An extensive number of studies, research, and surveys have found that work-related stress is among the foremost causes of mental health disturbances among US adults, especially in today’s world where demands have increased and flexibility is a concept that has no place in the corporate world.
Usually, mental stress at work is neglected for months, allowed to fester and affect focus and memory, until it morphs into something even worse — because who has time to deal with a nuisance like tension and stress? Right?
Actually, untreated stress can eventually transform into anxiety or a serious mental health disorder like depression. It can even cause serious health issues like heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and more, which can significantly impact performance and concentration at work.
This article will give you detailed information about occupational stress, its causes, signs, and symptoms, as well as effective coping techniques. This article includes:
- Causes of workplace stress.
- Signs of work-related stress.
- 6 tips for managing stress at work.
Causes of Workplace Stress
Some pressure and strain are expected when dealing with tight schedules and completing challenging tasks on time. It’s part and parcel of having a job. But, when the pressure gets too much, neglected for months, it can harm one’s mental well-being and may transform into chronic stress or anxiety.
There are several causes of work-related stress. The following may contribute to feeling stressed and anxious or worsening pre-existing symptoms:
- Excessive workload.
- Lack of control.
- Lack of support (from colleagues, friends, and family).
- Job insecurity.
- Tight deadlines.
- Boring or unrelated work.
- Over supervision and lack of freedom.
- Poor work environment.
- Bullying or harassment.
- Inefficient communication.
- Undersupply of resources.
- Peer pressure.
- Poor relationship with colleagues.
- Changes in duties.
- Conflict at work.
Signs of Work-Related Stress
Stress can manifest among people in different ways. Most commonly though, changes in behavior indicate that a person may be stressed out and in need of a couple of days off work. Of course, signs and symptoms are different for each person. Situations or things that may trigger stress in your colleagues may not stress you out at all and vice versa. However, some common signs to look out for include:
- Excessive irritation, anxiety, or feeling depressed.
- Feeling nervous and jittery.
- Feeling overwhelmed.
- Lack of concentration.
- Memory problems.
- Physical and mental fatigue.
- Loss of interest in work.
- Social withdrawal.
- Insomnia or alterations in sleep patterns.
- Muscle fatigue/tension.
- Unexplained headache and migraines.
- Gastrointestinal disturbances.
Apart from physical and mental signs, behavioral alterations may also indicate high levels of stress:
- Absenteeism, taking days off when it is not usually the case.
- Isolating oneself or minimizing social contact.
- Aggression and mood swings.
- Sudden poor performance at work.
- Making unusual mistakes.
Supervisors and managers should be aware of the factors that contribute to workplace stress as well as signs of burnout and anxiety among employees. Broadly, work-related stress is caused due to six common factors: roles, demands, control, relationships, support, and change. Being aware of the causes and symptoms can help them better tackle the problem and find solutions to provide the workers with an appropriate environment to ensure better performance and results.
6 Tips for Managing Stress at Work
Work-related stress is practically unavoidable. However, you can experiment with various coping techniques for effectively managing stress at work. Here are 10 tips for managing stress at the workplace:
Know Your Symptoms
Symptoms of stress often go unnoticed or are deliberately neglected because who has time to deal with such a nuisance? But, that is the major reason why a lot of times, it develops into chronic stress, and by the time you notice it, it has already caused you tons of inconvenience. This is why being aware of the common symptoms of burnout or work-related stress can save you a lot of hassle.
Workplace stress can manifest in different ways in different people because everyone has different reactions to certain triggers. While some may start to lose focus and concentration, others might begin overworking themselves as a result of stress. Knowing the symptoms that are unique to you can allow you to detect stress in the earlier stages when it is still possible to manage it using simple coping strategies.
Making a list or simply keeping an eye out for telltale signs of stress can help you better manage stress at the workplace. Furthermore, managers should also be trained to spot such signs among workers to ensure they do not get overworked and are allowed time off for a while.
Track Your Stressors
Just like signs differ from person to person, so do stressors or triggers. A stressor is any stimulus that can induce feelings of strain on an individual. It may include a circumstance, situation, requirement, or event. Certain stimuli may trigger the stress response among some people while it may not cause any strain or distress among others.
When you’re aware of the signs that indicate that you’re feeling stressed, you can easily make note of the stressor. For instance, if you notice any of the symptoms of stress, you can quickly track it to the particular circumstance that triggered it. You may ask yourself questions like ‘what was I doing?’, ‘what was the particular situation I was in?’, or ‘was I threatened, challenged, or made to feel inadequate?’.
Managers and colleagues too should ensure that employees are provided with a safe and healthy environment to work in, are not required to do more than they can handle, are being assigned tasks according to their roles, and have access to enough support.
Develop Healthy Responses
Simply identifying signs and tracking them to certain stressors is clearly not enough. The next step is obviously developing the correct responses to these stressors. Believe it or not, more times than not, you can easily minimize your stress levels by identifying the trigger and coming up with simple ways to resolve it.
For instance, if the source of your stress is a fast-approaching deadline while you have millions of other things to juggle alongside. The healthy way to respond to it would be to cut down lunchtime, ask someone to lend a hand with other things, or simply speak to your manager to allow you a few extra days. As opposed to this, the unhealthy response would be to overwork yourself and not ask for support.
Healthy responses to stress can also include aerobic and non-aerobic exercises, minimizing distractions, and indulging in self-care.
Speak to Your Manager
In this case, speaking to the manager would not make you a Karen. Unless your manager is Hitler or Stalin’s spawn, chances are, he or she will most likely be understanding of your circumstance and allow you a few days off because they understand that forcing you to work while you’re in such a stressed state of mind will not reap any results for the company.
If you have worked out exactly what you want, being candid with your boss is the best way to go about it. But if you’re not sure what exactly you want — a day off, less workload, extra support — let your manager come up with a solution for you. However, if you decide to go about it, remember that being honest is the most important thing when speaking to your supervisor.
At the same time, managers and supervisors should be sympathetic to the plight of the workers and work towards breaking the stigma around mental health in the workplace, allowing people to be more open about the mental challenges they are facing.
Connect With Colleagues or Friends for Support
When feeling anxious and stressed, it is common to want to isolate yourself or withdraw from social situations. It is also very common to crave support and help from close friends and family. It can be confusing but it doesn’t have to be. Isolation can only cause more harm, worsening stress and paving the way for depression to strike.
This is why, when you’re in need of help, you ask for it. Most of the people who genuinely care about you will not let you down. Sometimes simply sharing your experience can alleviate symptoms of stress. Sometimes a friend or colleague can offer excellent advice as well.
Most of the time, your co-workers are also going through similar stressful situations. Talking to someone who understands what you’re going through can momentarily help with stress. Alternatively, you never know, maybe your co-worker needed you all this time as well.
Lifestyle Changes and Relaxing Distractions
You may also look into adopting certain habits and routines and making lifestyle changes that can help you healthily manage stress. Constantly focusing on work can drain your energy and cause stress. Indulging in relaxing activities occasionally can significantly help in reducing symptoms. Here are some activities you can incorporate into your daily routine that can not only minimize stress and anxiety but also promote relaxation:
- Practicing mindfulness.
- Breathing exercises.
- Consuming stress-busting foods.
- Getting enough sleep.
- Establishing healthy boundaries.
- Seek professional help and counseling.
With Mooditude’s help, you can track your mood, build healthy habits and routines, talk to a 24/7 support group, and more.