Workplace stress: Can you control it?
Our response to stress is not only mental. Under stress, our bodies behave as if under attack — whether the threat to our physical or emotional well-being is actual or imagined. Chemical "messengers" are released, producing physical changes that prepare the body for "fight or flight."
In the modern workplace, our stressors are numerous — from co-worker conflict to a constantly ringing telephone, from job insecurity to Java script errors, and so on.
If the chemical reaction to stress continues over long periods of time, it may contribute to physical or emotional illness. Adults commonly list top stressors as family, finances and work. Social isolation — having no one to confide in — is a serious source of stress for many people.
Everyone is different. Here are some signs and symptoms of stress:
- Physical — Headaches, grinding teeth, tight and dry throat, clenched jaws, chest pain, shortness of breath, pounding heart, high blood pressure, muscle aches, indigestion, constipation or diarrhea, increased perspiration, fatigue, insomnia, frequent illness.
- Psychological — Anxiety, irritability, sadness, defensiveness, anger, hypersensitivity, apathy, depression, slowed thinking or racing thoughts, feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, worthlessness, lack of direction, or insecurity.
- Behavioral — Overeating or loss of appetite, impatience, quickness to argue, procrastination, increased use of alcohol or drugs, increased smoking, withdrawal or isolation from others, neglect of responsibility, poor job performance, poor personal hygiene, change in religious practices, change in close family relationships.
How to deal with it
Here are some self-care tips for on-the-job stress:
- Take care of yourself — Get good exercise, adequate sleep and regular, balanced meals. Exercise helps burn off the excess energy that stress can produce. Sleep helps us tackle problems in a refreshed state. Good nutrition has important short-term and long-term benefits.
- Develop friendships — Having someone to confide in is important while on the job and off. Sharing feelings with people you trust can be a first step toward resolving your problems. Avoid relationships with "negative" friends who reinforce bad feelings.
- Take time off — Take a vacation or a long weekend. During the work day, take short breaks to stretch, walk, breathe slowly, and relax.
- Manage your time — Set realistic goals and deadlines. Plan projects accordingly. Do "must do" tasks first. Schedule difficult tasks for the time of day when you are most productive. Tackle easy tasks when you feel low on energy or motivation.
- Set limits — When necessary, learn to say "no" in a friendly but firm manner.
- Choose battles wisely — Don't rush to argue every time someone disagrees with you. Keep a cool head and save your argument for things that really matter. Avoid pointless arguments altogether.
- Use calming skills — Don't act on your first impulse. Give your anger time to subside. Anger needs to be expressed, but it is often wise to do something that takes your mind off the situation. The break allows you to compose yourself and respond to the anger in a more effective manner.
- Avoid self-medication — At times we may seek to use medication or alcohol as a response to stress. Such substances only mask the problem.
- If appropriate, look for less stressful job options — But first, ask yourself, whether you have given your job a fair chance.
- Seek help — If none of these steps relieve your feelings of stress, ask a health-care professional for advice.
This material is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for the medical advice of your doctor or any other health care professional. Always consult with your physician if you are in any way concerned about your health.
© 2003 - 2005 SLPM Self-care Ltd.