Stress is an unwelcome companion that can find its way into many aspects of our lives and the workplace is no exception. While a degree of stress can be motivating, persistent and overwhelming work-related stress can take a toll on our mental and physical well-being.
It is essential to recognise early signs that should not be ignored as they often signal more significant issues. Start by examining the red flags that warrant attention and look for practical strategies supported by research to mitigate their impact.
Understanding these signs and knowing how to address them is the first step toward achieving a healthier and more balanced work life.
Signs to look for
Physical symptoms: Persistent headaches, muscle tension, fatigue and changes in sleep patterns like insomnia or excessive sleep are common physical concerns of work-related stress that should not be ignored. A study published in the Journal of Occupational Health and Psychology found a significant association between work stress and physical symptoms emphasising the importance of addressing stress to lessen these symptoms.
Emotional distress: Research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology has linked work-related stress to increased emotional distress, suggesting that emotional well-being is closely tied to the workplace environment. You will find yourself battling feelings of irritability, anxiety and sadness that persist over time. You might also notice a reduced ability to concentrate or make decisions.
Physical health issues: Chronic stress has been linked to various health problems including cardiovascular issues, digestive disorders and a weakened immune system.
Decreased job satisfaction: If you find yourself increasingly dissatisfied with your job, feeling unappreciated, or experiencing a loss of enthusiasm for work, it may be a sign of stress.
What to do about it
Identify stressors: Start by identifying the specific stressors at work. Is it an overwhelming workload, unrealistic deadlines or a challenging work environment? Understanding the sources of stress can help you address them more effectively and take the appropriate action.
Seek support: Do not hesitate to reach out to a trusted colleague, supervisor or Human Resource Department to discuss your concerns. Sometimes, simply talking about your stressors can provide relief and lead to solutions. You will be amazed at how well this may work and how willing your workmates are to help you. Difficult as it may be to ask for help at your workplace, a study in the Journal of Organisational Behaviour found that social support at work can act as a buffer against the negative effects of stress, highlighting the importance of seeking help. So, take the chance and seek help.
Practice stress management: Incorporate stress-reduction techniques into your daily routine. These may include mindfulness meditation, prayers, deep breathing exercises or regular physical activity. A meta-analysis published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology showed that mindfulness-based interventions are effective in reducing workplace stress and improving overall well-being.
Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Disconnect from work-related emails and tasks during your off-hours to prevent burnout. Tempting as it may be to lessen your workload, do not bring work at home. Let your home be a place of peace, tranquillity and rest.
Consider professional help: If work stress becomes unmanageable, seeking help from a mental health professional can provide valuable coping strategies and support. And if all fails, consider getting another job, starting a business or taking a sabbatical to find yourself.