Just as stress caused by any other event or occassion, workplace stress affects a healthy body negatively unless the condition is not nipped in the bud and addressed immediately.
The various reasons for work related stress are fairly different from those that generally emanate from familial or social environment. In most cases, this stress occurs due to a mismatch between the demands of the job and the capabilities of an individual. These capabilities need not only be mental or intellectual in nature but can also be physical or emotional as well. Many times initial stress at work is neglected as a normal occurrence. This is also the case because a certain amount of stress helps in better performance and therefore you will probably hear many people claim that they work better under stress. However, a continued condition of stress can take its toll in many ways.
Causes of Workplace Stress
It is a well-established fact there specific conditions that cause stress in an individual differ from one person to another. This is mainly due to the fact that a specific situation is perceived differently by different people. However, there are some specific situations that can cause this kind of stress.
Uncomfortable working conditions – This is something that affects factory workers the most. An uncomfortable working environment can take its toll on the overall health of an individual and cause a fair amount of stress over time. For office workers too, a cramped up working station, lack of hygienic conditions, improper air conditioning can also cause stress.
Economic factors – With the industrial and the information technology revolution, better productivity has become possible. This has resulted in investors putting pressure on the management to get better bottom line results. Higher competition, lack of worker unions and a hire-and-fire attitude has increases the fear of a job loss to an extent where even high performers do not consider themselves safe from a “pink slip”.
Long working hours – The fear of loosing a job make employees want to work harder to be able to outperform their colleagues in the desire to impress the bosses. Long hours are not only physically tiring but can a high alert state throughout the day can drain your mind completely.
Job insecurity – The competition in the market, economic conditions, mergers and acquisitions and better technologies are making resources redundant. In such a situation every employee is pushed towards saving his place irrespective of what it takes to do so. Back-biting, taking credit for where it is not due and other such unprofessional behavior breeds.
Technology – Computers and mobile phones were developed to make life easier, faster and more convenient for man. However, with new technologies being launched each day there is a large pressure on workers to stay up-to-date with every new technology. Accompanied by this, the workload does not seem to have reduced with the use of technologies. Instead the demands from humans keep increasing continuously.
Discrimination – While not a global cause of stress at the workplace, discrimination is however extremely rampant in various offices. The discrimination could be on the basis of sex, race, religion or nationality. Any such discrimination makes the targeted employee feel extremely tense at work all the time.
Harassment – While the first thing that comes to mind is sexual harassment that is fairly rampant, especially in certain industries, other forms of physical harassment and mental torture have also been known to exist.
Symptoms of Workplace Stress
The causes of are global and specific to the workplace in nature. Similarly, the signs of work related stress can also be divided into some that are general symptoms of stress and others that are specific to the job.
- Psychological symptoms include depression, post traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.
- Emotional symptoms include dissatisfaction, negativity, mood swings, tiredness, fatigue and frustration.
- Behavioral symptoms that can surface are aggression, alcoholism, and drug abuse, irritability that leads to broken relationships, absenteeism and sudden panic attacks as well.
- Cognitive handicaps like lack of concentration, memory loss, incapacity of completing easy assignments on time and inability to find a solution to the simplest of work issues can also occur.
- Physically all the stress can result in headaches, upset stomach and bowel disorders and insomnia in the short term. In the long run chronic stress can result in cardiovascular disorders, musculoskeletal diseases and increase susceptibility to other ailments due to a weak immune system.
Workplace Stress Management
Some of the prevailing causes of stress are unavoidable and therefore even while companies may wake up to the issue and change aspects like working environment and hiring policies and the like, there are some aspects that cannot change. To cope with such situations therefore, one needs to be able to handle and manage stress. There are various things that you can do to manage stress successfully.
Think positive – The first change that you need to make to avoid and manage stress is to think positively. If you are a positive person, you will be less likely to be attacked by stress in the first place. Those who are positive in their approach do no sit down when roadblocks present themselves. They take on the challenge and overcome the hurdles as best that they can.
