Workplace Stress

Stress in the workplace is not uncommon. In fact, more employees take time off from work because of stress and anxiety than any other physical illness or injury1. Studies have shown being unhappy with or unfulfilled by work can take a toll on our health, relationships, and even lifespan. While some stress can motivate employees to be productive and do their best work, over time it can impact their physical and emotional wellbeing. Those in unhealthy work environments tend to gain more weight, have more healthcare appointments, and have higher rates of absenteeism.

Signs & Symptoms

Chronic stress can impact your health and cause physical symptoms such as:
  • Muscle tension or headaches
  • Stomach problems
  • Back or neck pain
  • Fatigue
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Loss of sex drive

Stress can also lead to mental health problems such as:

  • Feeling anxious or irritable
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance abuse

Tips & Recommendations

Because of the long-term effects, it is important to manage your stress. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to better cope with workplace stress. You can start by becoming more self-aware and pay attention to your physical and emotional health. Incremental lifestyle adjustments can have a big impact on how well you manage workplace stress. They include:

Tip 1: Take better care of your health

  • Get regular exercise – Any activity that raises your heart rate and makes you sweat will help elevate your mood, increase energy and relax your body and mind. Even a brisk walk can help.
  • Eat right – Keep your energy up by eating small frequent meals. This tactic maintains an even blood sugar level and allows you to stay focused and avoid mood swings.
  • Limit alcohol - Drinking to relieve job stress can lead to alcohol abuse and dependence. It can also cause anxiety as it wears off.
  • Get enough sleep – It is much easier to keep your emotional balance when you are well-rested. Try to keep the same sleep schedule and aim for eight hours a night.

Tip 2: Improve your time management

  • Leave earlier for work – Running late adds to your stress level and gets your day off to a bad start.
  • Prioritize tasks – Make lists in order of importance and tackle the high-priority items first. You will feel a sense of accomplishment that lasts all day.
  • Don’t over-commit – Avoid back-to-back meetings if you can and drop tasks that are not essential to doing your job effectively.
  • Maintain work-life balance – It is important to engage in family time, social activities and alone time. Schedule these into your day.

Tip 3: Improve workplace relationships through emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage and use your emotions in positive and constructive ways. It helps you overcome differences, repair wounded feelings, and defuse tension and stress. Try to:

  • Realize when you are stressed – Being self-aware of your stress level will help you manage it using techniques that keep you calm.
  • Recognize body language – Nonverbal cues and body language can speak volumes about what your coworkers are thinking and feeling. Recognizing these cues will better equip you to respond to them appropriately.
  • Be willing to meet challenges with humor – Nothing diffuses a tense situation more quickly than a good laugh.
  • If you are still suffering with the effects of workplace stress, Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTS) can help you manage your feelings and learn techniques to help you live a more satisfying and productive life.

Article Sources

1 Marlowe JF: Depression’s Surprising Toll on Worker Productivity, Employee Benefits Journal, March 2002, pp. 16-20.

Additional Resources

Workplace Mental Health

APA: Work, Stress and Health

MHM: Workplace Wellness

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