The New Age of Stress at Work
Your job used to be challenging but manageable. Now it seems no matter how fast you run, you can't keep up. Your inbox is piling up, and your boss is on your back.
This scenario is all too common, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). In national surveys:
- 40 percent of workers say their job is very or extremely stressful
- 75 percent say workers suffer more job-related stress than workers in the previous generation
- 25 percent of employees say their job is their number one stressor
Even if you love your job, long-term stress can grind you down.
From Cave to Cubicle: The Stress Response
Stress is a necessary survival response that draws upon instinct, hormones and muscle. Indeed, our distant ancestors' "fight or flight" response to stress allowed the human race to survive in a hostile environment.
These days we don't need to outrun predators. Yet we still have the same quickened heartbeat and surging stress hormones when faced with a stressful situation. Those biological responses are lifesaving when we're in danger, but they can damage our health if they become a way of life.
A small dose of stress can be helpful. It may help you meet a deadline or score high on a presentation. But if stress becomes a daily reality, it can lead to poor health, causing headaches, upset stomach and poor sleep. Over time it may lead to chronic health problems such as depression, back pain and heart disease.
Take Your Stress Temperature
Certain factors are well-known causes of stress in the workplace. These include:
- Lack of control or input
- Heavy workload or too many responsibilities
- Not being recognized or rewarded for your work
- Working in dirty, noisy or uncomfortable surroundings
- Deadlines that are extremely difficult to meet
- Nonstop telephone calls
- Conflicts with coworkers
- Computer problems
- Job insecurity
Are any of these at the bottom of your stress? Are there other factors that play a role? Pinpointing the causes of stress can help you find solutions.
Tame Your Stress
If work stress is getting you down:
- Talk to your manager. Ask if there are ways to restructure your job to make it more manageable. Be positive. Offer solutions, not just complaints.
- Explore work resources at your company. Find out if there is an employee assistance program (EAP) or stress management course you could access.
- Take good care of yourself. Be sure to eat well, get enough sleep and make time for exercise. You'll handle stress better if you're healthy. Learn why it's important to take a break from stress and technology, which might be stressing you out.
- Get organized. With constant demands and paperwork flowing onto your desk, clear the clutter. Learn more ways to get organized on the job and how to manage your time. If you need help creating a list, try our Can Do List.
- Get help if you need it. You may want to take a meditation, yoga or tai chi class. You might also consider seeing a therapist who could help you seek solutions to your work situation.