Fight Back Against Workplace Stress

March 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Stress is a big problem in the workplace, and the signs are everywhere.

Ever awaken at 3 a.m. in a sweaty panic over a work problem, a presentation you have to make, or looming deadline? Maybe you’ve lost your temper with the kids when the real problem was related to work. The signs and symptoms of job stress are many and diverse—from a racing pulse to skipped meals, headaches, weight gain, depression, and lack of energy. Whatever the cause, and however it manifests, workplace stress continues to be a problem—one that can cause reduced productivity, increase in accidents, and a spike in costs.

Stress Stats
The American Psychological Association (APA) observes that, “While stress levels appear to be balancing out, they remain high and exceed what Americans consider to be healthy.”
According to the APA and other sources:
• 69 percent of employees say work is a significant source of stress, and 41 percent say they typically feel tense or stressed out during the workday.
• 51 percent of employees report that they have considered or made a decision about their career (such as leaving a job or declining a promotion) based on workplace stress.
• While more than half of adults say they are doing a good or excellent job of knowing when they feel stressed, half of them aren’t doing as well at preventing stress.
• Although 94 percent of adults believe stress can contribute to the development of major illness, a sizeable majority still thinks that stress has a slight or no impact on their own health.
• More employees are reporting that their employers provide sufficient opportunities for them to be involved in decision making, problem solving, and goal setting—one hopeful sign, since these are all steps believed to reduce employee stress.
Signs of Stress
As if life outside of the workplace isn’t stressful enough for most people, when they come to work, they often encounter more stress—lack of control over work, heavy workloads, productivity demands, tight schedules, conflicts with co-workers, and worries about job stability.

When workers are stressed for any combination of reasons, the effects can be insidious. Dr. Albert Ray, physician director of Patient Education and Health Promotion for Kaiser Permanente in southern California, points to common signs and symptoms of stress:
• Acting angry and having a short temper
• Dealing with others in a curt, inhospitable manner
• Being present, but not fully productive
• Transformation from a friendly team player to an introvert
• Mocking the organization’s strategies and visions
• Physical symptoms, ranging from itchy skin to chest pain, fatigue, abdominal cramping, and ringing of the ears, among many others
• Emotional problems like depression, anxiety, compulsive behavior, and substance abuse
And, of course, another symptom is carelessness. Workers may be too tense or worn out to pay attention and take proper precautions. That’s when stress can lead to accidents and injuries.

11 Small Changes to Help Workers Manage Their Stress

You can’t eliminate the stress your employees bring to work, but you can identify and eliminate organizational stressors. And you can provide tools and information to help workers manage their stress on their own.

Stress management expert Susie Mantell is a firm believer in the power of incremental steps when trying to manage stress on the job and at home. Here are some ideas Mantell recommends that you can use for a safety meeting on stress management:
• Prioritize, streamline, delegate, and discard. When facing a task, ask if it’s really necessary to do today, if there’s an easier way to do it, or who might be able to help.
• Break it up. Take 2- to 3-minute breaks every hour throughout the workday. Mantell also urges employees to “commit to doing one fun thing every single day without exception.” Laugh, play a game, or cook a meal, as long as it’s enjoyable.
• Make time. Build time into your schedule for creative expression, healthy eating, moderate daily exercise, time with friends, and time in nature.
• Be on time. “Last minute equals high risk,” says Mantell. Running late creates stress in us as well as in others. Build in cushion time between appointments to allow for traffic and the unexpected.
• Send negativity flying. If a co-worker is on the warpath, visualize an airplane with an advertising banner over that person’s head. Imagine each negative word floating up into the banner, flying by and out of view. “Getting out of the line of fire can defuse a tense moment and preclude anxiety and stress,” Mantell explains.
• Relax and watch what happens. Do mini-meditations or mindful breathing while you’re shifting between tasks or in line at the cafeteria. Getting a message, rocking a baby, rebuilding an engine, or playing an active sport can also produce a meditative state of relaxation.
• Get essential nutrients. Go beyond vitamins and begin to think about daylight and laughter as essential daily nutrients. Get outside and take in some fresh air, even if it’s just 10 minutes on a wintry day.
• Consider what you’re consuming. Rethink the role played by sugar, caffeine, and alcohol in your life. These can increase stress levels.
• Watch your words. Negative internal chatter and self-recrimination are distracting and demoralizing. Never say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to your best friend.
• Be kind. Do something kind for a different co-worker every day. Mantell points to the “cumulative, positive transformation that takes place when it becomes second nature to create joy and reduce stress for others.”
• Sleep on it. Sleep deprivation is threatening to become an epidemic in the United States, and stress is a major culprit. Try to get restful, restorative sleep every day, and watch your stress level decline.

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