How to deal with stress at work


15 min read

Stress is a common condition in recent times. People of all cultures and upbringings feel the physical symptoms of stress at different stages of their life. Due to our ever-changing lifestyles mental health issues surface commonly in the form of stress that should be actively managed for a fulfilling life. According to a study conducted by the Korn Perry Institute in 2018, 76% of the respondents said stress has a negative impact on their personal relationships.

Work-related stress is no exception. Every person in the world who has ever held a job or run business has experienced workplace stress. No matter who we are and what we do, everyone on this planet has someone they are accountable to in the workspace. That and the mixture of deadlines, extended work hours, office politics, long commute and so on contribute considerably to stress at work. In fact, stress at work is so commonplace that HR policies at most corporations advocate the benefits of mental health therapy to all their employees as a part of the induction process itself. 

So what are the causes of stress at the workplace? Are there any tell-tale symptoms of work-related stress? Let’s take a look:

Causes of stress at work

Stress largely depends on the nature of the occupation and the general work environment. Some commonly identified forms of stress include:

Work Pressure

Most urban corporations make for demanding paymasters. The modern workspace requires accountability and efficiency for every minute spent in office; these productivity tracking metrics dictate the future growth and success in the workspace. This constant need to prove productivity and deliver tasks on-time causes a lot of nerves at work. You can try out Wysa’s productivity tool pack to increase your performance at work.

Lack of fixed hours

Most jobs start at a certain time but don’t necessarily end similarly. Reporting managers define what time their employees must start their day but expect them to stay on until whatever time the role may demand. These extended hours can take a toll on an individual’s health in the long run and cause stress.

Hostile work environment

The modern workspace is a battlefield. In the endeavor to stay ahead, we often end up feeling the pressure not just to perform well, but also, to perform better than our peers in order to hold the job. This tenet of competition fosters a culture of one-upmanship that doesn’t foster holistic work growth and gives rise to stress.

Unfulfilling job role

A lot of people work because they need to sustain life and not because they love what they do. Running a household is an expensive job causing most folks to decide on their occupation based on how much they get paid. In the bargain, you may end up with a job you hate causing a lot of stress rooted in disappointment and unfulfillment in the long run.

Harassment, violence and even gender discrimination

This is the most prevalent form of stress in the workspace. We come across many incidents of stress arising from gender discrimination that are not only limited to areas of limited responsibilities and unequal pay but may also include incidents of mental and sexual harassment. Who hasn’t been yelled at by a boss or found themselves at the receiving end of favoritism? These cases of workplace bullying cause a lot of stress. 

Poor Managers

According to the same study conducted by Korn Ferry, 35% of respondents state that their ‘bosses’ or reporting managers are the primary cause of stress at work. Good managers lead a team from the front and inspire the workforce to constantly better themselves. Bad leaders, on the other hand, are notorious for humiliating and belittling their team’s efforts and coming in the way of their growth and success. 

Workplace Politics

 Most competitive workplaces manifest stress in the form of office politics. It’s not uncommon to feel under-appreciated at work, however what’s worse is feeling like someone else has an unfair advantage over you. Unnecessary favoritism and nepotism in the office can be a huge cause of anxiety and eventual loss of productivity at work.

Fear of Job Loss

The current economy faces a lot of disruptions in terms of changes in the required skill-sets, movement of operations to different geographies and the infusion of new competing technologies in all areas of business. This leads to a constant sense of fear among job-holders and job-seekers. Are my skills enough? Will I be replaced by someone younger? What will I do if my industry becomes obsolete? Fear of losing one’s job and livelihood is a major cause of stress at work.

What are the signs of stress at the workplace?

Symptoms of stress at work could be similar to common symptoms of stress such as headaches, body pain, chest pain, fatigue, bouts of anger, etc. In some cases, signs of stress at the workplace could result in poor performance which may manifest in the form of abusive behavior and even violence.

Strategies for managing stress at workplace

How to manage stress at work’ is a million-dollar question! Depending on what’s causing you stress in the office, here are some tricks you can try:

Ways to reduce stress naturally:

  1. The best way to deal with stress at work is to lead a healthy life in general.  Develop a daily routine that involves mediation, yoga, breathing exercises, healthy eating and spending quality time with those you love. 
  2. Make it a point to take at least one day a week to destress and do things you enjoy.
  3. If you’re experiencing stress at work, ensure that you work towards maintaining a cordial relationship with your peers in the office. Address the cause of your stress- whether it’s a demanding boss or unrealistic delivery demands and aim- and aim to resolve it. 
  4. Talk openly to someone you trust about the issues that are bothering you.  Telling someone what’s bothering you can prove to be a huge relief. 
  5. Building social support groups can be a major contributor to a more peaceful life for years to come.

