Work stress affects millions of people across the globe.
In daily life, sources of stress can include having to fulfil competing work/family/social demands, having financial problems, and experiencing violence or bullying.
At work, stress can be exacerbated by authoritarian, inflexible bosses and a work culture that tolerates bullying and other types of illicit behavior.
The Gallup 2019 Global Emotions Report indicating that around 35% of people in the world are battling stress on a daily basis. Some of the most stressed populations include Greece (where stress affects 59% of people surveyed) and the U.S. (where it threatens 55% of employees), although all nations could do with a bit of relief.
If you are experiencing work stress, take it seriously. It can have a host of negative effects on your physical and mental health, and it can hamper your work performance.
Utilising Emotional intelligence at work for career success is one such thing to help manage stress. However, it’s not that simple. Let’s dig in deeper to understand a bit more about work-related stress.
We will follow this up with useful tips for managing work-related stress.
Understanding the Negative Effects Of Work Stress
Taking steps to manage work stress is crucial since numerous studies have shown that chronic stress can contribute to a host of health conditions. One 2019 study by scientists at the European Society of Cardiology found that work stress and impaired sleep are linked to a threefold greater risk of cardiovascular death in workers with high blood pressure.
Another study published in the British Medical Journal, meanwhile, found that work stress leads to heart disease and diabetes. Additional studies have connected stressful jobs to a higher risk of heart rhythm disorders, poor mental health (including depression and anxiety), and certain cancers. One 2017 study published in Preventive Medicine, for instance, linked prolonged work stress to a higher chance of developing the following diseases:
- Colon cancer
- Rectal cancer
- Lung cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
Stress And its connection with Poor Or Inadequate Sleep
Poor quality sleep and sleeping less than the recommended seven-to-nine hours per night can cause a host of problems of their own. These include:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Immunity issues
- Higher stress levels (getting a good night’s rest can be one of the most common problems faced by people with stressful jobs)
Employees with stressful jobs should take sleep hygiene seriously, taking proactive steps, which should include:
- Sleeping in a bedroom that is completely dark and silent.
- Following the same sleep schedule every night.
- Refraining from consuming stimulating beverages such as coffee and energy drinks in the afternoon and evening.
- Embracing natural stress-busting strategies (and seeking professional help if these do not work).
- Therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy can help enlighten you about positive, practical strategies that can be relied upon when work stress is high.
Know the factors That Increase Stress At Work
In addition to bullying and other clear acts of aggression at work, some work cultures are more conducive to stress than others.
For instance, one 2020 study by Indiana University researchers found that workers with more autonomy at work enjoy better mental health and a greater cognitive ability to deal with work demands.
Lead researcher, Erik Gonzalez said, “When job demands are greater than the control afforded by the job or an individual’s ability to deal with those demands, there is a deterioration of their mental health and, accordingly, an increased likelihood of death.”
If you are planning on staying long-term at a job, it is important to ensure you are in a dynamic, flexible workplace – one in which a worker’s autonomy is respected.
Your workplace should also have a positive work culture – one in which values such as diversity, inclusivity, and a zero-tolerance for bullying are embraced.
Stress Management At Work
Employers should provide workers with stress management sessions. These sessions should teach employees a number of important strategies to deal with stress, including:
- Setting aside a few minutes every day for relaxation exercises
- Building and maintaining social relationships
- Receiving help for challenges such as weight loss, smoking cessation, and exercise
Additionally, employees who are stressed should ensure they are sleeping well, and seek help if insomnia or frequent waking is a problem. Sleep treatments can comprise:
- The completion of progressive muscle relaxation exercises at bedtime
- Sleep restriction therapy (which involves the use of mild sleep deprivation to induce sleepiness)
- Stimulus control therapy (which aims at removing factors that condition one’s mind to resist sleep)
- Remaining passively awake
- Using light therapy
Embracing Holistic Activities for alleviating stress
Some of the most powerful and oft-studied methods for quelling work-related stress are holistic approaches such as yoga, meditation and Tai Chi.
These methods emphasize the importance of controlled breathing and mindfulness – keeping the mind in the present moment, free of worry about the past or future.
These activities have been found to significantly lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. If you are more into high-level cardiovascular activities, know that these can also have a very positive effect on stress.
From swimming to cycling, aerobics to trekking – all these activities can help you get rid of tension and instill the joy of spending time outdoors.
Spending Time In Nature to manage work-related stress
During your workday, try to spend a few minutes in a park or other green area close to your office.
Nature has been found in study after study to efficiently end stress, with one study by Cornell University scientists showing that just 10 minutes of green time can have powerful calming effects.
On the weekend or on days in which you have more time, try to enjoy a forest bath. This is a popular hobby for stressed workers in Japan. It involves visiting a forest or green area and opening all one’s senses to the surroundings (including the senses of touch, sight, sound and texture).
If possible, try living close to nature and spending time outside. Researchers at the University of East Anglia have found that living near green spaces reduces the risk of stress, Type 2 diabetes, premature death, preterm birth, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.
Long-term stress can be detrimental to your physical and mental health. If you have a high-stressed job, it is important to battle stress on a regular basis through mindfulness-based activities, exercise, and a healthy diet.
Time spent in nature can also help.
Finally, consider whether or not your workplace is one you can see yourself thriving in long-term. Don’t make one of the biggest career mistakes of staying trapped at work. Hit reboot to your career if the current one is hurting you.
A positive workplace should proactively tackle workplace stress, provide workers with some control over how they do their jobs, and be empathetic to its workers’ needs to balance their work and personal lives.