Tight deadlines, heavy workloads and unbearable boss – all of these routine work factors invisibly contribute to our workplace stress. According to the reports, over 8 millions of Americans experience serious psychological stress, and this number continues to grow. The problem of stress in the office cannot be ignored, as it leads to professional burnout, behavioral problems and health issues.
However, if you experience serious stress, don’t hurry up to write my CV and quit that hatred job. In most cases, stress you experience is manageable – provided that you know the right ways how to cope with it. Below, you’ll find the list of most common stressors, their effects on your body and mind and self-help psychological techniques that will help you beat that stress early on.
Stress: Friend or Foe?
Centuries ago, the stress was our friend. It served as a protective mechanism which forced us to fight or run in case of danger. Even in the modern world the stress is inevitable – we experience it in the unknown and challenging situations. As it heightens our senses and reaction times, it helps us perform better, for example, during the job interview or the university exam.
Stress is helpful in little doses as it helps us to overcome the obstacles. However, when we experience ongoing stress and pressure, it affects our body and mind negatively. Below, you’ll find the most typical reasons why stress arises at work and how to cope with it.
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The most popular sources of work stress
Work-related stress can seem irrational at the first glance. However, there are several factors which prove to be the most common stressors for the employees. Here are the main of them:
- Long hours and heavy workload – there’s nothing that leads to burnout faster than the necessity to work over 50 hours a week. Late nights in the office, unpredictable and heavy schedule simply don’t leave us the time to switch, unwind and relax.
- Organizational changes – major changes such as mergers or acquisitions often come hand in hand with terminations, changes in role requirements and the team. Needless to say that this level of insecurity can provoke excessive tension and pressure.
- Boring and unchallenging work – of course, office routine is inevitable for nearly any job. Yet, if you are being assigned the same set of boring, mundane tasks and the situation doesn’t change over months, lack of engagement and job satisfaction can seriously stress you out.
- Lack of autonomy and over-supervision – if your autocratic boss tends to micromanage and report every step you take, you’re bound to feel stressed by the inability to show and develop your professionalism.
- Low salary – pay isn’t everything when it comes to job satisfaction. However, if your salary is below the industry average and you have to count every penny instead of focusing on the job solely, this will turn your collaboration with the company into a really stressful and unpleasant experience.
- Few promotion and growth opportunities – in today’s world of work, you need to learn new things all the time just to keep up with the labor market demands. If your company offers no promotion opportunities and offers no training, your career will suffer in the long run. The fact that you are not growing is also really discouraging and demotivating.
- No control over job-related decisions – to feel truly content with the job you have, you need the possibility to influence the main job-related decisions, i.e. the types of tasks you are assigned within your scope of responsibility, the work schedule, department you work in, etc. The fact you cannot influence your working conditions can lead to a huge stress and dissatisfaction.
- Unclear of ever-changing expectations – if you never know what is expected for you, or the requirements of your boss change all the time, you’re going to stay nervous about the results you produce all the time. Moreover, you’ll never reach success as you don’t know what the success means for your role.
- Hostile working environment – everyone needs social support and comfortable office environment to perform well. If the office environment is a way too competitive, hostile and backstabbing is a regular issue, you’ll waste a lot of effort trying to survive in a snake pit rather than doing your job.
- Workplace discrimination or harassment – even if you love your job in general, these two issues can make your working days unbearable. By the way, if you are asked discriminatory questions during an interview, it can be a sign that the entire company culture doesn’t fight the discrimination as well.
- Lack of organizational and self-management skills – a regular job can turn into a constant source of stress if you cannot manage your time, prioritize tasks and stick to deadlines. Luckily, these skills are easy to learn and you’ll get rid of stress caused by overlapping tasks and constant hurrying.
How the workplace stress affects us?
The roots of the work stress are many, but the effect it makes on our body and mind is basically the same. Stress at work causes a wide range of health problems, affects our mental health and reduces our productivity dramatically. Here are the main symptoms of ongoing stress in the workplace:
- Physical health issues – chronic stress affects all the systems in our body and can provoke headache, stomach ache, heart problems, high blood pressure and weakened immune system (which results in frequent colds). If you experience one of these conditions, time to have a closer look at how the workplace environment affects you - maybe, you are so used to stress that you don’t even realize that you feel tense all the time.
- Psychological issues – it’s not only our body that reacts to stress negatively. You may also experience difficulties with concentration, anxiety, sleep problems, depression short temper and even panic attacks. If these symptoms don’t go after the quality rest and relaxation, it’s time to take serious steps towards managing your stress at work.
