No matter how much you love what you are doing in the office, you can fall victim to workplace stress. Every job has its stressful elements from meeting deadlines to reaching sales quotas. Work-related stress will most likely always be part of your corporate life. Learning how to overcome workplace stress is vital as it can become harmful to your physical and emotional health.
A recent survey has revealed that employee stress levels have risen nearly 20% in three decades. Also, 76% of respondents said that workplace stress negatively impacted their personal relationships. 66% have lost sleep due to work-related stress. And 16% have quit jobs because they were overwhelmed by the stress.
Stress isn’t always bad. It can help you stay focused, energetic, and able to cope with challenges in the workplace. Stress is what keeps you on your toes during a presentation or alert to prevent accidents or costly mistakes. However, the workplace has become an emotional roller coaster for a lot of employees. When workplace stress has become chronic and has exceeded their ability to cope, overcoming workplace stress becomes crucial to ensure job satisfaction and performance.
Fortunately, there is something you can do to make workplace stress manageable. When it starts to interfere with your work performance, health, or personal life, it’s time to do something and take action. In this article, we shall delve on the following topics:
- What is Workplace Stress?
- Warning Signs of Workplace Stress
- Types of Workplace Stress
- Common Workplace Stressors
What is Workplace Stress?
According to the Stress in America survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), the workplace is one of the most significant sources of stress to most Americans. There are certain factors that can cause work-related stress. Long hours, tight deadlines, and other demands that can cause you to feel worried, drained, and overwhelmed.
There are some situations that you cannot control in the workplace but it doesn’t mean you cannot do something about them. If you already find yourself in a difficult situation, you can take steps in reducing workplace stress levels and get back control of your work.
Warning Signs of Workplace Stress
Several studies have revealed that 65% of employees feel extremely stressed at work and 25% think that their jobs are major stressors in their lives. It can affect them emotionally, physically, and mentally. In order to learn how to overcome workplace stress, you first need to identify the warning signs of workplace stress. Here are some of the signs you should be aware of:
1. Putting On Weight
Studies show that having an unpleasant work environment can drain the energy needed to make the safe dietary choices and to exercise. Usually, you will watch a movie while eating junk food to refresh your mind after a long hectic day at work instead of healthy choices like walking or meditating.
2. Feeling Degraded
Another sign that you are suffering from workplace stress is that you develop a state of being undervalued and feeling bad about yourself. If you are working hard to meet deadlines and highly appreciated for your efforts, then it is likely that you will become stressed.
On the other hand, if you are being degraded and your efforts are not being recognized, it can lead to frustration, depression, and you will feel undervalued.
3. Losing Interest in Your Spouse
One of the worst things about workplace stress is that it can spoil your personal life. Studies reveal that people who hate their jobs and are not recognized at work have a less satisfying relationship with their spouse.
4. Taking a Sick Day
If you lack the energy or interest to face a long, tiring day at work, then it is a red flag. Work-related stress often causes a worker to report late for work, call in sick, procrastinate, or fail to meet deadlines.
5. Prone to Insomnia
Employees who are not satisfied with their jobs often find it difficult to fall asleep or worse do not sleep. The stress of meeting deadlines keeps going through their minds even when they try to sleep. Insomnia is bad for your health and mind to restore energy for optimum performance.
6. Short Temper
Workplace stress can result in workers getting easily annoyed instead of solving the problem. Most of the time, they exhibit passive aggressive behavior. This type of behavior can be detrimental to your career and personal life. It can also affect your emotional health and will need to be resolved.
7. No work-life balance
Research has revealed that employees who have shown some passion about their job are at risk of experiencing burnout. Job dedication is always a positive attribute of employees but if it causes exhaustion and emotional distress, it is better to look for a job that offers work-life balance. Workplace stress will not only affect your health but also decreases your productivity and morale. You need to find ways to cope with it by finding ways to improve your situation.
Types of Workplace Stress
Stress is the body’s natural response to pressure or dangers happening around you. It produces hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. These substances are responsible for the body’s “flight-or-fight” response.
Our jobs allow you to feed yourself and your family, pay bills, and get what you want and need. However, too much workplace stress can negatively impact your health. Here are the common types of workplace stress and how you can deal with them:
Time stress happens when you think that there is not enough time for you to finish a task. When this happens, you start to panic and struggle in finishing as many things as you can. You start to rush until you get burned out. The result, you do all your tasks halfway or worse do not accomplish anything at all.
How To Manage Time Stress
With time stress, you need to manage your time and set your priorities straight. Filter your tasks so you can determine the ones you need to prioritize. You can use the Eisenhower Matrix for this. Here’s how the matrix goes:
- Do First. Tasks in this category should be prioritized first. Anything placed in this category should be done as soon as you are able and not later than the day after tomorrow.
- Schedule. These are the important but no so urgent tasks. It could be a scheduled meeting or an article with a set deadline.
- Delegate. Tasks in this category may not be important but still urgent. It could be a follow-up call to a client or a request for your presence for a presentation. These are tasks that you can transfer to people you can trust.
- Don’t do. These are tasks that are either important nor urgent. You can do these tasks when you have nothing else to do or don’t do them at all.
This type of stress is associated with anticipating the future a little too much. You anticipate so much that uncertainties of future events can become overwhelming.
How To Deal with Anticipatory Stress
- Be Positive. The best way to manage anticipatory stress is to not allow fear to overcome you. Seeing a positive light in outcomes can help by cutting off the negative stream of thinking. Practicing meditation and calming yourself down can also be helpful in preventing stress.
