Do you feel anxious and overwhelmed at your job? You’re not alone. In 2014, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in partnership with National Public Radio and the Robert Timber Johnson Foundation, conducted a survey on occupational stress. This study found that one in five employees reported high levels of workplace stress in the past year. 37% reported experiencing at least some level of occupational stress at their job.
Causes of Occupational Stress
The America Psychological Association tracks causes of occupational stress. The most common causes include:
- High workload
- Low chances for career advancement
- Poor pay, and
- Work that is unrewarding
Other causes of workplace stress include poor comprehension of job expectation and a sense of lacking control.
Common Effects of Occupational Stress
Job-related stress doesn’t end after you leave work. If your office anxiety follows you around, it has the power to affect your physical and psychological health.
- The APA reports even short-term exposure to stressful work environments causes digestive complaints, headaches, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.
- Chronic anxiety causes insomnia, high blood pressure, and can weaken your immune system.
- High stress causes chronic anxiety, weight disorders, and heart disease.
The APA reports employees with high stress-levels may cope by indulging in high-calorie foods, using excessive tobacco, abusing alcohol, and even medication abuse. This can lead to more health complications.
Manage Occupational Stress
To help manage occupational stress the APA suggests taking the following steps:
1: Track the causes of workplace stress. Over a period of several weeks, record stressful workplace events. This will help you to determine what events in the workplace cause your anxiety. Record your reactions including:
- How you felt at the moment
- The people involved, and
- How you responded.
Identifying these details can help uncover patterns in the stressors and your reactions.
2: Develop healthy coping mechanisms. When you’re anxious do you turn to alcohol or food as coping mechanisms? When you’re feeling stressed, try to find a healthier stress reliever. Exercise and reading are great examples of stress-relieving activities. Always be sure to get adequate rest.
3: Set boundaries. Is your job creeping into your personal life? Sometimes jobs make us feel like we need to be available at all times. When this happens, create work-life boundaries. Try to ignore your phone during dinner, and avoid checking your work email after-hours.
4: Take time for yourself. Don’t give up your vacation days! Take time to relax when you can. This can help you feel rested and prepared for the workday, improving your mood and performance. You can even sneak relaxation techniques into your workday. Spend a few minutes during break meditating, breathing deep, or stretching.
5: Talk to your manager or supervisor. Explain you’ve been under a lot of stress. This isn’t about complaining. It’s about sharing a workplace concern with your supervisor. If you’re having trouble with stressors in your workplace, speak to a supervisor about finding a solution.
6: Get Support. Determine whether your workplace has an employee assistance program. If so, use this system to get the support you need. If you still feel overwhelmed, or do not have access to an assistance program, you may want to seek the help of a psychologist.
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