It never ceases to amaze me how many people seek
professional help for problems related to job stress. It
companies expect too much from their employees.
These demands, if ongoing, can have
a negative impact on the employee's mood and health
affecting family and friends.
Furthermore, companies often fail to realize how
employee stress is affecting their bottom
line. The following article reviews the impact of
job stress on one's physical and psychological well-
being while offering tips on building resistance
to the ill effects of stress.
Overwhelmed by Workplace Stress?
You're not alone.
Americans are known for placing great emphasis on
work and career. Working hard, however, should not
be confused with overworking at the expense of
relationships and physical health. According to a 2007
nationwide poll by the American Psychological
Association, three-quarters of Americans list work as
a significant source of stress, with over half of those
surveyed indicating that their work productivity suffered
due to stress. Furthermore, almost half stated that
they did not use their allotted vacation time and even
considered looking for a new job because of stress.
Job stress is also a concern for employers, costing
U.S. businesses an estimated $300 billion per year
through absenteeism, diminished productivity,
employee turnover and direct medical, legal and
Stress can significantly affect physical health. The APA
survey found three quarters of people have
experienced physical symptoms as a result of stress,
such as headache, fatigue, and an upset stomach in
combination with feelings of irritability, anger,
nervousness, and lack of motivation.
The stress people are experiencing comes, in part,
from the pressures of today's connected world.
Because of e-mail, cell phones and the Internet,
Americans are finding it increasingly difficult to switch
off from the stresses of the workplace and concentrate
on their personal priorities--over half of respondents
said that job demands interfered with family or home
"While technology undoubtedly improves our lives,
information overload can add to the stress levels of an
already overworked nation and lead to using
unhealthy behaviors to cope with that stress," says
psychologist David Ballard, Psy.D, MBA, of the
American Psychological Association. "What is
important is to learn how to effectively manage your
stress, so you can perform at your best both at home
and at work."
Increased stress can lead to using unhealthy
behaviors such as smoking, comfort eating, poor diet
choices, inactivity and drinking alcohol to manage
their stress. APA warns that reliance on such behavior
can lead to long-term, serious health problems and
offers these strategies for managing your work-related
Know yourself. Be aware of your
stress level and
know what stresses you out. People experience
stress in different ways. You may have a hard time
concentrating or making decisions, feel angry, irritable
or out of control, or experience headaches, muscle
tension or a lack of energy. Learn your own stress
Recognize how you deal with stress.
Do you engage
in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, drinking or
eating poorly to cope with your stress? Do you lose
patience with your children or spouse or coworkers
when you feel overwhelmed by work pressures?
Turn off and tune in. Communication
take you to productivity heights never imagined, but it
can also allow work to creep into family time, dinner
and vacations. Set rules for yourself, such as turning
off your cell phone or BlackBerry when you get home,
or establishing certain times when you return calls. Be
sure to communicate those rules to others, so you
can manage their expectations. Let technology be a
tool that works for you, rather than the other way
Keep a "To-Do" list. Worried that you'll
something important? Constantly thinking through all
the things you need to get done? Clear your head and
put those thoughts on paper (or in an electronic task
list) by creating a list of work and personal tasks and
marking those with the highest priority. Not only will
you reduce the risk of forgetting something, you'll also
be better able to focus on the task at hand.
Take short breaks. Stay energized and
taking a minute or two periodically throughout the day
to stand up, stretch, breathe deeply and shake off the
accumulating tension. Short breaks between tasks
can be particularly effective, helping you feel like you've
wrapped up one thing before moving on to the next.
Take a 10-15 minute break every few hours to
recharge and avoid the temptation to work through
lunch. The productivity you gain will more than make
up for the time you spend on break.
Find healthy ways to manage stress.
Work to replace
unhealthy coping strategies, such as eating junk food,
smoking or drinking alcohol with healthy behaviors,
like exercise, meditation or talking with friends and
family. Keep in mind that unhealthy behaviors develop
over time and can be difficult to change. Take it slow
and focus on changing one behavior at a time. Some
behaviors are very difficult to change and may require
the help of a licensed professional such as a
Take care of yourself. Eat right, get
drink plenty of water and engage in regular physical
activity. Ensure you have a healthy mind and body
through activities like yoga, taking a short walk, going
to the gym or playing sports that will enhance both
your physical and mental health. Take regular
vacations. No matter how hectic life gets, make time
for yourself-even if it's just simple things like reading
a good book, listening to your favorite album or
enjoying a leisurely Sunday brunch at your favorite
Ask for professional support.
Accepting help from
supportive friends and family can improve your ability
to manage stress. Your employer may also have
stress management resources available through an
Employee Assistance Program (EAP), including
online information, available counseling and referral
to mental health professionals, if needed. If you
continue to feel overwhelmed by work stress, you may
want to talk to a psychologist, who can help you better
manage stress and change unhealthy
Employers can visit www.phwa.org for information and
resources to help your employees and organization
For more information visit the
resources section of our website.