Workplace Stress: Symptoms Causes, and Getting Help

Every career has its ups and downs. It’s certainly true that a day in the office can cause an unbelievable amount of stress. The boss is pushing you to complete the impossible, you had a dispute with a coworker that has created tension, the company announces that they’re cutting back… all of these instances could cause the average employee to become stressed. 

While in most cases, individuals can cope with the stress in their own way, there are occasions in which the stress becomes too much to bear.

How Stress Affects Your Body

Everyone is different, and as a result work related stress will affect their mind and body differently. Some levels of stress are normal. When a person becomes stressed, the body releases hormones that will inadvertently increase the heart rate, increase breathing patterns, and provide the body with a jolt of energy. There are instances in which stress can be a good thing. Being stressed about a deadline at work can help you to complete the project in a timely fashion. However, large amounts of stress or prolonged periods of stress can wreck havoc on the body. Stress can lead to illness, chronic pain, high blood pressure, and even depression.

Recognizing the signs of stress at work can help you to effectively manage it before it gets worse. Some of those signs include:

·  Headache

·  Difficulty sleeping

·  Lack of concentration

·  Mood swings – particularly anger

·  Poor work performance

·  Low office morale

Common Causes of Work Related Stress

Many would agree that having a job should be enough to keep you from being stressed. While your job might be paying the bills, there are certain circumstances and workplace environments that can make earning an income that much harder. Being aware of the various causes for stress can again, help you in dealing with the matter before it begins to affect your health. Below are some of the more common causes for work related stress:

·  Inability to control responsibilities – The loss of control over a project or your responsibilities as an employee can become very stressful. For instance, your boss asks you to put together a report that is needed within a few short hours. However, in order for you to complete this report, you need information from the managers of other departments. The managers take all day to provide you with the information you need, and essentially you have just a few minutes to prepare your report. While you might be able to deliver it in time, the inability to control the other aspects of the project made a stressful circumstance for you.

·  Overworked or Too Many Responsibilities – Everyone can probably account for one time or another where they simply felt overworked. However, very few people complain about this matter because they fear losing their job or missing out on a promotion. Having too much on your plate essentially leads to poor quality of work and a downward spiral of your performance as an employee. This again creates a stressful situation.

·  Hostile Working Environments – a hostile working environment essentially means that someone’s actions have made it nearly difficult to complete your job. For example, a boss who is always making sexist comments about female workers might make it uncomfortable for you to interact with the boss. Likewise, an employee who makes racially charged jokes around the office might create tension amongst the rest of the staff making the environment very hostile.

·  Poor Working Conditions – Ergonomic issues, overcrowding, an abundance of noise, damaging physical conditions, and more could make for poor working conditions. When you’re forced to work in an environment that does not provide day to day comfort this could cause a great deal of stress. For example, an employee forced to work in a building with excessive mold growth could easily fall ill which in turn could lead to stress. Just the same, someone forced to work in a crowded space might feel overwhelmed and stress.

·  Lack of Job Security – in this economy it is ideal to hold onto your job for as long as you can. Finding out that your job could be on the line could certainly cause you a great deal of stress. A company that announces they’ll be downsizing soon could cause employees to be stressed about where their fate lies.

These are just a few of the most common causes of stress in the workplace. The causes will greatly depend on the person and their working environment. However, if any of the above causes describes your current circumstances it is important to do something about it. Allowing stress to mount up can not only negatively impact your health, but it can provoke you to self medicate with the use of pain medication, alcohol, or drugs.

The Dangers of Self Medicating to Cope

Taking a pain pill to ease the tension of your headache from work, having a cup of wine after work to ease your anxieties, taking a few pulls of a joint to relax your mind might all seem like feasible methods for dealing with a stressful day at work. While doing this on occasion may prove to be harmless, when you’re dealing with pent up stress and anxiety, what was once an innocent “stress reliever” can easily turn into a dependency or addiction. Essentially one drink turns into two or one pain pill turns into three, and what was once a weekly ritual turns into a daily routine. Thus the body begins to rely on these substances, pushing you closer and closer to dependency and addiction.

Managing Stress and Getting Help

When the level of stress you experience at work has reached an all time high, it is time to do something about it. There are plenty of ways you can reduce your stress in the workplace including:

·  Take care of yourself – eating a well balanced diet, exercising, and getting plenty of rest can help you deal with stress a lot better.

·  Prioritize and organize – in instances where you feel overworked, prioritizing your responsibilities in an order of importance and organizing your work day can make things look a lot more manageable.

·  Communicate Effectively – if something is bothering you at work it is important to effectively communicate this to your boss. Through this communication they can put processes in place to help reduce the level of stress you’re experiencing.

If you’ve tried these ideas with no such luck, it is beneficial to reach out to a therapist for further assistance. They can help you to learn effective stress management tools that you can use at home and at work.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a job that is completely stress free. Stress and anxiety are simply a fact of life.  Whether you love what you’re doing for a living or not, there is always the possibility that something will come along and create some level of stress for you. Self medicating and suppressing emotions is never the solution as this will only lead to worsening health and the potential for substance abuse and addiction. The best thing you can do for yourself however is learn to effectively manage your stress and seek professional help when it’s out of your control.

Seattle Business Mag, Renea I. Saade, When Does a Workplace Qualify as Being Hostile, 2014.

The American Institute of Stress, Workplace Stress,

The Oaks La Palo Treatment, How Work-Related Stress Fuels Addiction, 2015., Stress at Work: Tips to Reduce and Manage Job and Workplace Stress, 2015.

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