Managing stress at work: what the experts suggest


Stress is part and parcel of work but when work-related stress becomes long-term, it can be difficult to handle and detrimental to one’s physical and emotional health.

The American Psychological Association (APA) said: “In the short term, a stressful work environment can contribute to problems such as headache, stomachache, sleep disturbances, short temper and difficulty concentrating.”

“Chronic stress can result in anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. It can also contribute to health conditions such as depression, obesity and heart disease,” the association also said.

The APA said further that “people who experience excessive stress often deal with it in unhealthy ways such as overeating, eating unhealthy foods, smoking cigarettes or abusing drugs and alcohol.”

While, a worker can’t always avoid stress at work, an employee can manage it.

The APA listed common sources of work stress and they are: low salaries, excessive workloads, few opportunities for growth or advancement, work that isn’t engaging or challenging, lack of social support, not having enough control over job-related decisions, and conflicting demands or unclear performance expectations.

In order to manage work-related stress, the APA suggested the following:

*Track your sources of stress.

APA suggests keeping a journal for a week or two where you can write down the situations that cause the most stress and how you respond to them. “Record your thoughts, feelings and information about the environment, including the people and circumstances involved, the physical setting and how you reacted. Did you raise your voice? Get a snack from the vending machine? Go for a walk? Taking notes can help you find patterns among your stressors and your reactions to them.”

*Develop healthy responses.

Instead of bingeing on food or alchol, any form of physical activity like exercise or yoga can be beneficial. You can also engage in hobbies or favorite activities like reading a novel, watching a play or going to a concert and even playing games with your friends or family. Getting enough sleep is also a stress-buster.

*Establish boundaries.

“In today’s digital world, it’s easy to feel pressure to be available 24 hours a day. Establish some work-life boundaries for yourself. That might mean making a rule not to check email from home in the evening, or not answering the phone during dinner,” the APA said.

*Take time to recharge.

Disconnect from work time to time. Go on a vacation to relax and unwind and by the time you get back to work, you’re reinvigorated and ready to work at your best.

*Learn how to relax.

To melt away stress, engage in meditation, deep breathing exercises and mindfulness – defined by APA as a state in which you actively observe present experiences and thoughts without judging them. A worker can also take a few minutes each day to focus on an activity like breathing, walking or enjoying a meal.

*Talk to your supervisor.

APA suggested “having an open conversation with one’s supervisor, the purpose of which isn’t to present your complaints but rather to come up with an effective plan for managing the stressors you’ve identified, so you can perform at your best on the job.”

“While some parts of the plan may be designed to help you improve your skills in areas such as time management, other elements might include identifying employer-sponsored wellness resources you can tap into, clarifying what’s expected of you, getting necessary resources or support from colleagues, enriching your job to include more challenging or meaningful tasks, or making changes to your physical workspace to make it more comfortable and reduce strain.”

*Get some support.

Accepting help from friends or family members can improve the ability of a work to manage work-related stress. Check if your company has stress management resources through an employee assistance program that includes online information, counseling and referral to mental health groups. APA said, “If you continue to feel overwhelmed by work stress, you may want to talk to a psychologist, who can help you better manage stress and change unhealthy behavior.” GAC/Expat Media


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