The Importance of Managing Work-Related Stress
"Americans are working more than ever, and, as a result, are more stressed out than ever."
Work-related stress is one of the most difficult of all life's daily stressors to manage. Today’s post with Dr Nancy tackles work-related stress and what you can do to manage it. We’ll discuss the impact work-related stress can have on your health, and also show you some ways to reduce stress, both at the office and after you get home.
- 01:06: Work-Related Stress
- 03:56: 10 Most Stressful Jobs
- 05:29: 10 Least Stressful Jobs
- 08:57: Work-place stress statistics
- 11:54: The Difficulty of Finding Work-Life Balance
- 14:24: Why We Must Manage Work-Related Stress
- 17:20: Morning Energy and Breathing Routines
- 24:40: A few other tips for managing stress
- 29:56: Change Up Your Stress Foods
- 34:12: Wrap-Up
Has this ever happened to you? You’ve got a deadline at work and you’re trying your best to meet it, but people will not stop emailing you or stopping by your office? And then your boss or client suddenly wants to be hyper-involved in every part of your job, giving you little independence? Maybe you’re working on a project with a co-worker you don’t really get along with, and you’re having trouble agreeing on anything, but your job depends on doing the task well. And now, with many of us working from home, we have the added stress of Zoom meetings, homeschooling, and kids running around.
Your anxiety level may be climbing fast just thinking about these scenarios!
According to a study conducted by the American Institute of Stress, more than 50% of people polled spend nearly 12 hours a day on work-related duties, and most of them skip taking a lunch break because of on-the-job demands.
The same study reported that 62% of those polled complained of neck pain at the end of the day, either from bending, sitting too long, or holding tension due to work-related stress. Almost half of the people in the study complained of other health issues, too, such as:
- Eye strain
- High blood pressure
- Compromised immune system
In fact, one in four people said they’ve called in sick because they couldn’t handle the stress of their job.
Most Stressful Jobs
- Enlisted Military Personnel
- Airline Pilot
- Police Officer
- Event Coordinator
- News Reporter
- Public Relations Executive
- Corporate Executive
- Taxi Driver
Least Stressful Jobs
- Diagnostic Medical Stenographer
- Compliance Officer
- Hair Stylist
- University Professor
- Medical Records Technician
- Operations Research Analyst
- Pharmacy Technician
- Massage Therapist
That doesn't mean these professions aren't stressful! Just that people report lower levels of stress on average than those in some of the other professions listed. Workers in the United States log more hours at their jobs than any other country in the world. This has reportedly had a huge impact, not only on people’s health, but on their personal relationships, as well. In another study, conducted by the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, 83% of men and 72% of women said they take their work stress home with them and it affects their personal life.
Shockingly, 42% of employees polled said that verbal abuse at work is common. Who wouldn’t feel stressed out in that environment? And 14% of employees say they’ve been so stressed out at work they’ve actually wanted to hit a co-worker!
Work-place stress statistics
- Stress results in over $300 billion in lost productivity each year!
- 60% to 80% of workplace accidents result from stress
- 1,000,000 employees miss work each day because of stress
- Stressed-out employees have considerably higher health care costs than their more relaxed peers. A recent study found that as many as 90% of visits to the doctor’s office can be linked to stress.
- 30% of people have yelled at their coworkers because of stress at work.
- Nearly 70% of workers feel as though they have too much work on their plates and there’s not enough time to get everything done.
- 75% of employees believe that today’s workers are more stressed than previous generations.
- Only 43% of people believe their employers care about work-life balance.
Can any of you relate to these statistics? Work-place stress is a huge problem — so, let’s dig in and see how we can ease the stress related to our jobs!
The Difficulty of Finding Work-Life Balance
Interpersonal relationships are one of the biggest stressors for people at work, with deadlines, dealing with unexpected, spur-of-the-moment issues, and managing other staff members rounding out the top four.
All of this is no Bueno for your health.
More and more, people are striving to find a good work-life balance, but many find it increasingly hard to do so because of the demands placed on us at work. Not to mention the fact that once you get home, you have a house and family to take care of. That can also make it difficult to strike any sort of balance — shouldn’t life balance include you having some relaxation or something you can do for fun or taking time out that’s just for you?
Why We Must Manage Work-Related Stress
There are a lot of things we can do, and they won’t even take too much time out of your day. The last thing we want is for you to become stressed out because you have yet another thing to add to your daily list! However, you do need to make stressing less a priority in your life and here’s why:
- Stress poses major health risks, contributing to issues like obesity, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
- Stress can lead to chronic inflammation, which can contribute to arthritis and cancer, as well as leading to heart disease and stroke.
- Stress can cause anxiety and depression.
- Stress can lead to fertility problems, erectile dysfunction, missed periods, and can contribute to low sex drive. This list goes on…
When you’re stressed, the hypothalamus, which is the part of your brain that is basically the body’s command center, sends out a signal to initiate the release of stress hormones like adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol. These hormones send your body into what’s called “fight or flight” mode. Essentially, your body is ready for battle – your muscles tense, your heart rate speeds up, your breath becomes a bit more labored. You’re ready and able to react to anything at a second’s notice. And this is all fine and good… for a brief period of time, in a crisis.
Sometimes, the body gets stuck in that “fight of flight” mode and that’s when all those health issues like depression, headaches, digestion issues, and chronic inflammation enter the picture. This is why it is so vitally important to find time to stress a little less.
