How to Manage Stress at Work

How to Manage Stress at Work
Written By: Counselling Psychologist
Reviewed By: Counselling Psychologist
MA Psychology Pennsylvania State University, USA
Last Updated: 20-03-2024

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Stress, in simple terms, is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. Stress is usually thought of in negative terms. It is thought to be caused by something bad (for example, the boss gives a formal reprimand for poor performance). This is a form of distress. But there is also a positive, pleasant side of stress caused by good things (for example, an employee is offered a job promotion at another location). This is a form of eustress. 

What is Workplace Stress?

Workplace stress, as the name suggests, is stress related to one s job. Workplace stress often stems from unexpected responsibilities and pressures that do not align with a person s knowledge, skills, or expectations, inhibiting one s ability to cope. It can increase when workers do not feel supported by supervisors or colleagues, or feel as if they have little control over work processes. 

Beehr and Newman define job stress as “a condition arising from the interaction of people and their jobs and characterized by changes within people that force them to deviate from their normal functioning.”

There is considerable evidence that most managers and employees report feeling work related stress, and the recent environment is making things worse. For example, globalization and strategic alliances have led to a dramatic increase in executive travel stress and relocation, then there is 24/7 technology (i.e. laptops, and cell phones) keeping people constantly leashed to their job, and of course the specter of massive job losses in the wake of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. 

How to Overcome Stress at Work

Understanding Stress Management

Stress management is the process of identifying and managing the causes of stress and the emotional and physical reactions it induces. Effective stress management can lead to better well-being, both physical and emotional:

  • Improved Physical Health: Calmer mind reduces the physical risks of heart diseases, high blood pressure, headaches, and other related issues.
  • Enhanced Mental Well-being: Increased focus, better sleep, and feeling positive leading to better productivity and well-being in general.
  • Greater Productivity: Improved decision-making abilities and a more positive attitude leads to better work performance.
  • Stronger Relationships: Better communication and emotional regulation contribute to healthier workplace dynamics.

Sources of Workplace Stress

Work related stress can stem from either Organizational sources or extra-organizational stressors. Organizational stress relates to the workplace and the events happening inside the office, while Extra organizational stressors are not directly related to the workplace but affect the work you do. They might not be induced by the workplace but they have an impact on how you perform at work. Both these stressors are significantly impacting our health and need to be dealt mindfully with.

  • Organizational

Work Overload: Work that combines a high workload, a quick pace, or working against the clock with little opportunity to control one s own work environment can lead to negative health effects and possibly even contribute to sickness. Even while a demanding workload for a short period of time need not lead to illness, working under time constraints for an extended period of time is harmful to health. Long hours worked with little time for recovery can also be detrimental to one s health. It is important to redistribute work among the employees equally; one way to do this quickly would be to assist in setting priorities for the current duties.

Repetitive Work: Physically demanding, repetitive work offers few opportunities for growth on both a personal and professional level. Understimulation results from this, which may contribute to stress. One technique to break up the monotony of work is to diversify your job duties by listing all of the things that you do. This is frequently compatible with skill growth.

Irregular Shifts: These days, owing to international processes, working hours change weekly or monthly for employees. Working at night throws off our normal circadian rhythm, which puts stress on the body. It also results in lower alertness, which increases the chance of accidents. Long work periods should be avoided, and while working three shifts, it is better to work morning, afternoon, and night rather than the other way around. Sleep deprivation is a stress factor that can lead to illness and exacerbates the harmful consequences of stress.

Dealing with Changes: In the workplace, changes are a necessary and frequently taxing aspect of the job. The way in which changes are implemented and the degree to which employees are informed and given the opportunity to participate in the process can have a significant impact on both the individual and the workplace.

Interpersonal Relations at the Workplace: The working environment includes the individuals that work there as well. This is obviously more true for positions where interacting with others is a necessary component of the job, but it also holds true for our relationships with superiors and coworkers. Our well-being at work is significantly impacted by the relationships and treatment we receive from one another at work. Making norms visible, providing good care, and giving newly hired employees a good orientation are all pertinent actions.

