Your Monday morning alarm goes off for work - what goes through your mind? Are you excited for a new week? Or are you filled with crippling anxiety about what waits for you at the office?
Some work-related stress is normal, whether it's during a busy time of year or a transition at work. A little bit of stress can even keep you focused, energized, and ready to take on new challenges. But if your job's pressures become excessive and take a toll on other parts of your life, you may need to find some new ways to cope.
There are plenty of reasons your job might be stressing you out too much, such as receiving a low salary, excessive workload, and lack of support. Over time, stress can leave you feeling exhausted all the time, which can lead to serious health problems if left unmanaged.
Here's what you should know about stress - and how you can keep your job from damaging your health.
Stress and Your Body: How Stress Is Harmful to Your Health
Whether you need to slam on your brakes to avoid running a red light or you're standing in front of your CEO giving a presentation, your body reacts physically to stress. In order to protect itself and help you manage a stressful situation, it releases hormones that make your brain more alert, increase your pulse, and make your muscles tense up.
Some stressors, such as an important meeting or adjusting to new duties of your recent promotion, are harmless. This is called acute stress, and the physical reaction subsides after the stressor goes away. Everyone experiences acute stress at one time or another.
However, if you're stressed for weeks or months, that's called chronic stress. Chronic stress can be harmful to your health. It makes your body stay alert - even when the stressor is long gone.
Chronic stress can lead to health problems, such as:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Depression or anxiety
- Acne or eczema
- Menstrual problems
If you're constantly worried about what's going on in the office, you may also end up eating unhealthy foods and not getting enough exercise. Too much stress can lead to you feeling burned out, depressed, and unhappy about your job.
How Do I Know If I'm Too Stressed at Work?
Stress can be sneaky - and you may not realize symptoms are coming from your job. If stress affects you long after your workday, that may be a sign that you are experiencing too much stress. Some signs of being overly stressed at work include:
- Upset stomach - diarrhea or constipation
- Aches and pains
- Aches and pains
- Lack of energy
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Weight loss or gain
- Alcohol or drug use to relax
Being challenged at work is important. But if the stress of your job starts impacting other parts of your life, that's a problem. Paying attention to your stress levels is critical - and it can keep you healthy down the road.
Tips to Ease the Stress
You know your job is stressing you out - now what? There are simple ways to help you manage the demands of your job and minimize the amount of stress it leads to, such as:
- Keeping track of what stresses you out and how you respond to those situations - and looking for patterns
- Responding to your stressors in a healthy way, such as exercise or a hobby
- Setting goals, making a list of priorities, and learning when to say no to extra responsibilities
- Talking to your supervisor about aspects of your job that are stressing you out and how you can become more efficient in your role
- Making your workplace more comfortable, such as getting a new chair or an essential oil diffuser
- Taking workday breaks, such as a brief walk outside or a short chat with a coworker about something other than work
- Setting boundaries, such as turning off email notifications on your phone and not answering the phone during dinner
- Taking time to relax, such as a long weekend every once in a while, so you can come back recharged
- Getting support from family, friends, and trusted coworkers
Thinking about Your Career
It's not always possible to quit your job, but it's still important to make some changes. If you've tried these stress relief techniques, and you're still feeling the same amount of anxiety as before, it's okay to consider a new job or career path.
Making a career change is a big decision, and it can bring on a whole new set of stressors. It's important that you make sure you're ready for this kind of change - financially and emotionally. However, it doesn't mean you're giving up, and it may lead to a more stress-free life.
If You're Overwhelmed, Ask for Help
There are plenty of ways to manage your workplace stress on your own. By taking the time to notice what upsets you and handling it in a productive way, you can keep your mind and body healthy.
However, sometimes stress can become too much for you to handle on your own. If that happens, talk to a trained medical professional that you trust, such as your primary care provider or a therapist. They can provide you with the support you need to manage your stress.
Being dedicated and committed to your career can help you grow in your skills and find new opportunities at work. However, if the time you spend worrying about work begins to impact your wellbeing, it may be time to pause and consider how to ease some of the pressure - so you can be your best both in the office and at home.
Still have questions about workplace stress? Call 610-738-2300 to speak to a primary care provider to discuss ways to manage stress from your career.
Related Information from Chester County Hospital: