In today’s world of emotional and environmental stressors, chronic stress has become very common. Many of us experience stress and pressure often related to finances, relationships, family dynamics, or trying to meet the constant, increasing demands of work. Studies have shown that higher stress leads to lower productivity, which makes the effects of workplace stress everyone’s problem, impacting employees, managers, and the entire business.
Although the stress response comes from a very good place—it is our body’s desire to protect us and keep us alive—that stress response was designed only for short bursts of energy to help humans survive physical dangers and threats, like our ancestors encountering a saber tooth tiger! This kind of constant fight or flight feeling and not giving ourselves enough time to mentally or physically reset can lead to several negative impacts on our health.
Here are some ways that workplace stress can affect you and your job performance:
Physical Health: stress can often lead to headaches, muscle pain, chronic fatigue, disruption of eating habits and digestive patterns, increased blood pressure, and weakening of the immune system which can mean more sick days taken off from work
Mental Health: when we feel stressed, we may also experience a loss of motivation to complete work tasks, feelings of failure or self-doubt leading to poor job performance, become detached from coworkers, and have decreased job satisfaction
Productivity: studies have shown that stress is linked to cognitive impairment, such as trouble concentrating and focusing on tasks, memory problems, and poor decision-making skills
Interpersonal Relationships: chronic stress shortens our temper and makes us feel irritated, this can lead to behaviours such as self-isolation, withdrawing from responsibilities, or taking out frustrations on others leading to conflict between employees and their managers and/or coworkers
Although stress is inevitable, we can learn to better manage and cope with it. So, how can you manage workplace stress and mitigate its negative impact on your health and productivity? Here are some strategies and tips:
Identify the source of your stress
The first step in managing your stress is to identify your triggers which could include anything from social situations to financial stress to health concerns. The next time you feel stressed, pause, take a few deep breaths, and notice how your body feels and the thoughts that are entering your mind. Ask yourself: What caused this feeling? What triggered this response in me? Is there a pattern? Once you can identify the common stressors in your life, you can work on developing coping strategies to manage them.
Practice relaxation techniques
Some of these techniques include deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness, journaling, yoga, stretching or progressive muscle relaxation. Practicing any of these can give your brain time to process and integrate information, which can improve your focus and creativity. You’ll be more productive and efficient when you return to your work!
Don’t skip your lunch break and make sure to take “mini-breaks” throughout the day, even if it’s just for a short walk outside or doing some light stretching to keep your body and mind refreshed. Plan your breaks and schedule them into your calendar. This will help you prioritize your mental health and ensure that you take regular breaks throughout the day. You could even speak to your team about introducing wellness breaks between meetings.
If you are feeling overwhelmed with your workload, openly communicate this to your manager or team and see if there are tasks that could potentially be shared or delegated to others. If a coworker asks you to assist them in a project but you are already handling a large workload of your own, be honest and let them know you may not be able to take on extra work at this time.
Talk to someone, whether that be a friend, family member, work colleague, manager or healthcare professional. Accepting support from trusted friends and family can help you handle stress more effectively. Some workplaces may also offer employee health and wellness webinars and workshops, such as our Stress & Burnout Series, that you can attend to learn simple steps to improve your overall wellness at work, home, and everywhere in between.
There are many great strategies you can use to protect yourself from stress and burnout. Challenge yourself to employ one or two of the strategies discussed above, starting today!