Work Family Conflict: Balancing work demands with your personal life can be a constant juggling act. Long hours, demanding schedules, and work-imposed travel can make it difficult to fulfill family responsibilities, leading to feelings of guilt and stress.

Job Insecurity: The fear of losing your job due to downsizing, restructuring, or economic uncertainty can be a significant source of stress.  Worrying about your livelihood can impact your focus, sleep, and overall well-being.

  • Extra-Organizational Stressors

Job stress is not limited just to things that happen inside the organization, during working hours. In fact, one research study found that stressors outside the workplace were related to negative affect and feelings on the job. Extra Organizational stressors include things such as societal/technological change, globalization, the family, relocation, etc. 

Because people tend to get caught up in the rush-rush, mobile, urbanized, crowded, on-the-go lifestyle of today, their anxiety and wellness in general has deteriorated; the potential for stress on the job has increased.

Family: It is generally recognized that a person’s family has a big impact on one’s stress level. A family situation—either a brief crisis, such as a squabble or the illness of a family member, or long-term strained relations with parents, spouse, or children—can act as a significant stressor for employees. Also, recent trends have made it increasingly difficult for employees to adequately balance the responsibilities of their jobs and their families.

Relocation: Relocating the family because of a transfer or a promotion can also lead to stress. For example, under globalization, expatriate managers (those with an assignment outside their home country) may undergo cultural shock and then when repatriated (relocated to the home country) may experience isolation; both are significant stressors. For most people in recent years, their financial situation has also proved to be a stressor.

Technological Changes & Progress: New and complicated tasks are frequently created at work as a result of technological advancements. It may also result in an overwhelming amount of information. The provision of additional skills is a basic prerequisite for modifications to work procedures, including the addition of technological support. It s also crucial.

Workplace Stress: Signs and Symptoms

The problems due to high levels of stress can be exhibited physically, psychologically, or behaviorally by the individual:

Physical Signs: Long-term stress can throw off the body s natural equilibrium between activity and rest, making it difficult for the body to relax in the end. The body s natural mechanisms for healing and restoration are impeded by chronic tension. The danger of disease and damage rises, and the body gets more fragile. Physical reactions include: headache, palpitations of the heart, chronic hypertension, possibly leading to cardiovascular disease, muscular tension, reduced muscle power, indigestion and immunological defense impairment, entailing greater proneness to infection.

Psychological Signs: Prolonged work-related stress in unfavorable circumstances has an impact on people s mental health in addition to their physical health. Psychological effects include worry, restlessness, aggression, trouble concentrating, sleep issues, and hostility or apathy.

Behavioral Signs: Behavioral consequences of a stressful job include use of stimulants, withdrawal/isolation, aggressiveness and hyperactivity, carelessness and risk-taking. Intellectual (cognitive) effects can have direct consequences at work and for achievement at work. Behavioral effects of stress include: reduced creativity and flexibility, impaired problem-solving capacity, hasty decisions and indecisiveness.

How to Manage Stress at Work?

Personal Strategies

Some specific techniques that individuals can use to eliminate or more effectively manage inevitable, prolonged stress are the following:

  • Work-Life Balance One of the most essential ways to handle stress at work and improve coping with it is to build a balance between personal life and work life. The act of balancing will have an impact on our mental and physical health and enable us to handle the pressures, obstacles, and tensions that come with both our personal and professional lives. People whose entire existence is focused on work-related matters have been found to be more stressed. Working continuously is unhealthy for physical and mental wellbeing. 

