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Feeling stressed at work?

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Do you regularly feel overwhelmed, anxious or stressed at work? You’re not alone. A survey conducted in 2014 by researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in collaboration with National Public Radio and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found that one out of five workers reported that they experienced a great deal of stress at work in the prior 12 months, and 37 percent had experienced some stress at work.

Common causes of work-related stress include excessive workloads, little or no opportunities for career advancement, a lower salary and work that isn’t engaging, according to the American Psychological Association.

Additionally, not having much control over the decisions made at work and unclear performance expectations also can contribute to stress.

Problems

Work-related stress typically doesn’t clear up at the end of the workday. If the stress you’re experiencing at work becomes long term, it can take a toll on your health and emotional well-being.

“In the short term, a stressful work environment can contribute to problems such as headache, stomachache, sleep disturbances, short temper and difficulty concentrating,” APA states. “Chronic stress can result in anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system.”

In extreme cases of stress, depression, obesity and heart disease may occur. Workers who experience excessive stress often deal with it by eating unhealthy foods, smoking, drinking alcohol or abusing drugs, according to APA.

APA recommends following these steps to help manage work-related stress:

  • Keep track of your stressors by writing them down for a few weeks to help you identify what events caused you to feel stressed at work. Then, write down how you responded to the events, including how you felt in the moment, who was involved and how you reacted. Once you know this information, you can look for patterns among your stressors and anticipate your reactions to them.
  • Create healthy responses to your stressors. When you’re stressed, do you turn to food or alcohol for comfort? Instead, find a healthier alternative. Exercise can be a great stress reliever, as can reading a book. Also, get plenty of sleep.
  • Establish boundaries. Do you feel pressure to be “on call” for your work 24/7? If so, create some work-life boundaries, such as not answering your phone during dinner or not checking your email in the evening.
  • Take time for yourself. Don’t let your vacation days go unused. “When possible, take time off to relax and unwind, so you come back to work feeling reinvigorated and ready to perform at your best,” APA states.
  • Practice relaxing. Learn a new technique to relax, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises or mindfulness.
  • Reach out to your supervisor or manager. Explain that you’ve been feeling stressed out. “The purpose of this isn’t to lay out a list of complaints, but rather to come up with an effective plan for managing the stressors you’ve identified, so you can perform at your best on the job,” APA states.
  • Get support. Does your workplace have an employee assistance program? If so, utilize it and get help. If you still feel overwhelmed after trying these options, you may need to speak to a psychologist.

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