- Destructive behavior – excessive tension at work can result in adoption of various kinds of destructive behavior, such as compulsive eating, excessive drinking or drugs abuse, smoking cigarettes or adopting any other destructive habit. We subconsciously take on the destructive behaviors to relieve from the constant pressure. Unfortunately, they can only add up to the problem of stress that already exists.
- Depression and burnout – in case of chronic stress you completely lose the motivation to do your job well. If you feel that you are no longer interested in results you produce, perform the routine tasks robotically, can’t wait to leave the office and have no interest in the future career progression, it’s a warning sign.
If these signs have appeared only recently, this guide can help: http://resumeperk.com/blog/10-ways-to-find-lost-desire-and-inspiration. If you’ve been experiencing them for weeks, however, you’ll need a complex approach to stress management.
Is the high level of work stress a solid reason to leave your job? It’s up to you to decide – but make sure you’ve weighed all pros and cons carefully. Don’t make emotional decisions. If you’ve decided that it’s time to look for a new job, be sure to give your resume a quality makeover. Our resume writing professionals with 9+ years of experience will gladly assist with creating a wining resume for you.
Managing stress effectively: tips & techniques
There’s no one-size-fits-all recipe for beating work stress. The methods you’ll use will vary depending on the stressor, your personality type and many other factors. Some might benefit from simple relaxation techniques used regularly, while the others will need weeks to get rid of stressors or develop healthy responses from them. One way or another, be sure to use the time-proven stress-management techniques below to understand what works for you:
- Do the things you really enjoy.
If our life outside of work is not fueled by events and emotions, stress gained at work tends to accumulate faster (going to clubs on Friday doesn’t count). Hobby or outside activity helps us relax and recharge – so be sure to take on the hobby you used to have years ago or find a new one. Cycling, cooking, dancing bachata, singing or crafts – anything will do as long as it helps you unwind and makes you happy. The positive emotions gained through the hobby can minimize the stress and improve the quality of your life in general.
Perhaps, one day you’ll want your hobby to bring you money as well – and this is possible to achieve. Check out our post on how to turn your hobby into a stable source of income: http://resumeperk.com/blog/how-to-turn-your-hobby-into-job.
- Write down your emotions.
Keeping a journal is the perfect way to understand your emotions and vent without fear of becoming a subject of gossiping. If you’ve never written before, that’s ok – you’re not going to show your diary to anyone. All you need to do is to write for 15 minutes every day about the stressful events and how they made you feel. Don’t limit yourself – write about anything you feel like saying. As you write down the actions and the way you reacted to them, you’ll be able to analyze what stresses you most to work further on it if necessary. Moreover, the writing itself has a therapeutic effect – as you write about the way you feel, it instantly makes you feel better. Given that the topics to talk about with colleagues are limited, it’s one of the simplest yet effective ways to work with stress.
- Be organized and plan your day ahead.
Inability to cope with the growing number of tasks can stress out even the relatively stable person. This type of stress is easiest to prevent, though. All you need to do is to plan your day the night before or early in the morning. Prioritize the tasks and do the most important and urgent ones in the morning to avoid getting stressed by them all day. Leave the blank spaces in your diary in case an urgent task arises. Cross out the tasks you’ve done – it will give you the sense of completion and give you a momentum to keep going. As you create the plan and stick to it, you’ll rather do them one by one calmly than procrastinate and do everything in a hurry.
By the way, ability to manage your time and resources is one of the key traits of in-demand employees. Read more about other traits of a perfect employee here: http://resumeperk.com/blog/watch-and-learn-top-15-qualities-of-the-ideal-employee.
- Make yourself comfortable.
Seemingly a minor factor, physical comfort matters a lot for our happiness at work as well. If you work in a noisy office at an old desk in a chair that gives you a back pain, it can contribute to the work stress as well. Don’t overlook this factor and create a quiet, comfortable and soothing workplace for you. Chances are that as soon as you make yourself comfortable you’ll feel that the job irritates you less and you are less tired at the end of the day.
Do you think that your job is not very convenient? Then, you’ll be curious to learn about the world’s weirdest jobs you probably have never heard of: http://resumeperk.com/blog/top-weirdest-jobs-youll-be-curious-to-discover.
- Clarify the job requirements.
