)
- 5 - Lack of Mental Health Care in Prisons : University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (2015/01/12)
- 6 - Treating and Preventing Seasonal Affective Disorder : Northwestern Medicine (2014/11/23)
- 7 - Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): The Winter Blues : Wake Forest University (2011/02/20)
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