Are you experiencing workplace stress? Is it affecting your health and family life?
You are not alone.
According to Safe Work Australia, 90% of mental disorder claims are attributed to mental stress, totalling $480 million in payments made; and typically 14.8 weeks time off work – which reflects the serious nature of workplace stress and related ill health.
Reasons are many and varied and include organisational restructuring, job insecurity, working exceptionally long hours, having too many or too few responsibilities, inability to manage conflict with managers or colleagues, and victimisation.
It is important to note, though, that not everyone will experience stress to the same degree. Much will depend on your psychological make-up – your upbringing, your environment, life experiences, and so on. One person, for instance, will thrive under the pressure of new challenges or demanding work, while another will find change highly stressful and become ill.
Stress in the Workplace
Depending on the cause(s) of your stress, you may experience a sense of overwhelming emotions restricting your ability to perform even basic tasks. You might be unable to meet deadlines, thereby adding to your stress levels. If your organisation is going through a time of restructuring, you might feel your job is under threat; or find your new role to be over-taxing, or not challenging enough. Relationships with managers and colleagues may be strained, leading to a sense of isolation and victimisation; and feeling anxious by bullying or harassment can lead to mistakes that could cause injury.
Being part of a small business with few staff members can also add pressure, if you feel undervalued or, that too much is being demanded of you. And, if you do have to take time off because your health is affected, you may then feel guilty because you’re ‘letting the team down’. However, your health and well-being should always be your priority.
Effects on Your Health
Symptoms related to stress in the workplace can vary from person to person. But, if they go unchecked, can have serious consequences for your health. Symptoms might include:
- Mood swings
- Muscle tension
- Alcohol/substance misuse
- Eating disorders
- Cardiovascular disease
Experiencing these symptoms long-term can increase the risk of developing chronic health problems, so it’s important to take heed and address them.
Effects on Your Family
Sadly, stress in the workplace can have a severe impact, not only on your health and well-being but that of your family. Tremendous strain can be placed on your spousal relationship, especially if you haven’t communicated the pressure you’re feeling – or they haven’t understood the seriousness of your situation. Taking work home will mean having less time to spend with your family, perhaps to the extent that they too start to show signs of stress. And, if you are a lone parent, the pressures you feel can be immense. Feelings of guilt over ‘not being there’ or for ‘failing to provide’ can cause symptoms of stress to worsen. So, striving to achieve a positive work/life balance is paramount.
Self-help is important. You may be able to minimise the effects of stress by taking swift action as soon as you recognise the symptoms.
- Learn relaxation techniques, take regular exercise, eat healthily, etc.
- Speak to someone in your workplace, a manager or someone in the HR department, and let them know what’s happening with you – they may be able to resolve the situation.
- Don’t take work home if you can help it; or, at least restrict how often you do.
- Share your problems with family and friends so that they can support you.
- Don’t resort to taking alcohol or another drug to help you to cope.
- Set aside time to socialise or to get some quiet time.
- Don’t hide away by burying your head in the sand.
If symptoms are severe, it is important to see your doctor and a psychologist.
In an ideal world, we would all live stress free lives. But it isn’t an ideal world, and we certainly don’t live stress free lives. Some people have chosen to set up their own business and become their own boss to escape a stressful working environment, but that option isn’t available for everyone. And, starting your own business isn’t a guarantee that you will be stress-free; it can be even more stressful. Remember, though; your employer has responsibilities too – it’s in their interest to help you to resolve any work-related issues you may have. However, if they can’t or don’t help, changing your job might be a solution.
Ultimately, it is our responsibility to recognise early symptoms and take action to manage our stress levels; whether by tackling a problem at work head on, through self-help or, by visiting a health professional if symptoms persist or become severe.