Quite often, we get stressed by the job we do simply because we don’t have clear requirements or these requirements change with no notice. Whether it’s due to your boss’s lack of competency or the flaws in the organizational structure, the result is the same: you cannot perform well as you don’t know how a good result looks like. To avoid this popular trap, talk to your supervisor and discuss the KPI’s you need to reach and the result they’d like to get from you. Make sure that the requirements they give you are measureable, i.e. you can tell for sure whether you’ve coped with the task or not.
Email monitoring in the workplace can stress you out, too. Read how to tell if the company tracks your action and what you can do about it.
- Work out.
You don’t have to run a marathon or to buy a membership in a fancy fitness club, though. Even 15 minutes of home exercises can work wonders on your chronic stress. Firstly, exercising immediately improves your mood by producing endorphins. Secondly, it helps you switch off and stop thinking about your work stress for a while. And finally, it makes an overall positive impact on your body and mind, from burning extra calories and contributing to your sense of well-being to improving sleep and reducing anxiety. If you’ve never exercised before, it’s time to start. If you find a type of physical activity that you love and go in for it regularly, it will also improve your quality of life in general.
- Have a conversation with your boss.
A good boss is always interested in keeping the employees engaged and productive; so, if you feel that things are going wrong because of your stress, it might be helpful to talk to your supervisor about it. Keep in mind that they are not the shrink, though, and avoid complaining about your work, colleagues, or private issues. What you should do is to track your stressors in advance, think about the possible solutions and only then discuss them with the boss. Depending on the situation, you may ask to work remotely for a while, to get assigned more meaningful tasks or to change the department you work at. Your boss can help you get the necessary resources to help you cope with the stress faster and better.
Does your boss criticize you a lot and you don’t know how to respond to this criticism in the right way? Here’s how you can take criticism effectively: http://resumeperk.com/blog/effective-ways-to-face-criticism-at-the-workplace.
- Talk it out and get support.
It’s nearly impossible to handle the stress on your own. If you experience the ongoing tension, bursts of anger or symptoms of depression, talking it out will help relieve from the pressure and recognize your feelings. However, be sure to find the trusted person for venting – it can be a family member, a close friend or a coworker you know well. Thus, you will ensure that the secrets you share won’t be spread at the water cooler the next day. If you need to express your feelings in any other way – cry, shout, or laugh out loud – don’t restrain yourself. The feelings you keep within tend to escalate the stress.
However, venting to your friend is not always enough. You may need to see the therapist if the stress stays strong and you fail to get rid of in on your own. In certain cases, you might need to change the job and find a new, less stressful employment. By the way, here’s our guide on speeding up your job search: http://resumeperk.com/blog/10-useful-tips-to-speed-up-job-search.
- Take a break.
If the stress prevents you from performing at a high level, the best option will be to take a vacation. You need to change a scenery for at least a week and avoid any thoughts or reminders of work. Go to a resort, travel by car or visit your friends abroad – do anything that will distract you from work completely. As you recharge yourself with fresh emotions and new events, the stress will go and you’ll return home reinvigorated and ready to take new career heights.
It may happen, though, that the quality vacation will only strengthen your hate to the job and make you think over changing your life completely. If this is exactly how you feel, it means that you’ve faced a career crisis. Read here how to cope with the crisis effectively: http://resumeperk.com/blog/career-crisis-why-does-it-happen-and-what-to-do.
- Set boundaries between work and life.
Today’s digital world erases the boundaries between the work and life. Meanwhile, it’s the habit to answer the working mail from home and stay in touch for 24 hours a day that greatly contribute to our stress. The best thing you can do for your mental health is to switch off from work completely as soon as you get home (which means no business phone calls, no mail, etc.). If that’s hardly ever possible in your case, try at least to limit the free time you can devote to work (for instance, you can decide to accept calls from work only till 9pm). You need to find the regimen that will help you feel that you actually unwind and relax at home. Your work-life balance will only benefit from it.
- Cleary identify your stressors.
To work with your stress, you need to identify what drives you crazy most. Is that an annoying colleague who distracts you all the time or an overly controlling boss? Is it the fact that you’ve been overlooked for a promotion again or you are always given the least enjoyable tasks? Or maybe, it’s the difficult clients or the rumors of the upcoming resignations? Create a list of your stress triggers. You need to be very detailed, as you might need to work with each point of this list separately.
- Avoid the sources of stress whenever possible.
