Stress is present in nearly any workplace. Daily challenges, deadlines, overtime and more can create short-term stress. For many, this short-term stress can evolve into harmful, long-term occupational stress. For an increasing number of Americans, long-term occupational stress poses serious risks to their mental, physical, and emotional well being.
Several studies by the American Psychological Association (APA) support this. In a 2012 study on stress, 65% of respondents reported their occupation as a leading cause of stress. A 2013 survey by the same organization found chronic occupational stress affected over a third of those surveyed. In both surveys, respondents reported lacking sufficient personal and professional resources for coping with stress.
For most people suffering from occupational stress, the stress and worry follow them home. Physical symptoms such as nausea, hyperventilating, anxiety and more can affect sleep patterns, diet, and much more. Over time, this can take a heavy toll on the body and immune system. Compounding the effects, many choose to self-medicate with alcohol, cigarettes, overeating or other mechanisms. These can lead to other health complications.
While it may be impossible to avoid workplace stress completely, taking steps to better manage occupational stress is. Learn how to identify and manage stress to reduce the impact of stress, and improve health.
Identifying Occupational Stressors
Occupations vary across the board yet many share similar causes of stress. These can include:
- Feeling a lack of control in the workplace
- Insufficient salary or benefits
- Volatile workplace
- High amounts of work
- Excessive overtime
- Mundane workload
- Conflicts with management
From the trades to the tech industry and everywhere between, occupational stress affects people of all ages.
Managing Occupational Stress
After spotting the causes of workplace stress, taking steps to manage stress may be easier. Knowing the root cause of stress can help with managing the related symptoms, and can help with removing the cause completely.
- Keep a journal. Keeping a record of stress-causing situations can help establish patterns. Over two weeks, record stressful experiences in the workplace. Include the persons involved, the scenario, and your own response. Also, include the effect the stress had on the remainder of the day both at work and at home. With a record, it may be possible to find patterns and establish healthy coping mechanisms.
- Establish healthy coping mechanisms. For many people, the immediate response to stress may be a cigarette, cheeseburger, or a beer after work. The next time stress becomes a bear, try a healthier alternative. Walking, stretching, and practically all physical exercise can help reduce stress. For others, the right coping mechanism may be pursuing a hobby or favorite activity. Getting the mind on something else can help reduce stress and anxiety while keeping the body healthy.
- Create communications boundaries. This can be one of the most challenging to accomplish. The benefit of smartphones is balanced by an unbroken tether to the workplace. It can be challenging for both employees and employers to keep communication to established working hours. The right balance will depend on the person and profession yet setting schedules for checking email and other correspondence can help alleviate a great deal of occupational stress.
- Take personal time. Oftentimes, ambition and capability are greatly mismatched. Many experience occupational stress by working too hard, or too much. To help reduce stress and stay physically charged, take personal time. This can be in the form of vacation, a weekend, or simply disconnecting for the evening. A break can perform wonders for energy levels.
- Speak to a someone. Most supervisors want their employees feeling healthy and motivated. If workplace stress is taking a toll, speak to a supervisor for possible solutions. This can be creating strategies for avoiding or coping with stress, or other resources the company may have access to such as counseling, or an Employee Assistance Program. A good supervisor should appreciate proactive, personal care and be willing to help overcome these challenges.
The first step in overcoming occupational stress is recognizing it. Stress can feel like a large, immovable boulder yet with the right tools, it’s possible to manage and overcome. Check with us often for more on tips for living a healthier life.