Sooner or later, no matter the job title or the company, people are going to experience stress at work. In fact, the American Psychological Association conducted surveys recently which indicated nearly two-thirds of Americans list work as a prime source for stress. Further studies showed about one-third of employees experiencing chronic work stress, while only 36 percent of those surveyed indicated that their place of employment provided sufficient resources to help manage that stress.
Where Does Work Stress Come From?
There are a number of reasons someone can get stressed out at work. This can include anything from facing encroaching deadlines to being underpaid and/or underappreciated. Other factors that can bring about stress in work include a lack of chance to grow or climb up the proverbial corporate ladder, work that is either too challenging or not challenging enough, problems with conflicting directions, and lack of support to accomplish assigned tasks. Some of these issues are easier to deal with than others. One thing remains true for all of them, though: if the employee does not manage to deal with and alleviate stress, it can lead to reduced efficiency, decreased morale, and even potential health issues.
What Kind of Risks are Associated with Stress from Work?
The negative effects stress can have on both physical and mental health have been well documented. For those who fail to properly manage stress, issues can include everything from sleep disruption to weight gain, anxiety and depression. Perhaps more seriously, uncontrolled stress can lead to heart disease and digestive issues. The way one is affected by stress is further impacted by their genetics and personal life experiences.
What to Do to Reduce and Control Stress
There are a myriad of things that have been found to be effective over the years in helping people reduce the amount of work related stress they face on a day to day, year after year basis. It is important to understand that some things work for some people in some instances. There is hardly a one size fits all type of fix when it comes to dealing with work related stress. Another thing to keep in mind is that reducing work related stress is that it should not rely on the individual experiencing the stress, the organizations that employ those people, friends, family, and colleagues can and should help in reducing those stress levels.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that several studies have been conducted surrounding job related stress and how to deal with it. Many employers today provide stress education and management plans for both employees and management. These programs teach employees to recognize stress, understand the dangers of stress, and even basic stress management techniques. The downside with such methodologies is that their effectiveness, while proven, is often short-lived.
In order to provide more lasting stress management in the workplace, the CDC recognizes the effectiveness of implementing organizational change. This includes employers properly locating and examining workplace factors that cause stress–conflicting directions and excessive workloads–and then putting methods into place to reduce these stressors. Further, employers have begun to understand the importance of work and family, granting more lenient absenteeism policies and more time off work. Again, reducing stress is a complex, ongoing process. The most effective methodology usually requires a combination of both stress education and organizational change.
Helpful Stress Reduction Techniques
There are a number of things we can do in order to manage job stress in our lives. First, it is most important to recognize the signs of stress. These include:
. Frequent headaches
. Neck and back pain
. Stomach pain or nausea
. Unexplained sweating
. Difficulty making eye contact
. Racing thoughts, inability to focus
. Lack of interest in activities or hobbies
. Sleep disturbance–too much or too little
. Weight gain
. Loss of appetite
There are many other potential signs to keep an eye out for when it comes to trying to recognize stress. When it comes to work related stress, many people initially recognize it by irritability or anxiety centered on work and job duties. Failure to meet deadlines, lying to cover up for incomplete tasks, and trying to go unnoticed at work are all early warning signs that you are experiencing stress at work.
Once we realize that we are suffering the effects of stress from work, we need to do something about it. Waiting and hoping it will pass is a sure way to see to it that things get worse. Some basic things to reduce stress include making sure that you have a good support structure. This includes friends and family that you can talk to, unwind with, and do things you enjoy away from the workplace. There are also a variety of meditation techniques you can try on your own–both at work and at home. Many corporations and employees have discovered and realized the dramatic benefits of contemplative practices at work. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn is the founder of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and an expert in stress reduction, relaxation, and the application of mindfulness meditation in everyday living to optimize one’s capacity to fact stress, pain, and illness across the lifespan. MBSR programs are now offered in over 720 medical centers, hospitals, and clinics around the world. He introduced the benefits of mindfulness meditation to Google in 2007. Some years later Google started their own mindfulness practice with the “Search Inside Yourself” training. Another important step is learning to speak up. This might mean speaking with a supervisor and letting them know how work is affecting you or learning to say “no” in the appropriate manner when people are trying to put too much work on you. Finding easier ways to get your job done whether it means implementing new systems or software or simply creating a better procedure is a great way to reduce the workload as well as boost your own self-esteem–both great ways to reduce stress.
The Benefits of Reducing Stress at Work
Improving your overall health is a key benefit of managing work related stress. With less stress from work, the chances of heart disease, weight issues, and psychological problems are reduced. Aside from making ourselves healthier, many forget to recognize the added benefits of managing stress at work. Being able to handle stress at work will show your managers and employers that you are able to take on more challenging assignments. Furthermore, you and those around you will notice increased productivity, efficiency, and overall quality. You will be happier and it will show. By properly managing stress from work, you will do better at your job, enjoy your job and the rest of your life more.
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