Inner Adventure Guide

Signs of stress at work

Overcoming Stress at Work

At the initial stages of stress, the goal of workforce policies should be to detect if an employee is feeling the effects of too much stressful energy. Human resource policies should be set in place to ensure that the most obvious factors are dealt with, or an appropriate follow-up can be provided. The symptoms revealed in the “physical signs” category can also act as a form of warning for the human resource manager. When an employee shows the majority of these symptoms, a stress/grievance action plan should be put into place. This plan should include a thorough risk evaluation for the employee, identification of stress obstacles, and the use of stress-releasing stimulus. In the long run, these policies will ensure a reduction in both physical and psychological stress symptoms when attacked at its source – too much stressful energy.

Signs of stress at work can be varied and many. Some might be obvious, some not. Generally, when under stress, individuals are apt to be irritable, unable to concentrate, have trouble sleeping, or want to sleep constantly. They might have sudden mood swings, become withdrawn, or have difficulties interacting. They might have temper outbursts, cry for no reason, or simply deny the fact that there is a problem at all. There will be absenteeism, and the person might be constantly late for work. They might experience fearfulness, have lowered self-esteem, or experience feelings of anxiety, anger, disappointment, or depression. They might exhibit a loss of memory, be unable to deal with all the tasks on hand, or have problems with decision making. They might constantly complain about pains in the neck or back, contract an illness every few weeks, feel nauseous, or simply have no appetite. They might appear tired, lack energy, be constantly tense, or seem nervous. Output at work will begin to falter, and mistakes might become the norm.

Emotional signs of stress

Stress can make you feel overwhelmed by your workload, or as if your job is not the right fit for your skills. You might also feel over-stretched or out of control because of the pressures on you. You might think the demands are too high, the stakes too great or that the job seems to offer little in compensation. During busy periods, it is easy for work life to seem relentless and this daily crush can sometimes seem too much if you are worn or ill. You might worry that you now seem unable to deliver what is expected and this, in time, can make you reluctant to engage in hope of maintaining your composure. Maybe you have been treated badly and this has made you angry, resentful and ready to explode. It could be that the pressures cause you to sleep poorly and this makes you irritable. Your heightened stress levels may cause you to risk sickness and this can feel depressing. Alternatively, you may already be feeling out of sorts and depressed and this can amplify your irritation, fear and sense of being overloaded at work.

The reasons you experience these emotional changes can be complex and varied. There may be a number of underlying or trigger causes.

– Are feeling overwhelmed, irritable or angry.

– Often feel down, and maybe depressed, and that things seem hopeless.

– Frequently feel strained, and perhaps lack enthusiasm.

– Are worrying a lot.

– Are having difficulty concentrating.

– Are suffering from emotional reactions that are out of proportion to the situations.

– Have also lost or gained weight.

– Might have problems sleeping.

The emotional signs of stress that you might notice include that you:

Behavioral signs of stress

Absences are usually linked to a more serious health problem. Experientially, they mark the point where the brain and body, as a defense against the relentless pressure, rebellion, arguing, anger, threats, and pleading, among others, force the person to take a respite from it all. The health effects of prolonged stress include the effects of constant stress (such as headaches of various kinds – tension, migraine, vascular, etc.), cardiovascular problems, increased susceptibility to infections, such as colds and cases of influenza or other types of more serious illnesses, with the digestive system, and possibly with other organs, as well as processes of degeneration. Stress in turn affects psychologically the individual’s drive, interest, enjoyment, expression, behavior, daily and lifetime choices, and also his/her understanding of the rules of life, including professional life, and of his/her behavior as a participant or public figure.

Absenteeism, particularly more extended absences such as increasing “sick” days, a higher susceptibility to ill health (both minor illnesses such as colds and major illnesses), and a proclivity for accidents (whether at work or elsewhere, such as on the way home) are common behavioral indicators of work stress. The stress-related illness generally results from a more serious erosion of health. Feelings of anxiety, being pressured, agitation, impatience, and depression are common psychological signs of stress as well as the more dramatic ones such as panic or hostility. Individually or collectively destructive workplace behavior (backbiting, talking about or playing dirty tricks on others, carelessness) are further behavioral signs of stress.

Cognitive signs of stress

The way that you think, the way your mind works changes when you are stressed. You can forget things (not just misplacing your keys but important things like appointments or deadlines), have more negative thoughts, have trouble concentrating, and/or experience poor judgment. If you run a white-knuckled, high-stress meeting, realize people are reacting in ways that you never expected or if things seem to take much longer to accomplish than you thought they would, then everyone may be experiencing difficulty concentrating. As well, if you find yourself making judgment calls that you usually wouldn’t, this may be a sign of critical pressure. Stress causes you to think negatively. Some people view the glass as half empty, others as half full. When your work life is consumed with stress, the world becomes bleak.

There are many signs that you are stressed. However, when you are stressed, certain signs come to the foreground. There are four categories: cognitive, physical, emotional, and behavioral. This is not a definitive or absolute list. There are other signs. But these are the signs that most frequently present themselves in a work environment.

Coping with work-related stress

When we are under stress, it’s easy to feel helpless, particularly when the stress seems insurmountable. But finding time to plan a strategy that will help us learn how to cope with the challenging times can reduce these feelings of helplessness and improve our sense of control over our hectic or anxious lives. We do well to plan to manage our time in ways that reduce our exposure to work-related stress. This implies looking at how we organize our day, week, or month. As busy managers, we do well to prioritize and then try to concentrate on what we see as the most important task. There is always a limit to what we can do in any one period, so we should try not to take on too much in terms of demands made on us by others and demands that we make on ourselves. Of course, it’s always difficult to say no to new demands, but it’s often necessary if we want to manage our time in ways that reduce the pressure.

Not all stress is bad. All human beings experience stress, especially at work. If it’s not too severe, stress can sometimes be beneficial for us by helping to keep us alert, motivated, and able to manage pressure. In a nutshell, it can sometimes bring out the best in us. However, stress can be harmful for us in ways that we don’t always appreciate. If stress is excessive and prolonged, it can interfere with our ability to perform at work and in the long-term, it can seriously damage our physical and mental health. Not only can unmanaged stress affect how we work, but it also affects the people around us, particularly those close to us. Outside work, relationships with partners and family members may fall apart, leading to social isolation and an increased vulnerability to mental ill health. It can also encourage people back to unhealthy patterns of behavior like excessive drinking or overeating. Many experts believe that too much stress, especially unmanaged stress, can lead to illness, both mental and physical. These may include depression or anxiety, diabetes, heart disease, ulcers, a doubled risk of having a stroke, and an increased risk of some forms of cancer.

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