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Work Stress|Definition, Symptoms, Causes

work stress

After studying this article you should be able to:
  • Define the meaning of the term "stress".
  • Trace the sources of "stress" in workplace.
  • Distinguish between physical and emotional and behavioral stress symptoms.
  • manage and minimize work stress.
Work Stress
Work Stress

Definition of work Stress

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) defines stress as 'the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demands placed on them'.

A distinction is made between the level of pressure that is an acceptable challenge which speeds our reactions and sharpens our perceptions to produce good results in the workplace, and the destructive nature of stress where lives are dominated by sleepless nights, anxiety, dread, depression and physical ill health, reactions to demands and unacceptable pressures that an individual perceives they cannot cope with.

Symptoms of work stress

Work-related stress can manifest itself as physical and emotional health problems, and as altered ways of behaving at work and at home.

1- Physical symptoms
  • increased susceptibility to colds and other infections.
  • headaches.
  • muscular tension.
  • backache and neck ache.
  • excessive tiredness.
  • difficulty sleeping.
  • digestive problems.
  • raised heart rate.
  • increased sweating.
  • lower sex drive.
  • skin rashes.
  • blurred vision.
2- Emotional and behavioral changes
  • wanting to cry much of the time.
  • feeling that you can't cope.
  • short temperedness at work and at home.
  • feeling that you've achieved nothing at the end of the day.
  • eating when you're not hungry.
  • losing your appetite.
  • smoking and drinking to get you through the day.
  • inability to plan, concentrate and control work.
  • getting less work done.
  • poor relationships with colleagues or clients.
  • loss of motivation and commitment.

causes of stress

In order to reduce stress at work it is necessary to find the causes of the problems. Listed below are some of the more common known causes of stress.

1- Poor work practices
Lack of control or influence over demands placed upon individuals, low pay, shift work, Long hours culture, job security, unsociable hours, lack of promotion opportunities, rigid supervision, lack of clear job description, performance related pay, inadequate time to complete tasks.

2- Lack of social support and poor
management techniques Bad relationships with supervisors/colleagues, and discrimination, prolonged conflict between individuals, customer/clients complaints, impersonal treatment of work, lack of communication and listening skills within organization, no recognition or reward for good job performance, lean production, total quality management systems.

3- Poor working environment
Noise, heat, cold, poor lighting, poor ventilation, badly designed layout of workplace and equipment, unpleasant and hazardous working conditions, overcrowding.

4- Poor job design
Technology controlling pace of work, too much or too little work, repetitive work, boredom, lack of job satisfaction.
working alone. And we can summarize the causes of work stress in the next table.

The Causes of Work Stress

Typical triggers of stress include:
  • lack of control over work.
  • excessive time pressures.
  • excessive or inflexible working hours.
  • too much or too little work or responsibility.
  • confusion about duties and responsibilities.
  • lack of job variety and interest.
  • inadequate training and possibilities for learning new skills.
  • poor work/life balance.
  • difficult relationships at work.
  • lack of support and lack of contact with colleagues.
  • organizational confusion, restructuring, job change.
  • uncertainty over job prospects.

10 ways to minimize stress

  1. Clearly communicate your thoughts and ideas to minimize misunderstandings and potential frustrations.
  2. Try to co-operate rather than compete with your work colleagues, look for ways to turn obstacles into opportunities and negatives into positives.
  3. Remember: You are what you eat. A well balanced diet will help your body cope with stress. Indulge in foods that are high in vitamin B, C, and Zinc e.g. eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables · why not take some nuts, an apple and banana to work instead of a chocolate bar!. Try to monitor your caffeine, alcohol and tobacco intake increases may indicate increased stress levels and could weaken your immune system.
  4. Assertiveness gives you better self-esteem. Stand up for yourself firmly with high expectations but not aggressively. Low self-esteem can affect your performance and expectations at work.
  5. Learn some relaxation techniques such as Tai Chi meditation and Yoga to help manage your stress Also learn techniques that you can do anywhere Got your desk, on the train or bus) such as deen breathing.
  6. Exercise regularly to boost the release of the body's natural feel-good chemicals known as 'beta endorphins'. Exercise does not have to mean sport it includes gardening and walking the dog. Also identify your sleep pattern and how many hours' sleep you require each night and then develop a consistent routine.
  7. Approach your employer about setting up a work-life balance program. This initiative could help you and your colleagues balance your lives at home and work. If you need to reduce you hours at work or you need extra time off because of undue pressure of your workload speak to your employer - you never know they may be more than happy to support you.
  8. Make your inner dialogue (i.e. those conversations you have with yourself inside your head!) positive especially when you are relaxing. Positive self talk can eliminate negative symptoms of stress. For Tort example try saying to yourself: "I am a calm, relaxed and confident person".
  9. Use your time positively by balancing time alone, time with friends, fun time and work time. Prioritise both at work and in your private life. If something is of very low priority does it really need to be done?
  10. Love is a great antidote for stress. Family and friends can give you the opportunity to talk and share · have you tried socializing and making friends with people at work? Do you make the effort to keep in regular contact with your friends and family? The effort will soon be rewarded.

14 Strategies for Coping with Stress

Drowning your frustration in alcohol, eating junk foods, self medicating with drugs such as nicotine - this is not the answer.

It is very important to take positive action when faced with negative stress, as, if experienced over a period of time; it can seriously impair your mental and physical health.

The following proven coping strategies can really start to help you reduce he effects of any negative stress in your life.

1- Be aware of your own warning signs – maybe this could be a sudden feeling of anxiety, extreme tiredness, feeling very tearful, catching every cough and cold – feeling run down.

2- Review what is really causing negative stress for you? You could be surprised! Think about what action you could perhaps take to change things. How much of your negative stress is caused by you? Are your expectations of yourself and others realistic for example?

3- At times of negative stress we often fall into the trap of not eating properly, smoking more or turning to alcohol as a supposedly helpful crutch. (That possible hangover, let alorie a "guilt trip" the next day could just add to your jproblems!) Instead:

4- Try and eat a balanced diet.

5- Eat complex carbohydrates (such as whole meal. bread, jacket potatoes etc) rather than refined (that packet of sugary biscuits!). This can really help with those mood swings.

6- Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and keep sugar and salt intake to a minimum. This can help to support your immune system in its fight against colds and flu - ailments you so often get when run of down.

7- Drink plenty of water, it will help you hydrate your body, and only drink alcohol in moderation.

8- Try and keep caffeine consumption to the minimum.

9- Try not to turn to nicotine or any other self prescribed drugs.

10- Do not feel guilty about including a period of relaxation every day. We all need to turn off from time to time. Do something you enjoy and fits into your life. This could, for example, be reading, listening to music, doing yoga or meditating, enjoying a warm bath with perhaps some aroma therapy oils added to it. It does not have to take long - or be considered a luxury or time wasting. It is a vital part of life.

11- Make sure exercise is part of life. Exercise which is suitable for you. If you have any doubts as to the xe correct sort for you ask your doctor.

12- Do you often find yourself saying "yes" when in fact you mean "no"? Are you always late for things? Do you get frustrated knowing you could have done a Is better job if you had organized your time better? ) Learn how to be more assertive and manage your time properly. Many of us waste so much time - often making excuses for things we have not done! There are some excellent courses available as well as books on both these subjects.

13- Consider attending a stress management training course. You do not have to be stressed to attend one of these. It is far better to know fully what to do prior to experiencing negative stress than during! We would be happy to supply information about some of the courses that are available.

14- There are times when we all need the help and
confidential support of other people. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. It can be so beneficial.
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