Methods to Reduce Stress
Morning Energy and Breathing Routines
First of all, try and avoid going to the office already stressed out. Try to cut back on or eliminate caffeine altogether. Make sure you eat a breakfast that has some green leafy veggies and some protein and maybe even a little fruit. This will give you lots of energy right out of the gate.
Also try to do some deep breathing, right when you wake up. All you need is three to five minutes, and there are tons of great apps and YouTube videos to help guide you. While you’re deep breathing, think about things you’re grateful for! This will change your outlook for the day. Take in as much air through your nose as you can, and breathe it out as slowly as you can. Or, try this:
- First, find a comfortable seated position. You can sit directly on the floor or sit up on something like a cushion or a folded blanket. The important thing is to make sure you’re comfortable. That means you can sit in an easy cross-legged position or you can extend your legs out in front of you. Some people are comfortable bending their knees and sitting on their legs that way, but it can be a challenging position to hold for any length of time.
- Next, allow your hands to rest gently on your knees or in your lap, preferably with the palms facing down. Close your eyes, but don’t force them closed. If you find your eyelids fluttering, open your eyes and let them relax maybe halfway closed. Once your mind quiets down a bit, you’ll be able to close your eyes all the way.
- Take a nice long, slow breath in and when you exhale, open your mouth and let all the air out. You can even make a sighing sound. Do that two more times.
- Now, with your eyes still closed, just sit and breathe. If thoughts come up, notice them, but try not to start a conversation with them. To help quiet your mind, you can pick a point to focus on — the breath moving in and out of the nostrils, the sensation of breath as it passes over the back of the throat, or the rise and fall of your chest or belly. Every time you catch your mind wandering, bring your attention back to that spot.
- Slowly, blink your eyes open, take one more deep, relaxing breath.
You can also do this if you’re at work already, and you start to feel stressed. Do it at your desk, in your car, or find a corner to yourself.
How was that? Did you find it challenging? If you found it hard to sit still or you found you were really interacting with the thoughts in your head like going through your to-do list for the day, don’t worry! Sitting quietly like that can be hard and it takes practice. A lot of times, we are conditioned to want constant stimuli, or to engage with stressors and take action, but what our bodies need is stillness. Once you make it a habit, you’ll notice you’re less irritable, you’re able to breathe a little easier, your sleep will improve, and you’ll be able to handle stress with much, much more ease.
A few other tips for managing stress
- Exercise regularly
- Take a lunch break! You need time for you, not only to eat, but to give your brain a break. Maybe even go outside and take a walk.
- Listen to music! Listen at work, if you can, and most certainly on your commute home.
- Focus on one task at a time. Multi-tasking will most likely only stress you out more while getting you no closer to accomplishing your goals for the day.
- Get comfortable. Make sure you’re sitting in a chair that doesn’t cause neck or back pain. Step away from the computer to stretch your legs and avoid eye strain. Get noise-cancelling headphones if the constant hum of office chatter stresses you out.
- Communicate. Communicate your expectations with your co-workers or ask your boss to communicate his or her expectations with you. Knowing exactly what is required of you will allow you to better manage your time and your stress levels.
- Avoid conflict as much as possible. Try and steer clear of any office drama and establish clear boundaries so co-workers can’t add to the stress already on your plate.
- Socialize. Make time for friends and family, even if it’s a quick walk with a friend (or phone call, to maintain social distancing). Interacting with loved ones has proven to increase your lifespan and reduce the risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Plus, it will give you someone to vent to (not for too long, though — the idea is to strike a work-life balance here), and letting go of negative feelings will help you feel less stressed, as well.
Change Up Your Stress Foods
During times of stress, a lot of people gravitate toward sugary treats and caffeine. This is crucial: back away from the vending machine! It’s full of nothing but processed foods loaded with refined sugars and other ingredients that will only exacerbate your stress symptoms. Sure, they give you a quick burst of energy, but that’s all it is — quick. And then you’re right back in front of the vending machine, looking for another quick fix.
Some healthy options that can give you long-lasting energy and help reduce your stress levels include:
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Pistachios – these are especially great because the repetition of cracking open the shells can help quiet your mind a bit as you have something else to focus on
- Leafy greens
In addition to being packed with vitamins and minerals, a lot of these foods are loaded with magnesium, which can help alleviate fatigue, depression, and crankiness.
Work-related stress. It’s a killer — literally. Work-related stress leads to a huge list of ailments, including:
- Heart disease
- Chronic inflammation
- Fertility and digestion issues
And that list can go on. Americans are working more than ever, and, as a result, are more stressed out than ever. Not only is that stress leading to health issues, but it’s impacting personal relationships, too.
Some things you can do to alleviate work-related stress include:
- Sit quietly and do some deep breathing for a few minutes every day — three minutes is all you need!
- Establish clear boundaries with co-workers and communicate expectations
- Make time for friends and family
- Listen to music
- Make your workspace as organized and as comfortable as possible
- Eat lots of energy-boosting anti-inflammatory foods like pistachios, almonds, berries, eggs, turkey, and salmon
Even if you take baby steps and integrate one or two of the things we talked about today, your stress levels are sure to go down and you’ll see improved quality of life, not only at work, but in all areas of your life.