Lifestyle changes – Some very easy aspects of your lifestyle, when changed. Can provide you with a lot of support allowing you to combat stress. Spend quality time with your family and pets. Join a hobby and make sure that you take it seriously. Adopt a sport or exercise every day for at least 30 minutes to release endorphins that induce a sense of well being.
Change your diet – Avoid caffeine, alcohol and aerated drinks. Reduce your sugar intake since high blood sugar levels keep you in a hyperactive state. Eat healthy foods and make sure to add in good portions of fresh fruit and vegetables in your daily diet chart.
Be prepared for change – Change is inevitable and even while you may feel extremely comfortable working in the “style of the sixties”, survival needs you to take notice of the winds of change and prepare accordingly. Spend some time in understanding the various aspects in your industry that are changing and give some thought to how they are likely to impact you.
Over expectation from self – Workaholics are most prone to stress at the workplace since they expect too much from themselves. They also suffer from a delusion that if they do not complete the work, it will not get done. Perfectionists also go through a similar phase. If you want peace of mind and relief from stress, you will need to let go. Delegation is the new mantra and while you may supervise the work of your juniors, do not end up doing all the work yourself. Learn to say no when other people pile on work on you just because you are passionate about your work.
Stress management techniques – Breathing techniques, exercise, yoga and other such techniques can help you relax your nerves when they are otherwise tense so that you can remain fresh and energetic each day. These techniques help you revitalize and get ready to meet the challenges of the next day.
Herbal treatments – Various herbal tinctures and preparations like Ashwagandha, Kava Kava, Saint John’s Wort, Ginseng, Chamomile, Lemon Balm and other nervines can help in calming agitated nerves.
Do You Love Your Job in the First Place?
It is ironical that there are so many people who experience workplace stress without really understanding the real cause of the problem. In majority of the cases, stress at work is felt by mainly those people who do not really love their job or are not passionate about the same.
Do What You Love
Do you ever get stressed doing something you are passionate about? Only if you love the work that you do can you give in your best and yet remain unstressed and free from worries. Taking potshots at your boss is part of the fun that you have in office too, without which the office would not be the same.
No, one does not need to be married to work to be able to be free from workplace stress and it is also not really about the number of hours that you spend there. On the other hand it is the quality of the time that you spend there that matters.
Honestly, if you don’t like your job and do not enjoy doing what you do – find another job! Money plays an important role in our life but at the same time, doing a job that you do not enjoy can get you nothing but stress. You’ll never experience ‘job satisfaction’. And you’ll most likely resort to ‘feel good’ activities like drinking, smoking, junk food, late night partying, to get the satisfaction you have been missing in your job, and ruin your health in the process.
People issues, bosses, corporate politics and other hassles do become insignificant if you like what you do. The same issues assume gargantuan proportions if you do not really enjoy otherwise.
However, one does understand that sometimes there are circumstantial situations and you may not be able to give up the stressful job that you have. In such cases, you can take some simple steps to…
Love What You Do
If you can’t find the job that you love, try loving the job that you’ve got. Seriously, it isn’t as difficult as it seems. You only have to change your perspective. Here are some ways you can make your job interesting:
- If there is an option for promotion, try learning new skills that can contribute to your career growth. Life in general can be interesting if it becomes a learning process in itself.
- Create a rapport between your colleagues and try to know them better. There are always interesting people beneath office dress.
- Start seeing good things in people. Now don’t say me there isn’t a single virtue in your boss! No matter how bad a person appears, there will be some good qualities in them. It’s just that human tendency is to always see the bad in a person first. I know this the most difficult part, but if you can change this attitude, your job won’t be the same again.
- Find an opportunity to crack jokes with your colleagues and keep the atmosphere light and healthy. A few jokes (and not shared via the email but personally) can make a bad day convert into a happier one.
I know, not many are fortunate enough to find the job of their dreams but it’s all in our hands to love what we are doing. If you can love what you are doing, you don’t need any stress management techniques, but if you don’t love what you do, no amount of stress management advice will work for you.