- Be Prepared. Face the unknown and tackle it head on by visualizing both the best and worst-case scenario. If you anticipate something bad in the future, prepare for it and formulate back-up plans that you can employ.
- Be Brave. Anticipatory stress is the result of thought failure. In order to combat failure, prepare yourself and visualize possible obstacles in your path. Take them as a challenge and see it as an opportunity for learning and growth.
Situational stress happens when things start to get out of hand. It appears suddenly and you will have no clue what to do. It happens at a time when you think that everything is going smoothly but suddenly everything starts to go downhill.
Maybe it’s a time when there was a sudden conflict and you are caught in the middle. It could also be the time when your boss is suddenly mocking you in front of your co-workers.
Coping with Situational Stress
Every individual reacts to situational stress differently. You can act based on behavior or how automatic responses work in certain situations. When conflict suddenly arises, you can either join the conflict or back away.
- Be Self-Aware. Being aware of yourself, your actions, and with everything around you. Self-awareness will help you think of a solution despite the stress you are feeling.
- Be Calm. Keep your cool and use your head instead of your temper or emotions. Staying calm will let you assess the situation before doing something that can affect you negatively, your reputation, or your job.
- Be Patient. Be patient by hearing both sides of the conflict before making a decision on the resolution. Meet them halfway in order to come up with a peaceful end to it. If your boss is the one causing situational stress, hear him out before reacting.
In encounter stress, you feel overwhelmed by meeting new or too many people. Both introverts or extroverts can be overwhelmed by a lot of people. It might be because you don’t like them or they don’t like you but there is a need for interaction. It might be your first meeting with them and you are worried about their reaction or perception of you.
Handling Your Encounter Stress
- Practice People Skills. To be successful with managing a lot of people, improve or master your people skills. You should have confidence ininteracting with people to have control of the situation. You can stay calm with the knowledge that you can handle any problems that will come your way.
- Be Emphatic. Understanding another person from their point of view is called empathy. By putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, you can understand them deeper and feel what they are feeling without being judgmental. This way, you can avoid possible conflict and at the same time strengthen relationships.
- Breathe. During stressful situations, it is a good practice to breathe. Deep breathing has the ability to reduce stress levels in your body. It signals your brain to calm down and the brain relays the message all over the body.
Common Workplace Stressors
We spend roughly a third of our adult lives in the workplace. No wonder work-related stress can heavily impact both physical and mental health. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, prolonged workplace stressors can cause cardiovascular diseases, musculoskeletal disorders, and psychological disorders.
In order to learn how to overcome workplace stress, you need to have an idea on what causes the stress in the first place. Here are 7 of the most common workplace stressors.
Working long hours with a heavy workload can leave you tired and stressed out at the end of the day. If you are experiencing too much load, you need to prioritize. Look at your projects and tasks so order them by deadline. What can you stop doing, minimize, or do more efficiently?
Talk to management if there are any conflicts with the deadlines, responsibilities, or any overload. Share how you will handle them. Ask for any help when you cannot resolve prioritization conflicts.
When demands are not effectively met, it can be a source of frustration and anger on your part. If this happens, take a deep breath. Look for ways to make the demand possible. You may need to reprioritize existing projects. Do you need more time? Discuss it with management along with proactive suggestions for a different way to achieve the end goal.
If management won’t budge to your demands, do your best. Don’t be hard on yourself for not being able to meet unrealistic demands. If you need to justify yourself, focus on the facts and not your feelings.
Organizational change is something that cannot be avoided. However, moving people around and changing the management structure and job descriptions creates uncertainty. The need for certainty is one of five fundamental domains that can trigger strong threats and rewards in the brain.
During the organizational change, try to understand the change as completely as you can. Focus on what it could mean for the organization and at your level within the company. If management has changed, find some time to meet your new manager. Offer your skills and personal situations with your new boss. Ask your new manager about their expectations, style, and next steps.
Have an open mind and be forward looking. Change can be something positive. Plus,look for opportunities rather than delve on the threats associated with the new environment.
Career and job ambiguity
Not having a specific direction in your career can create uncertainty. A career plan can make a huge difference in your feelings about your career and current job. Focus on your career goals. Define a career vision. Assess your skills and develop a learning plan. Build and maintain a professional network.
Lack of recognition
Employees who don’t feel valued quickly can lose motivation. If you don’t feel valued at work and appreciated by your peers, start by looking at your work quality. How will you be able to improve your work? Chances are you may need to work harder at communicating the work you have done and highlight the value of your work.
Poor interpersonal relationships
Bad relationships can make things uncomfortable at work. Sometimes we are forced to work closely with someone we dislike and this can have an impact in many ways. Finding a common ground for forging connections can help resolve the situation. As Abraham Lincoln puts it, if you don’t like someone, get to know him better.
If you find it difficult to get along with more than one person, think of how they perceive you. Are you showing genuine concern for others? Do you give in to negative thought patterns? If others see you as too emotional, practice better management of emotions. This will allow you to better identify the message they are trying to tell you and address the problem, not the emotion.
The negative effect on both the individual and the company of bullying and sexual harassment has been widely documented for decades. But bullying and sexual harassment is still prevalent in today’s workplace.
If you feel bullied or harassed, take the necessary steps to protect yourself. Put everything in black and white. Share it with the proper person in your company. Get moral support from your social network. Maintain a positive outlook and always look after yourself. If the situation does not improve, have a ready exit plan.