Other Techniques:

Other successful stress management techniques can include actively seeking help. This is especially true for people who are overburdened with work and chronic stress over the years.

 1. Consider psychiatric help and prescribed medication through online stress therapy or by working with a licensed therapist in person.

2.  Work with a qualified motivational coach to adopt various stress-busting exercises, relaxation techniques or engaging routines that can break you out of the stress cycle.

3. Join a formal or informal support group with people who are dealing with similar issues. This can be an in-person gathering or an online meetup where people voice their issues. 

4. Use Wysa to manage your stress with the help of our tool packs. You can also chat with Wysa if you are feeling stressed!

1.  Why does stress cause illness?

Stress may lead to various side effects such as lack of appetite, loss of sleep, overthinking and over analyzing, anxiety and so which may culminate into bigger health problems.  Other side effects include weight loss or weight gain, body pain, headaches, chest pain which may, in turn, become chronic illnesses.

2. What are the emotional signs of stress?

Emotional signs of stress could be lack of motivation or focus towards given tasks, lack of emotional or sexual drive, bouts of rage, low self-esteem, mood swings, depression and inability to relax.

3.  How can I stop stressing or overcome stress?

The easiest way to stop stressing is to identify the cause of one’s stress and to address the problem and find a solution. When this is not possible it is best to set short term targets that are easy to achieve and not burden ourselves with unrealistic task or long term goals. Take up a hobby that will help take your mind off things and help you relax and distress. However, if your workspace is toxic, consider a job change.

4.  How can I reduce stress at work?

The best technique on how to manage stress at work is to lead a healthy life. Surround yourself with positive people both at work and outside of it, eat healthier and set goals that are easy to achieve. It is also important to understand the root cause of the stress and to find a solution to that. Online stress therapy and various other stress management techniques help with managing stress at work as well.

5.  Is stress bad for health?

Stress leads to headaches, body pain, poor eating habits, change in sleep patterns and various other health issues.

6.  Is stress really harmful?

Acute short term stress may lead to headaches, body pain, weight gain or minor health issues too. If unaddressed over the long term, stress can become chronic and even cause a stroke or a heart attack.

7.  Does emotional stress cause heart problems?

Emotional stress and mental health lead to chest pain, breathlessness, improper sleep- all of these may lead to heart issues.

8. What is psychological distress?

By definition, psychological distress is a general expression that describes feelings of emotional and mental turmoil. At large, the
definition of psychological distress encompasses an emotionally turbulent period of time in an individual’s life, that is consumed with chronic stress or duress which inhibits their ability to lead a normal life. A more detailed insight into distress psychology also states that long term exposure to psychological distress and despair can lead to a negative mindset which can trigger many other other mental health ailments such as chronic sadness, anxiety and depression.

9. What is eustress? How are distress and eustress different?

Stress is a part and parcel of our everyday lives. We experience it in varying quantities at every stage of our life. Although, stress is often associated with negativity, this generalization is not always accurate. There are namely two types of stress, ie, eustress and distress.

Eustress vs. Distress
Eustress is the positive form of stress that keeps us motivated and keeps us anxious and on the edge to enhance our performance. This type of stress gives us a rush; eustress involves positive feelings of excitement coupled with nervousness, fulfillment and hope. Eustress gives you a positive kick and provides a challenge that helps us get the best of our abilities.

Distress is negative stress that is fills us with negative emotions of fear and anxiety. Distress cripples our better judgement and hampers our ability to make good decisions. This form of stress often acts as an obstacle in our performance and overwhelms us into making mistakes or failing.

What is critical incident stress debriefing?

A critical incident stress debrief is a crisis intervention routine for small groups of people going through a shared trauma. It’s a therapy based information process held with the intention of mitigating tragedy related trauma and helping people in the group cope with the event and get back to normal. CISD is part of comprehensive set of crisis management procedures that shift focus from individual to group to family centric crisis remedial measures to educate and mitigate and overcome a traumatic event.

Can stress cause fever?

Fevers from stress occur in people suffering from chronic stress long periods of time. A stress fever is a low intensity fever (99 to 100 F), common in young women, going through an emotionally trying time.

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