How to Cope with Stress in the Workplace

Published: Feb 09, 2023

 Workplace Issues       
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Stress can cause serious physical and emotional issues. When people are asked to name their biggest sources of stress, work is often at or near the top of the list. Why do we find work so stressful? What kinds of negative effects can stress have on the mind and the body? Today, we’re going to talk all about workplace stress and its effects, and what you can do to reduce stress in your life. Let’s begin.

What Causes Workplace Stress?

The causes of workplace stress can vary wildly from person to person depending on their own unique tolerances; however, there are several common stressors that most people will likely encounter over the course of their career. One of the most common workplace stressors is a heavy workload. When you’re feeling overwhelmed it can be easy to succumb to stress, which can lead to a variety of other issues such as decreased productivity or lateness with handing in assignments.

Another common cause of stress in the workplace could be your boss’ management style. Maybe they ask you to come in on weekends or stay late regularly, or perhaps your personalities clash. The bottom line is if you’re having trouble with your boss, it will be a constant source of stress. Your work environment could also cause stress; whether it’s full of toxic people, or it’s literally dangerous (ie: collapsing walls, stairs with no handrails, etc.). If you’re having trouble deciding whether you’re in a toxic workplace, you can check out our recent blog here.

If your company is in the midst of some major reorganizing and you’re bearing witness to numerous layoffs all around you, you’re probably going to be extremely fearful and, of course, stressed. Events like this can even cause long-lasting trauma—it’s like the terrible, unwanted gift that keeps on giving! Along with this, if you’ve never felt particularly secure at your job, you’re probably constantly suffering with stress.

The Effects of Stress in the Workplace

Prolonged stress can have a negative impact on both your physical and emotional state. When the brain is under stress, it sends a signal to the body to go into defense mode. This includes the release of hormones that increase your heart rate and cause your muscles to tense up. If you’re under stress frequently or for long periods of time, your body’s response to said stress will actually cause damage to your biological systems. Think of it as constantly driving your car at 100 miles per hour—you’re bound to have some wear and tear.

Stress can lead to a multitude of physical and emotional problems. From constant feelings of fear, anger, and worry, all the way to headaches, stomach problems, and body pains. If you have a pre-existing condition, physical or mental, stress can and will absolutely exacerbate it. You might experience trouble sleeping, or have chronic nightmares. Other effects include changes in your appetite or loss of interest in things you once enjoyed. Many of these are telltale warning signs of depression, so don’t ignore them.

Destructive behaviors such as increased use of alcohol or illegal drugs, or the abuse of prescription drugs can develop when someone is under constant and immense stress. The abuse of substances is no laughing matter, and will only worsen existing problems while creating entirely new ones. When under stress, do your best to avoid alcohol and drugs—they are never the solution.

How to Cope with Stress

We talk about taking care of our health a lot, and for good reason. When our physical bodies are healthy, it has a positive effect on our mental state. Similarly, when we’re emotionally healthy, we take good care of ourselves. A healthy diet and regular exercise are crucial for mental and physical health. You don’t have to be Arnold Schwarzenegger from Conan The Barbarian; a half hour of exercise per day is enough, even if it’s just a walk around the block.

For your diet, eat plenty of vegetables and lean proteins while avoiding unhealthy fats, salt, and most importantly, sugar. You can enjoy some treats from time to time, but choose your battles wisely. If you were good all week, have some fun on Saturday. Next, make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep. The average adult requires 7 hours or more of sleep per night, and it’s best to go to sleep and wake up at the same times each day.

Another great way to mitigate stress is by unplugging. Yes, that means putting your phone or device down, and having some nice quality time to yourself. Having time to relax and unwind, or to reflect on the day’s events is extremely important to our emotional well-being. The more you avoid the news or your various social media feeds, the better you’ll feel—believe me.

A healthy mind and body will be more resistant to stress; however, when it comes to the workplace, we must remember that we can only control how we react to stressors or whether we engage with them at all. In other words, certain stressors might be unavoidable if they are related to your boss or another coworker. If you find that you’re constantly stressed in the workplace despite your best efforts, it might be time for a change. When looking for another job, place special emphasis on researching a company’s leadership team and culture, as this might help you to avoid certain workplace stressors in the future.