Stress is the physical and emotional pressure, tension and strain people feel when they experience difficult and frustrating situations in their lives.
While stress can keep you sharp and alert, prolonged stress can strain the body. Unrelieved tension builds up, causing an array of physiological and psychological symptoms that may include:
- A weakened immune system (lower white blood cell count)
- Headaches and migraines
- Stomachaches and ulcers
- Back and muscular pain
- Cardiovascular disorders
- Concentration difficulties
- Chronic fatigue
- Sleep and appetite disturbances
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- Panic attacks
Job stress also may lead to:
- Deterioration in work relationships
- Decreased productivity
- Low workplace morale
- Work absenteeism
- Substance abuse
Common Causes of Job Stress
Job stress often is caused by:
- Job insecurity (downsizing, co-worker terminations)
- Lack of creativity and flexibility in your position
- Deadline pressures
- Excessive workloads
- A workplace change (e.g., department restructuring, office relocation)
- A leaner workforce and limited resources
- Stressed co-workers and bosses
- Intimidating technology
- Information overload
Tips for reducing job stress
- Identify your stressors. By recognizing the reasons behind your stress, you can learn to feel more in control and work to change the stress. Determine whether the stress you experience at work is due to worries or conflict at home.
- Avoid setting too many lofty goals. Set realistic expectations, and attempt challenges that are doable.
- Anticipate boss and co-worker stress. Prepare a few responses to stressful situations that may be presented to you by a supervisor or co-worker. For example, instead of reacting hastily to a question or request by a co-worker, ask whether you can get back to the person with your decision at a later time.
- Learn to delegate responsibilities. If you are a manager, empower your subordinates to take on more responsibilities and make more decisions. Encourage this as an opportunity for growth and training for a possible future promotion. Divide extra tasks fairly and reasonably.
- Be more assertive in your responses to requests. Be honest, but tactful. Learn to seek alternatives or to say no when necessary.
- Examine your schedule. Is your work schedule compatible with your home/personal life? Perhaps you can try a different shift, vary your work days or arrange to work from home on certain days.
- Redefine your role. Work with your supervisor on revising your job description to include more creative, empowering and satisfying duties.
- Consider a different position, department or work location. Ask your boss if this is possible.
Getting organized to eliminate clutter and reduce stress
- Organize your workspace. Rearrange it for maximum efficiency. Create lists and schedules to help you meet deadlines.
- Tackle one task at a time if possible. List your duties in order of priority, and complete one at a time. This can make you feel more organized and in control, leading to a sense of greater accomplishment.
- Learn time-management techniques. Take a class or read books on how to better manage your time.
- Do not procrastinate. Tackle your most difficult projects first. Putting them off may lead to increased anxiety and stress.
Relaxation and exercise
- Take occasional breaks. Listen to your body. If you feel tired, nervous, tense or have achy muscles, take a break. Step away from your work for a few minutes, or practice relaxation techniques to recharge your mind and body. Do not work through lunch; take a real break.
- Take breaks between meetings. Try not to schedule too many meetings back to back.
- Practice yoga and stretching exercises. These can relieve tension, make your body more limber and flexible, and produce an overall calming effect.
- Create an exercise routine. Use your lunch break to work out or go for a brisk walk, or exercise before or after work. Exercise has been proven to work off stress by burning off excess adrenaline and relieving tension.
- Practice breathing exercises. Drawing slow, deep breaths from the diaphragm promotes a more efficient exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide than chest or shoulder breathing. Exhale slowly and evenly. If you are highly stressed, try this while lying on your back.
- Practice progressive muscle-relaxation techniques. These involve systematically tensing, relaxing and visualizing each major muscle group. For example, make a fist, and hold it tight for at least five seconds. Feel the tension in your hand and arm. Finally, relax your hand, and visualize the tension escaping your body. Do the same with your other hand, your neck, your face, limbs, etc.
- Try meditation. By sitting in a comfortable, quiet environment, closing your eyes and freeing your mind from its many concerns for even a few minutes each day, you can learn to achieve relaxation quickly.
- Attempt imagery techniques. Try concentrating on an image that symbolizes your stress, such as a giant ball that slowly begins to shrink; you also can let your mind go blank. Try the infinity exercise: draw and continue to trace the infinity sign slowly without losing eye contact. Alternate drawing hands, then trace the sign with both hands. Draw the sign in the air with your fingertips if you do not have pen and paper. This exercise stimulates peripheral vision and produces a calming effect.
- Ergonomically improve your workspace. A more supportive, comfortable chair, desk and computer accessories may reduce physical stress.
- Socialize with co-workers. Do not be an island; strike up interesting conversations with fellow employees to release tension.
- Take advantage of paid days off. Consider spreading your days off over several weeks instead of taking them all at once.
- Minimize taking work home. Enjoy your time away from work, and use it to recharge yourself. Teach yourself to be efficient at work so that you can enjoy your time at home.
- Get involved with hobbies. Join a work-sponsored sports team. Take an art class. Stay active with your children's sports and activities.
- Learn to laugh more at life. Try to find humor in negative outcomes. Relieve tension by laughing at your mistakes and faults and working to improve them.
- Consider counselling. Talk therapy with a professional can release pent-up anxiety and prove to be an effective outlet for discharging unhealthy stress.
Remember that stress affects not only job performance but also career satisfaction. Be aware of the consequences stress is imposing on your life, and make a commitment to reduce your stress level.
Everyone experiences stress and anxiety to some degree. If you find yourself in a constant state of worry and continually unable to relax, you may be experiencing generalized anxiety disorder. Thankfully, there are several treatment options to help you keep your anxiety from interfering with your enjoyment of life. If you suspect that you have an anxiety disorder, educate yourself on the condition and seek professional help.
- Common symptoms
- Anxiety causes
- Managing anxiety
- Management Strategies
- Treating anxiety
Use your benefits
Your benefits are designed to support your health. Make sure you are using them!
Did you know...
Your benefits may cover:
- Vitamins & supplements
- Nutrition programs and counselling
- Weight management programs (excluding food)
- Fitness equipment
- Personal trainers
- Smoking cessation programs
- and more
Mental health and well being support
It's not always easy to recognize that you might need help with your mental health. And it can be just as challenging to know how to access the help you need. This guide will help you identify if you need mental health support, where to get support, and resources available to you.
Employee and Family Assistance Program
USask's Employee and Family Assistance Program offers someone to talk to and resources to consult whenever and wherever you need.
Free and confidential support services include:
- Confidential emotional support
- Work-life solutions
- Legal guidance
- Financial resources
- Physical health coaching
Some information on this page was taken from the Employee Family Assistance Program's online resources.