Family Health Magazine - MODERN LIVING
Stress in the Workplace
A problem worth solving
If you feel stressed in your job, you are not alone. Just over half of working Canadians experience symptoms of workplace stress. One in five believes that it affects their job and career advancement. Workplace happiness is important to all of us. For society to function well, workplaces must run at full capacity. Employees should not be the ‘walking wounded.’ What’s more, with baby boomers nearing retirement, the rest of the workforce must stay healthy to handle the resulting drop in numbers.
Symptoms of work-related stress
- mood swings
- feeling defensive and helpless
North American workers become stressed for many reasons. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety’s website lists a few. Workload and environment, shift work, isolation (whether emotional or from working alone), job insecurity, supervisors, coworkers, management and communication styles can all play a role.
Stress at work appears to be increasing. Research shows that it hampers us in all phases of our careers. Such stress reduces quality of life. If it continues long enough, a condition known as burnout can develop.
Burnout is psychological, affecting thoughts and emotions. It can be described as emotional exhaustion. Satisfaction in personal identity and accomplishments drops. This condition tends to mainly affect those who interact with other people in their work. Still, workers in any occupation can face stressful working conditions.
A workplace that is stressful affects employees in a number of predictable ways. Common issues resulting from continuing job stress include:
- higher employee turnover
- more injuries on the job
- sick or absent employees
- conflict in the workplace
- physical and emotional illness and stress
- poor morale (attitude)
- loss of compassion for others
- less quality of life and more chance of burnout.
Quick tips: Ways to care for your physical, psychological, and spiritual self
- Learn more about the causes of stress. Try changing one thing each week to lessen it. For instance, strengthen your body by eating breakfast each morning, or calm your mind by meditating for five minutes.
- Develop a support group.
- Speak with your manager about bettering working conditions.
- Talk to your union about improving the work environment.
- Encourage the development of more health services at work.
- Change jobs if possible or necessary.
- Talk about what you are experiencing with your doctor or health care provider, who may provide some helpful suggestions.
- Participate in activities you enjoy outside of work. Consider walking, visiting a friend, doing a hobby, or joining a club.
- Have fun. Make sure each week includes some relaxing activities, even if only for an hour or two.
- Be open to new experiences. Make the most of life, meet new people, and try something new each week.
- Volunteer to provide help to others. Helping other people to become happy can bring you happiness.
- Eat a balanced diet of three to five small meals a day of fruits, vegetables, grains, and low fat proteins. Drink enough water and other fluids.
- Exercise regularly, at least three times a week.
- Participate in relaxing therapies. For instance, try meditation, yoga, and massage therapy.
- Sleep at least seven to eight hours each night.
Work-related stress affects employee health. If the mind is stressed, the body often is too. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates stress-related injuries cost the Canadian economy $16 to $33 billion a year. This burdens individuals, families, businesses and society as a whole.
Stress affects personal as well as work life, leading to marital and family problems. Evolving research suggests that continuous stress can contribute to illnesses such as heart disease, cancers, and mental issues. Insomnia, ulcers, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune illnesses (where the body attacks itself) have also been linked to stress.
What can I do about workplace stress?
It is important to monitor your level of stress at work. If stress is interfering with your quality of life and ability to work, get help. Sometimes people aren’t aware that they are stressed. If your family, friends or colleagues suggest you might be, you likely are.
Increasing stress in the workplace has huge consequences for the health of society. It is critical to develop ways to reduce work stress and burnout, and increase quality of life. You can take steps to reduce your stress level.
- Look after your physical and mental health.
- Take part in activities that you find pleasurable.
- Find outlets for excess energy and frustrations.
- Strengthen the relationships you find supportive.
- Explore spiritual connections to provide greater meaning to life.
RESOURCES FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
Managing stress: Learn more about stress in the workplace and its potential effects at the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety website. Stress.about.com is another helpful website. This site also has a self-evaluation survey that can be used to estimate your level of stress and risk for burnout in the workplace. (The test is only meant as a guide.)
Diet: Canada’s Food Guide, from Health Canada, outlines the food groups and amounts necessary to achieve a healthy diet.
Exercise: Canada’s Physical Activity Guide has been developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. It explains the need for exercise and the types and amounts necessary to keep the body healthy. www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/pau-uap/paguide/back2e.htmL
Sleep: The Stress Management from Mind Tools website provides information and tips to promote rest, relaxation and healthy sleep patterns.
Spirituality: The Mayo Clinic website provides discussions on how to explore your spirituality as a means to reduce stress.
While effort is made to reflect accepted medical knowledge and practice, articles in Family Health Online should not be relied upon for the treatment or management of any specified medical problem or concern and Family Health accepts no liability for reliance on the articles. For proper diagnosis and care, you should always consult your family physician promptly. © Copyright 2015, Family Health Magazine, a special publication of the Edmonton Journal, a division of Postmedia Network Inc., 10006 - 101 Street, Edmonton, AB T5J 2S6 [ML_FHb08]