  • Positive Mindset & Resilience Our reaction to a potentially stressful circumstance is contingent upon our mental state. A positive outlook modifies our subjective perceptions of stress when it arises. According to the father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, "our cognitive appraisal of a situation influences whether or not we will experience it as stressful," using the acronym PERMA: Positive emotion, engagement, positive connections, meaning, and accomplishment.
  • Social Support It is among the moderating elements that influence how individuals deal with stress. Social support, particularly in the workplace, serves as a buffer against a variety of stresses. Laughter and good humor in the workplace have been linked to happiness, reduced stress, and increased productivity. A social support system offers guidance, information, feedback, emotional support, and emotional care.
  • Exercise: It has been shown that aerobic exercise improves a person s ability to respond to stressful situations and cope with stress at work. Additionally, flexibility training aids in the reduction of needless muscle tension that results from stress.

  • Diet: Maintaining a healthy diet might help lower stress levels. Foods high in cholesterol and sugar change the blood chemistry of the person consuming them, making them more susceptible to stress.

  • Relaxation Whether a person simply takes it easy once in a while or uses specific relaxation techniques such as biofeedback or meditation, the intent is to eliminate the immediately stressful situation or manage a prolonged stressful situation more effectively. There is even some recent research evidence that those who do expressive writing about stressful events in their lives experience health benefits.  

  • Professional Help: It is important for a person to be able to recognize the symptoms as soon as possible. This way, physical and psychological harm can be avoided by detecting strain symptoms early and seeking psychologist assistance. A person may exhibit prolonged symptoms such as mood swings, loss of sleep or excessive sleeping, eating changes, or both, which are suggestive of the need for Psychological attention.

Organizational Strategies

Organizational coping strategies are designed by management to eliminate or control organizational-level stressors in order to prevent or reduce job stress for individual employees.

  • Job Redesign It s critical to redesign workplaces to address employee needs and mitigate stressors. Increasing worker control—most commonly, job choice latitude—will aid in lowering stress at the organizational level. Improving predictability and lowering uncertainty at work are two further advantages of job redesign.

  • Goal Setting This strategy aims to improve motivation for the activity at hand. It assists in helping someone concentrate and direct their energies in a constructive manner.

Additional Tips to Overcome Stress at Work

  • Track your emotions at work and take mindful steps.
  • Practice Meditation and Yoga before reaching office to feel calmer for the day.
  • Dedicate an hour daily to indulge in a Self Care routine. This can be anything that you enjoy-walk, watching movies or catching up with an old friend.
  • Consult Best Psychologists in India at HopeQure taking a step towards a Healthier you.

FAQs

  • How do I handle stress at work?

A very common question working professionals ask these days is “how to cope with a stressful job”. There are many strategies that individuals can incorporate to deal with stress, such as relaxation exercises, involving themselves in some self-care time everyday, sharing the concerns with their supervisor for resolution, etc.

  • How can I reduce stress in the workplace fast?

To cope with stress at work quickly, it is important to be aware of the signs, symptoms, and causes of your stress. Understanding the triggers can help you eliminate them effectively, fostering a better coping mechanism quickly. Once you are aware of the signs and causes of your stress, a focused approach towards feeling better can help reduce stress fast.

  • How to deal with work stress and anxiety?

Prolonged stress can often lead to other psychological issues such as anxiety or depression. To answer the question “How to cope with stress and  anxiety”, it is important to understand your triggers and coping mechanisms. Accordingly, you can practice mindfulness, set boundaries, and do physical activity. If stress and anxiety are prolonged, make use of Online Counseling Services in India.

  • Should I quit my job due to stress?

Before taking this decision, consider all the options and weigh in on all the pros and cons of the decision. If you feel overwhelmed and unable to take the decision, consult Best Psychologists in India at HopeQure fostering a healthy coping mechanism.




 

Reference

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Greenberg, J.S.(2011). Comprehensive Stress Management(12 e). New York:McGraw-Hill 

Hofstede,G. (1980)Culture’s consequences: International Differences in work related values. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Inness, M., LeBlanc, M., and Barling, J. Psychological predictors of supervisor-, peer-,subordinate-, and service-provider-targeted aggression. Journal of Applied Psychology 93(2008): 1401-1411

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Aamodt, M.G. (2013). Industrial Psychology.Cengage Learning India Private Limited. Delhi.

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