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Workplace Stress: Control It Before It Controls You

Everyone has experienced workplace stress, but almost every day you hear at least three stories of someone losing it due to the pressure. With increased demands, feeling more undervalued and unappreciated, you begin to ask yourself why I am doing this job. Stress increases when workers feel they have little or no control over their work lives. Workplace stress, just as other types of stress, happen as when workers don't feel as though they can accomplish all they must do. The workload is higher and the pay doesn't keep up with the demand expected. On top of this overwhelming feeling is a sense that there is no control or light at the end of the tunnel.

Workplace stress can also have a dramatic effect on job satisfaction, morale, physical and mental health, self-care, and relationships, which ultimately leads to job "burnout." Although this term is not a clinical diagnosis, it does present with specific criteria and treatments. Workplace stress manifests itself in a range of ways including nervousness, tension, strain, anxiety, depression and a decreased ability to cope with stressful situations.

The best way to prevent yourself from losing control with your stress is to understand and know the warning signs listed so you can manage your stress before it begins to manage you.

  • Struggling to cope at work and not speaking up or seeking help to improve your situation.

  • Not setting boundaries between your work and home life - taking work home with you, checking emails outside of work hours, or just thinking about work in non-work time.

  • Having low morale. You don't' feel supported, and can no longer find meaning in your work.

  • Feeling undervalued most of your workday.

  • A real or perceived lack of control over your job or how you do it.

  • Feeling disconnected from your colleagues and other people in your life.

  • Drinking, eating or engaging in any unhealthy vice to help you manage your stressed out feelings.

The best plan to deal with workplace stress is for the company to notice employees' stress level is high and make changes. However, that usually takes time, and your emotional and physical health needs immediate relief from stress. Here are suggestions you do have control over and should practice immediately.

  • Create boundaries between work and personal time.

  • Stay connected with family and friends out of work hours.

  • Schedule regular breaks at work no matter how busy you are.

  • Get regular exercise and shut your phone off during this time.

  • Take time each day just for you engaging in what you want to do. No electronics allowed.

  • Cognitive behavioral counseling helps you manage your negative thoughts.

  • Learn to say NO.

Realizing you're stressed is a big part of managing it, but you must also deal with the causes. This can be done by talking to your boss or manger, especially if your stress is happening due to your increased work load. Unfortunately, in some cases the manager contributes to the problem due to poor communication, leadership style, lack of support or even bullying. In cases such as this, it is wise to approach human resources or a trusted colleague.

With the advancement of technology comes a challenge with keeping boundaries strong between work and home life. A healthy lifestyle is one in which you can have a balance between the two. When you feel as though your life is work, and work is out of your control, you no longer find meaning in life or work. It's time to unplug at work and get to know your life again.


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