Is your job making you sick?
According to the American Institute of Stress, 1 job stress is the major source of stress for American adults, and it has gotten worse over the past few decades. Forty percent of workers report that their jobs are very or extremely stressful, and 80% of workers claim to feel stress on the job, with half of those saying they need help learning how to manage it more effectively.
It’s impossible to avoid all stress in the workplace, but there is a reasonable expectation that it shouldn’t be so bad that it literally makes you sick. In fact, burnout and stress are the most common reasons for taking time off work, 2 and more and more people are taking “mental health days” to try to deal with the overwhelming stress of their jobs.3
If you can’t avoid it, the secret is to figure out how to recognize workplace burnout and stress, and take action as soon as you can.
The causes of workplace stress can be anything from having an excessive workload, to doing work that isn’t challenging, to not having enough control over your job-related decisions, or having a salary that’s just too low. Regardless of the cause, it’s up to you to figure out a way to manage that stress before it truly does make you ill.
The American Psychological Association4 has these suggestions for dealing with and managing workplace stress:
- Keep track. Pay attention to what situations are causing you the most anxiety at work by tracking them in a journal for a week or two. Record how you’re feeling during these moments, including what’s going on in the environment around you, and how you reacted to the stressful situation. Did you confront someone and raise your voice? Did you leave the office and “hide” in the washroom? Did you go to the vending machine to get a snack? Keeping track of this information will help you determine what your biggest triggers are and how you typically react to them.
- Respond well. Stress is a fact of life – it’s how you react to it that makes all the difference. Once you’ve identified your workplace stressors, put a plan in place to help you cope with them in the healthiest way possible. That includes making healthy choices when you’re not at work, such as getting lots of exercise, making good food choices, getting a good night’s sleep, engaging in hobbies and activities that you enjoy, and socializing with friends and family. Self-care is critical for managing stress.
- Talk to your supervisor. It may feel awkward at first, but this is a critical step in ensuring that you have a healthy and productive work environment. Also, don’t forget that your manager wants you to be healthy because when you are, you’re productive and more able to your job well. Together, come up with an effective plan to manage the stressors you’ve identified.
- Learn relaxation techniques. Meditation, yoga, and relaxing breathing techniques that will help calm your mind and ease the tension in your body can be a great help when you’re in the midst of a stressful situation. Learn to lean on these methods of self-care when you’re in the thick of things.
- Get help. If after you’ve spoken to your supervisor and made some healthy changes you still find yourself overwhelmed at work, consider talking to a professional who can help you better manage your stress and change any unhealthy behaviors associated with it. If your company has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that’s a great place to start. Your EAP may have stress management courses, available counseling opportunities, referrals to other mental health professionals and other important resources that can help.
We spend most of our waking hours at work or in transit to and from work, so it’s important that your workplace be as healthy as possible for you. Being proactive about your workplace mental health can help make that a reality.
Check out our article for more healthy ways to deal with stress, and for some short animated videos that raise awareness of the 13 factors that can impact the mental health of employees in the workplace, visit YouTube.
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