Work related stress: Symptoms and techniques to take control

Work related stress is a big problem you’ve probably felt at some point in your working life, and you aren’t alone. The Center for Organizational Excellence reported that 65 percent of employees in the U.S. cite work as a significant stressor. This can hurt both the employee and employer.

Keep in mind that a little stress at work can be OK. Feeling challenged helps keep you engaged and happy with your job. But too much stress or stress over a long period is harmful to both your mental and physical health. If you’re having a hard time leaving work at the office, taking measures to manage on-the-job stress can help you find balance.

Causes, signs and symptoms

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), there are many sources of job stress, including:managing stress is key to being happy at work

  • Excessive workloads;
  • Wearing too many hats;
  • Having unclear expectations;
  • Lacking opportunities for promotion;
  • Feeling powerless over your job; and,
  • Not having enough social support.

All of these factors contribute to a similarly wide range of symptoms, both physical and emotional. The American Institute of Stress reported that signs of stress include depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, mood swings, confusion, changed eating habits, high blood pressure or changes in work quality.

Unfortunately, these stresses don’t just go away after you clock out. If you experience these symptoms for a long period, they can lead to major health concerns such as hypertension, heart disease or depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Stress can even suppress your immune system, making you more likely to get sick. It’s a smart idea to stay ahead of these problems by learning ways to manage your work related stress effectively. Here are five ways to handle stress at work:

  1. Learn to recognize the things you can’t change – Letting go of the things you can’t control keeps you from feeling upset and stressed, according to Medline Plus. When you encounter a problem you can’t solve, avoid getting caught up by moving on to something productive.
  2. Be proactive, not reactive – Planning ahead for your day can help you feel in control of your responsibilities and minimize the number of stress-causing curveballs. Make tomorrow’s to-do list before you leave for the day, so you can get started and feel productive as soon as you arrive.
  3. Take a deep breath – Taking several deep breaths is a great way to deal with stressful situations. After a stressful meeting or interaction, step away to a private area. Inhale slowly through your nose for five seconds, then slowly exhale. Repeat this slow breathing process for a few minutes to help you feel more centered.
  4. Talk with your manager about your job description – If your responsibilities are vague, it’s easy to feel like you’re aiming for a moving target. According to the APA, negotiating your job description is an important factor in managing job-related stress. Working with your boss, you can draw clear lines on which tasks or processes are your responsibility. Being involved in any compromises you make will help you feel more in control.
  5. Talk with your doctor about your concerns – At the end of the workday, it’s your life and your health on the line. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by work related stress, your doctor can recommend approaches to keep you on the right track.

Take a few minutes to think about the sources of stress in your job before they get out of hand, and then develop a strategy to manage those situations. Applying a few stress management techniques is a great way to help bring focus and control back to your work life.

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