As you’ve identified your stressors, do your best to limit them in your working life. Try to communicate less with a particularly annoying colleague. Don’t take on more tasks that you can handle – it will more likely lead you to a burnout than to a promotion. Get good headphones if the chitchat in the office drives you crazy. In other words, it’s possible to reorganize your habits and your working space in a way that will relieve the stress you experience. Be sure to do your best to make your days in the office as comfortable as possible.
- Try to alter the stressful situation.
Sometimes the stressful situation that you experience can – and should – be addressed and resolved. For instance, if you’d like to get a pay raise, don’t just silently wait; come up to your boss and ask what it takes for you to get that raise – and start working in that direction. If something discourages you, express your feelings instead of bottling them up – for instance, if your coworker makes a lot of noise, try talking to them in a polite and friendly way. Or if you believe that something can be changed within the company that others would benefit from as well, raise the issue during the meeting. Of course, your requests or suggestions might be rejected – but then you’ll know you did your best to influence the situation that bothers you, and that will definitely contribute to your self-esteem.
- Accept that you cannot change everything.
Admit the fact that there are lots of stressors that you cannot influence. You cannot change the behavior of your boss and coworkers, the clients’ attitude, the company’s workload and internal rules. If your attempts to change the situation didn’t come to a success, there are just two courses of action. Firstly, you can accept the situation as it is and only work on the way you respond to your stressors. You can practice self-management, relaxation techniques and develop healthy responses which will help you take it easier and not to get depressed or furious because of work issues.
The second path is quitting and finding the new job with the better fitting schedule, workload, and organizational culture. However, don’t quit emotionally – weigh all pros and cons before you do. Keep in mind that you take yourself wherever you are going, and if you feel stressed and have workplace conflicts at any company, the problem might be in your unhealthy responses to stressors and you’ll need to work at this issue anyway.
If you’ve made a grounded decision to quit and would like to land a new job as soon as possible, a high-quality professional resume can help out a lot with that. Our experts can create a brand-new resume for you to highlight your most prominent qualifications and promote you for the job. Check out our full list of services and prices.
Learn and practice relaxation techniques
To relieve from the existing stress and improve your stress resistance in the future, consider mastering the relaxation techniques. Most of them are unbelievably easy yet they make a long-term positive effect on your body and mind.
- Meditation is a perfect way to calm down your thoughts and relax your body. Start practicing it for 10 minutes every day – just concentrate on your breathing and let your thoughts flow freely. Meditation is known for the ability to decrease the anxiety, reduce the blood pressure and get rid of insomnia.
- Breathing exercises work well when you need to put yourself together before or after stressful events. Take deep breaths and exhale slowly for 5 minutes.
- Walking isn’t a relaxation technique itself, but taking long walks in the park will make you feel better. Try taking a walk at the lunch break instead of staring into a monitor – it will affect all systems in your body positively.
- Music is known for its ability to reduce stress as well. Be sure to listen to your favorite tracks every day to get a lot of positive emotions and unwind after a stressful day.
- Affirmations – replacing the negative statements from your head with the positive ones prove to be highly effective when it comes to stress management. You can complement the positive statements with visualization to strengthen the positive effect on your mind.
Although work stress is inevitable, in big dozes it affects our physical health, mental conditions and productivity negatively. Beating the stress in the office includes the following key components:
- Identify your stressors to understand what exactly triggers you and to work with them by yourself or with a therapist;
- Develop healthy stress responses –change what’s within your power (your habits and wrong attitude that provoke stress), try to influence what doesn’t depend on you (talk to your supervisor or colleagues about the issues that bother you to work towards a compromise) and accept what you cannot change;
- Learn the relaxation techniques and give yourself a quality rest to better recover from stress and maintain healthy work-life balance;
- Take care of your body by creating comfortable working environment and exercising regularly to keep your body healthy;
- Share your feelings with the family, close friends or a therapist – don’t be silent about what you experience. Seek for help – you’ll overcome the stress faster with the help of others.
Reduce the stress associated with job-hunting
Looking for a new job is a huge stress as well. Sourcing the best job postings, adapting your resume for each of them and negotiating with the hiring managers takes a lot of time and effort. Moreover, you constantly worry if you’ve done everything right and if your resume sells you effectively for the desired type of position.
Getting your resume done by a professional writer significantly reduces this type of stress. You needn’t worry about what to put on your resume and how to format it – our experts will take care of everything. You’ll get a submission-ready resume and will only need to send it over in response to a job posting. By the way, make sure that you’ve learnt how to use hashtags to find job, as more and more employers today hire through social media.