Work stress and its symptoms are a response that people may have when certain demands and pressures at the workplace exceed their knowledge and capabilities and thus challenge their ability to cope. This kind of stress occurs often and helps us to work on ourselves and strive for self development and get that extra bonus or promotion at work. But more often than not, it peaks and affects our mental and physical well being negatively. 

Work stress can occur in a wide variety of work circumstances but it can worsen when employees don’t have the proper support of their supervisors or coworkers. It can also be aggravated when the employees have little control over the work processes. 

Some pressures can’t be avoided at the workplace due to the current work culture that has been adopted globally and the contemporary work environment. However, taking care of one’s own mental health and adopting the correct coping strategies is also of prime importance. 

Work-life balance can be created by devoting some time to one’s mental and physical health and setting aside a few minutes each day for processing one’s thoughts and feelings. It is important to let yourself unwind and relax every once in a while. Just the way we eat, drink, and take care of our hygiene, we must realize the alarming importance of taking care of our minds.

What are the Signs of Work Stress?

Feeling overwhelmed at work and losing one’s self esteem and confidence due to the daily pressures at your workplace can cause you to feel out of control, moody and have short outbursts of anger and irritability. It may cause you to withdraw yourself socially. Some of such workplace stress symptoms include: 

  1. Feelings of anxiety, irritability and/or unexplained sadness
  2. Feeling apathetic, indifferent, and losing interest at work
  3. Problems related to sleep such as insomnia or parasomnia 
  4. Constant fatigue
  5. Having trouble focusing and concentrating
  6. Muscle tension, headaches
  7. Social Withdrawal
  8. Using alcohol or other substances to cope
  9. Loss of sex drive
  10. Stomach or digestive problem

Causes of Work Stress

The common causes of workplace include: 

  1. Fear of suspension or termination of employment
  2. Having to work overtime frequently due to the cutbacks in staff
  3. Pressure to work at optimum levels throughout the term
  4. Rising expectations and pressure to perform well without increase in job satisfaction
  5. Lack of control over work processes and less involvement in workplace discussions, meetings, etc.

How Workplace Stress Can Affect One’s Well Being

It is a fact that frequent or constant exposure to stressors in life can lead to severe stress responses in the body and the mind. The same is for workplace stress. In fact, countless researches show that burnout and anxiety disorders and depression are linked. This can lead to severe mental health problems. Moreover, statistics show that the rates of employee burnout are the highest in Singapore. The leading cause of this is that there is an ‘always on’ work culture in Singapore, specifically among women, which requires employees to always be working 24/7, either on call or at the office itself. Another study confirms that younger employees who regularly face time pressures and heavy workloads are much more likely to experience major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. 

Not only detrimentally harming our mental health, workplace stress also has the potential of severely damaging our physical health.  Repeated release of cortisol, a hormone which is associated with the fight-or-flight response, leads to disturbances in the immune system and is linked with a higher likelihood of developing alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular diseases and autoimmune disorders.

Higher levels of stress are associated with unhealthy behaviors and poor decision making. Stressed out individuals are less inclined to make the right choices and perform healthy behaviours such as exercising, eating well, and sleeping properly. 

Work stress can inevitably harm companies and organizations at large. It reduces productivity and harms the relations between coworkers. It encourages absenteeism as well, and the conflicts between employees can cause the stress to spread across the workers, ultimately harming the output and reputation of the corporation.

Methods to Cope With Workplace Stress

The following tips on managing stress at work can help you conquer your mental health and achieve better productivity, help you manage stress at work and achieve a healthy work-life balance. You will most definitely benefit from learning the following skills and habits that’ll help you reduce stress and anxiety by considerable amounts:

1. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is an ability that allows us to be fully present in the moment, aware of what we’re doing, thinking, and our surroundings. It allows us to limit overly reactive behaviour and helps us in not being overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. The things that make us stressed are usually associated with the past or the future. That is where most of our worries lie. Other than that, stress arises when we complicate our situation by reacting to things in our environment rather than responding to them wisely. Mindfulness is not only an ability, it is a way of life that helps us be healthier, more content and more loving of ourselves. It can be added to your daily routine with the numerous mindfulness apps available or going to classes. Mindfulness based therapies, too, help reduce stress and anxiety.

2. Better Time Management

Time management is a skill that is considered to be the most invaluable one these days. It is rightly considered so as mastering this skill can greatly improve one’s state of mind, body and bring much more success and joy in one’s life. Learning how to prioritize well, establishing healthy work boundaries, creating a balanced schedule, etc. are all components of the time management required at the workplace. A great way to think about time and scheduling is to perceive it as something you use to negotiate with yourself to create a schedule that you would be happy with. Negotiate with yourself to give an important work-related task a number of hours in exchange for giving yourself a short break in which you do something that rewards you for what you did. At the same time, you get to unwind during that time. In this way, design a day that you would be satisfied with and happy going through, at the same time the day should be productive enough to leave you satisfied and fulfilled.

3. Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques help calm down the fight-or-flight response and help us recompose ourselves. A few examples of relaxation techniques are: progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, music and art therapy, biofeedback, creative visualization, yoga, etc. While relaxation techniques take practice to master fully, the benefits are endless and rather fruitful. These are some of the most profitable investments of time, energy and/or money, as the output that you’d get would be of a calmer mind, improved decision making, self-awareness, healthier body and in turn higher productivity!

4. Problem Solving

Problem solving is a coping strategy that allows you to plan your way out of a challenge faced at work or in your personal life systematically with specific steps involved and an assured outcome (if you follow these steps through and through with sincerity and commitment). This can include brainstorming, ranking solutions, making an action plan, and testing a solution.

5. Rediscover meaning and satisfaction at work

At the end of the day, when work becomes dull and mundane and when we are not in a position to chase our dream jobs, we have to figure out how to start liking what we do and how to effectively contribute at the workplace. Focus on how you can add value to the lives of the people you’re working and providing for and how your service helps the people around you. Focus on the responsibilities and duties assigned to you that you actually enjoy: this could be interacting with your coworkers during meetings, contributing to ideas in brainstorming sessions, or maybe even making aesthetically pleasing presentations. Changing your attitude from a negative one to a positive one in this sense will help you lead a happier, more meaningful life at work and otherwise! 

Why Seeking Help Is Important

Stress management is certainly important at the workplace, and seeking help for it can be imperative at times. You might be at risk of developing mental health problems and stress can also make existing problems even worse. When you seek help and see a mental health professional, you get to understand yourself in ways that you can’t do on your own. And so, when you get the kind of empathy, unconditional positive regard and acceptance by someone who’s trained to guide you through working upon yourself, you build the much needed resilience of character and bring back essential balance and stability in your life. This doesn’t only help you in performing well at work, but also in all other areas of your life.

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