The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that 25 percent of workers feel that their jobs are the number one stressor in their lives. They also found that stress at work is more highly correlated with health issues than family and financial problems.
When overwhelming challenges at work turn enjoyment and satisfaction into exhaustion and frustration, it can lead to illness, injury and job failure.
Causes of Stress
Though every individual reacts to situations differently, there are several instances that can trigger undue stress at work:
- Uncontrollable issues that arise
- Heavy workload
- Pressure to perform at above normal levels
- Job insecurity
- Long work hours
- Excessive travel
- Office politics
- Conflicts with co-workers
- Work and family balance
Since these triggers occur frequently, it is wise to look out for early signs of stress and resolve to take steps to reduce it.
Focus on what you can control
Many Americans consider their jobs to be stressful. While specific sources of stress and the way we deal with them differ from person to person, many of us especially struggle to cope with factors that are out of our control.
Signs of Stress
Look out for early symptoms of stress and take steps to relieve them quickly. If you let them go unchecked, these symptoms can develop into more serious health complications such as heart problems, depression and anxiety. Be wary of the following stress symptoms:
- Short temper
- Upset stomach
- Sore back
- Job dissatisfaction
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased errors
Manage Stress at Work
The good news is that it is possible to manage stress at work or life in general by becoming aware of what increases or decreases your level of stress. The following are seven methods to help you manage stress:
Plan and prioritize: Set realistic deadlines. Creating pressure will only increase the probability that you’ll make a mistake. Always have an alternate plan in mind. Give yourself time to think projects through instead of rushing through them.
Focus on what you can control: Create a “to-do” list to prioritize your work. Break larger tasks into smaller, more doable steps. Begin with the most pressing tasks and then move on to less important projects. Make sure you are clear about the definition of your role and responsibilities. Ask your supervisor if you have any doubt.
Slow down: Think things through before you act, and begin with a clear goal in mind. In this way, you’ll prevent having to start over halfway through a misguided project.
Think outside the box: When you’re feeling overwhelmed or overworked, search for alternative ways to get the job done. By doing so, you could save time and money, and put your projects into fresh perspective.
Use all your resources: Learn to effectively delegate work that you cannot handle. If you cannot finish a project internally, explore outsourcing options. Recognize that things will not always go according to plan and develop the flexibility to adapt when they don’t.
Take a break: To relieve stress, make time to take a break. Taking a walk or discussing your work situation with another person may help you to gain a fresh perspective.
Resolve Conflicts: Anticipate possible disagreements and develop a personal conflict resolution plan to solve interpersonal problems with co-workers.
Balance Work and Life
A successful employee needs to be able to balance his or her work with a personal life.
- Learn to separate work and home life. Avoid taking work—or your work computer—home with you if at all possible. Avoid checking work emails from home or taking work calls.
- Make time for friends and family, as spending time with those you love will help you unwind.
- Live a healthy lifestyle. Exercise, eat well and sleep at least 8 hours a night.
- Spend time on outside hobbies, interests or passions. This will help you detach from the work environment and reduce your stress.
- When dealing with stressful situations, ask for assistance from family members or friends. A support network is vital for a healthy lifestyle.
While stressful times and events occur in everyone’s life, stress does not have to become a way of life. Following these suggestions and learning what stress-reduction strategies work best for you, can help you to reduce stress and its impact on your life and your job.