Get up early after a poor night’s sleep. Fight traffic during a 45-minute commute to work. Log on to find an overflowing inbox and a full calendar of meetings and deadlines. Skip lunch to make a dent in the paperwork. The supervisor announces that due to cutbacks the office is going to have to do more with less. Stay late to make sure it all gets done. Realize that it’s Monday, and there’s four more days of this routine. Sound familiar? This is work stress.
Work can be fulfilling, work can be enjoyable. And good job or bad, everyone experiences bad days on the job. But sometimes, the bad days can seem overwhelming, the demands unreasonable and the environment hostile. Kathleen Hall, CEO and founder of the Mindful Living Network and the Stress Institute considers work stress the epidemic of the 21st century, and says more than 60 percent of American workers report their jobs are a significant source of stress in their lives.
Breaking Joe Camel’s back
She’s right: work stress is a serious issue. Work stress can contribute to mental and physical disorders including obesity, insomnia, hypertension and depression. A recent study conducted by Stanford University found work stress could be as harmful to heath as secondhand smoke.
Another study conducted by the Australian National University’s Centre for Mental Health Research found that when compared to workers in low-quality jobs, unemployed people often profiled better than employed people in jobs with high stress, low security and little control. The study examined results from a survey of more than 7,000 Australians done over seven years. Job quality was determined based on four characteristics: job security, a fair level of pay, the amount of control employees said they had over their work while on the job and overall stress. Survey participants were also screened for depression and anxiety, as well as the frequency of positive emotions like calm and happiness. The results were unexpected: the mental health of those workers in bad jobs was either on a level with, or worse than that of the unemployed. Workers in bad jobs also showed a steady drop in mental health over time compared to the unemployed.
Tools to SHIFT from stress
Although management certainly has a large role to play in making workplaces less stressful, there are a number of techniques employees can do to minimize stress in their jobs. Vicki Hess, RN, author of “SHIFT to Professional Paradise: 5 Steps to Less Stress, More Energy & Remarkable Results at Work” outlines a five-step procedure to minimize stress for workers:
- Stop working and take a deep breath from time to time. Not only is this calming, it can allow a worker to get a hold of their emotions and stop them from saying something they might regret.
- Control knee-jerk responses. Stress reactions like withdrawal, worry and defensiveness can be controlled somewhat by talking to others and using them to help keep stress responses in check.
- Identify your emotions, and manage them. Take a moment to determine where those emotions are coming from and what helps in keeping them under control. Small activities like taking a walk around the office or listening to music can help.
- Find new options. Workers can look to their own experiences or the actions of others to overcome difficult situations.
- Finally, workers should take one positive action in the face of stress, like finding humor in stressful situations or making a step-by-step outline to manage a project.
Stress can still be overwhelming for anyone even after taking a few simple steps to help manage it. The Anxiety Treatment Centers of California help individuals find treatment for dealing with work stress and other sources of anxiety; and offers many resources and techniques to deal with stress. To learn more, chat live online or call 855-972-9459.