Workplace Stress: Identification & Coping Strategies

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Stress Awareness Week & Workplace Stress

This week [1st-5th November 2021] is International Stress Awareness Week. It was created by ISMA in 2018 to raise awareness about stress prevention. (There is also a stress awareness month in April, run by Stress Management Society - see the end of this article for links.)

ISMA's website states that it is all about:

Putting health, happiness, and wellbeing into the heart of business

and as this is also something we are passionate about we couldn't let this week go by without a mention. So, we are going to look at the signs of chronic stress that if left unmanaged can cause serious issues but also some coping mechanisms for workplace stress that you can use regularly to help yourself.

Everyone suffers from moments of (fleeting) stress from time to time, like when you’re stuck in traffic, or you have a hard day at the office/work. But, for some people, stress can also become a serious issue.

Expose yourself to too much chronic stress and you’re putting yourself at significant risk of a range of health challenges. In fact, it has been said that stress can be directly connected to many of the main causes of premature death. Eek! So it really is something to pay attention too and not just be accepted as part of working life or running a business!

6 Symptoms of Chronic Stress

The good news is that there are various ways you can begin to cut down on workplace stress, from exercising to changing your routine.

But, before you get started, it’s important to be able to recognize the symptoms of stress.

Be aware of these red flags and as we're not qualified to give actual medical advice, if you suffer from them often it may be worthwhile paying a visit to your GP and possible having a word with your HR department about your workload or working environment.:

  1. Tooth or jaw pain
    Stress can affect your teeth, more than you might think. If you’ve noticed soreness in your jaw or pain in your gums, then it might be because you’re dealing with feelings of stress. Grinding your teeth is often something that you may not even realize you’ve been doing until you get to the dentist, and they berate you for signs of bruxism. If you do notice signs of discomfort in your jaw, check with your dentist to ensure that you’re doing everything you can to protect your teeth.
  2. Worsening Memory
    As your schedule becomes more overwhelming, and you end up with more things to think about each day, it’s easy to brush off issues with forgetfulness.However, if your memory is really letting you down lately, it could be because of stress.
    When you’re putting your brain under too much pressure, you also expose the muscle to a lot of extra work. This means that you end up getting frazzled or burning out a lot faster.
    Paying attention to where you lose track of your train of thought could show you where you have too much on your plate. It might be time to slow down.
  3. Tummy Troubles
    Digestive health and stress are closely connected. You might have noticed during stressful periods in the past that you tend to have challenges with heartburn, diarrhea, and constipation. These are all common gastrointestinal symptoms of stress.
    Your stomach will often churn and feel uncomfortable when you’re stressed because feelings of anxiety cause the body to produce additional digestive acid.
    These feelings can also mean that you don’t empty food from your stomach as quickly as you should, which leads to cramping, gas, and bloating.
  4. You’re always thirsty.
    If you’re constantly suffering from a major thirst, it’s worth speaking to a doctor. Excessive thirst can be a sign of things like diabetes. However, you could also be dehydrated because of excess stress due to the extra hormones pumped out by your adrenal glands. Those glands are also responsible for the hormones that regulate the fluid levels in your body, as well as electrolytes. If your adrenal glands are worn out, then the body might feel like it needs more hydration when it really doesn’t. Although upping your H2O intake shouldn’t cause any problems, it’s still a sign of a long-term problem that’s important to rectify.
  5. Soreness & Stiffness.
    Sore muscles often happen as a result of tension. If you’re under a ton of stress, your body responds by involuntarily tensing up. This can gradually lead to more body pain over time, because your muscles aren’t used to being under that much strain.
    When your body is in fight or flight mode, this produces excess cortisol
    too, causing more tensing. The same way you suffer from soreness from grinding your teeth, you
    could experience soreness elsewhere in your body because you’re placing more pressure on your muscles. A good massage or a hot bath might help in the shorter term, but eventually you’ll need to tackle stress.
  6. Insomnia.
    If you’re having trouble with falling asleep at night, it could be because stress is making it harder for you to relax. It’s likely that you spend a lot of time thinking about the things that worry
    you when you’re in bed. After all, there’s nothing else to take your mind off those worries.
    You might also notice that you’re having more odd dreams because of your stress.
    On the other hand, some people experience a desire to sleep more often when they’re stressed.
    This could be an indication that you’re not just suffering from stress, but that you’re having issues with anxiety and depression too. Consider speaking to your doctor about these issues. They should be able to offer some personalized guidance.

It’s very important to your health and wellbeing that you learn to relieve stress. Find self-care and relaxation activities that work for you and partake in these activities regularly. Make it a priority to take care of yourself by reducing your stress.

If you'd like some more coping strategies, especially for workplace stress, then read on ...

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Coping with Workplace Stress

Even if you love your job, there are going to be days where you are going to experience stress. Many people allow stress to get the best of them, but you don't have to. You can learn to cope with workplace stress and even use stress to move you forward instead of holding you back.

SEE ALSO: Workplace Bullying or Coercive Control?

When you are stressed out about your work, you may feel like you are on an island all by yourself. Of course, it isn't the case at all.

"80% of workers feel stress on the job, nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress and 42% say their coworkers need such help. 25% have felt like screaming or shouting because of job stress, 10% are concerned about an individual at work they fear could become violent." ~ Stress.org > Workplace Stress

On-the-job stress is not something unique to you - everyone experiences it!

Sometimes just knowing this is enough to help you get through to the other side so you can start feeling happy and healthy again.

If not, thankfully, there are somethings you can do to reduce the workplace stresses in your life.

Some solutions to workplace stress include:

  1. Letting the little things go, it probably doesn't matter anyway
  2. Proactively balancing work and family life
  3. Creating a support network of friends and family, or even co-workers
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Workplace Stress Solutions

Letting Things Go

The fact is, when you allow yourself to take a more relaxed and positive outlook on the world, it will suddenly become a lot more relaxed and positive. When you choose to have a positive approach in life, you'll likely find that the things that would have stressed you out before will now roll off your back. It's not that you won't feel stress; it's just that you will have a more positive way of interpreting things so that stress is not necessarily such a bad thing.

Finding Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance has become a bit of a buzz-word in today's society but that doesn't make it any less important. When work takes over our lives, that's usually when we become stressed out at work and
when we cannot cope well.

You should make sure that you engage in daily activities that do not involve work, even if this is simply reading a chapter of your favorite book or picking up the phone to call a friend. When you allow your work life to consume you, stress will consume you too. In turn, you'll become less efficient and effective at your job. So do try and find a way that works for you.

Creating a Support Network

Make sure you spend time with your friends, family, or even your co-workers outside of work.

We often allow our home to become an office away from the office. That's no good!

Make sure you have a support network of friends and family members who will remind you that there are plenty of things to do that aren't related to your work in any way. It's also helpful to have this support network so that when you are stressed out, you'll have someone to turn to. Oftentimes a support system helps keep us grounded when we would otherwise be tightly wound with work-related stress.

It's true that stress is a part of life, but that doesn't mean it needs to consume us. Stress will come and go, but coping is something that needs to be ongoing so you can live a great life inside and outside of your professional life.

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As a final note it may be worthwhile considering if your actual working environment is causing you stress. Is your current environment your most productive or are distractions leading you to be less productive and therefore stressing you out?

Talk to us about how we can provide an insight via i3profiling into the environment you are likely to be most productive and fulfilled within.