From job stability and downsizing, to the pressures from a new boss, short deadlines, and unrealistic demands, today’s workers are stressed. Workplace stress not only includes mental stress, but also physical stress—noise, crowded workstations, no privacy or being sequestered in a cube. Some workplaces are targets for crime—think of banks, retail stores, or delivery drivers. Or, inherent workplace stress because of the job itself, such as work in safety services, healthcare, or our armed forces. No matter what work you do—even if it is a part-time job, workplace stress is unbounded by industry nor any one age group, gender, or geographic location.

Consequently, it’s no wonder that around 80% of employees suffer from workplace stress, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. And, as most people spend about 25% of their adult lives working, that equates to a lot of time spent under pressure.

“Recognizing stress is the key to controlling stress. For most, they feel like they’ve got it all together but even so, something isn’t quite right,” said Anna Tyrrell, LISW. “I advise my clients to assess—are they feeling overwhelmed and therefore, not thinking clearly? Are they making more mistakes on that big project due next week? Are there things on the work plate that are from home that combine to give the feeling of never getting ahead?” Becoming self-aware will allow one to organize their thoughts and break it down into small, more manageable pieces. It’s important to take time for a mental break.

Signs of Stress

Workplace stress can appear in many ways. The list can be as exhaustive as the stress itself. Note a few other signs of workplace stress:

  • Feeling agitated
  • Not getting along with others
  • Feeling isolated and alone
  • Difficulty getting along with others at work
  • Not functioning well with everyday tasks
  • Making mistakes
  • Behavioral issues that put your job on the line
  • Problems at home that stem from work leading to arguments with the spouse or kids
  • Sleep disruption
  • Over- or under-eating

By asking yourself “can I contain this knowing it is short term?” For some, the answer may be “I am at a point that I can’t break it down.” If you are the person who is so overwhelmed that finding the end doesn’t seem possible, it is time to look closely at some of the self-help strategies that will mitigate workplace stress.

Self-help Strategies

“Learning how to apply self-help techniques will benefit people in many situations. Techniques to alleviate workplace stress that you can do right at the workplace during your “mental break” are simple, don’t require a lot of time, yet have tremendous benefits,” said Tyrrell. Those include:

  • Stretching
  • Focused and controlled deep breathing
  • Doodling
  • Diverting attention toward a hobby activities
  • Dim the lights or lighting in your office
  • Taking a walk through the building or up and down the stairwell

“Stress, and more so, long term stress, creates disruption and the ability to think clearly,” added Tyrrell. “As a result, you become exhausted and non-productive.”

Looking Ahead

Changing the energy within your current environment will help you refocus. Just like a child misbehaving, similarly, removing yourself from the environment will help achieve that mental break. And, before you say you can’t leave the workplace, know that you can mentally remove yourself through meditation or something as simple as having pictures of your family at your workstation to focus on when feeling overwhelmed. Looking at pictures that bring you peace, take you to a happier place and time, or aspire toward can help you focus and bring calm to your mind and body.

Learn more. Listen to Workplace Stress with Anna Tyrrell on the Biz Chat Ohio podcast and discover more self-help tips and simple strategies that you can do today to recognize stress and reduce its negative effect on your health, your family, and your work.

This blog is made possible by Lakeland Community College and the Ohio Small Business Development Center.

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