28 Feb Workplace Stress: Signs, Symptoms and Strategies
No matter where you work, what you do, or how all that makes you feel, your job can be a major source of stress in your life. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 65 percent of Americans called their workplace as “a top source” of stress, and only 37 percent claimed to be effectively managing workplace stress.
While some stress is a normal, healthy part of everyday life, high levels of ongoing workplace stress can have a serious impact on your overall health. Left unchecked, stress can lead to a host of health problems, including Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, memory impairment and cardiovascular disease.
The good news is, by knowing the common signs and symptoms of workplace stress, you can take positive, lasting steps to start building a healthy work-life balance.
Sources of Workplace Stress
Some of these workplace stress sources may seem obvious, and others may appear to be out of your control. However, simply recognizing what’s driving us nuts can sometimes help us deal with what’s driving us nuts.
Here’s the list, courtesy of the APA, in all its anxious glory:
- Low salaries
- Excessive workload
- Few opportunities for growth or advancement
- Work that isn’t engaging or challenging
- Lack of social support
- Not having enough control over job-related decisions
- Conflicting demands or unclear performance expectations
It may be difficult to enact positive change when it comes to, say, working at a company with few opportunities for getting ahead, but it’s worth drilling down into that list to see what you actually can change.
Lack of social support, for instance—maybe you’ve been keeping your work stories to yourself, thinking that nobody will find them interesting. While that may be true (and let’s face facts: it’s excruciating more often than not to sit through another overdramatized retelling of some obscure office mishap), talking about stressful situations at work can help you process and deal with them better, and could lead to a significant improvement with your attitude towards not only the workplace, but also the work you do.
Signs of Workplace Stress
One of the most common signs of workplace stress is a feeling of being completely overwhelmed by your job. You know, when your to-do list feels cartoonishly long and you barely have a moment to breathe. This frustration can mutate into a sense of hopelessness and leave you feeling burnt out, apathetic, and irritated, causing you to lose interest in your job.
Away from work, you may experience changes in your appetite (eating more, eating less), a reduction in your sex driveand difficulties sleeping. You could also develop physical symptoms such as headaches, heartburn, and achy joints.
Unfortunately, workplace stress is a vicious cycle—once you begin showing signs of having a case of the Mondays, your colleagues and supervisors will begin to notice, often resulting in unwanted pressure and attention. This can exacerbate your workplace stress, adding fears of demotion or termination and feeling the pressure of having something to prove on top of an already hefty workload.
Managing Workplace Stress
Enough with the horror movie stuff: let’s focus on getting this stress under control. Here are a few tips:
- Blend in personal and family time with your work commitments
- Fill your leisure time with healthy, stress-reducing activities, such as exercise, social events, quiet reading, multiplayer video game mayhem—whatever fits your needs, your interests
- Turn off your cellphone. Just do it. Turn it off.
- Fight the urge to say “yes” to every project and request—your co-workers will respect the fact that you recognize your limits (after all, who wants to hand over a project to someone who’s overwhelmed and is therefore more likely to flub?) and can practice the delicate art of time management and organization.
- Take your vacation days—all of them! According to recent studies, 41 percent of American workers don’t use all their vacation time, even though time away from work can—surprise!—make you actually like work more.
By recognizing the signs and symptoms of workplace stress, you can take proactive steps to control it—and ensure you’ll never have a case of the Mondays (in quite the same way) again!