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Wellness: Stress Management at Work

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that 40% of employees classify their jobs as very to extremely stressful and 25% of employees view their jobs as the No. 1 stressor in their lives. Everyone experiences stress in different ways and during different situations. The symptoms of stress can even mimic symptoms of other health issues.

Signs of Stress

Stress is the body's physical and psychological response to anything perceived as overwhelming. Symptoms can be displayed in many ways.

  • Physical—headaches, chest pain, pounding heart, indigestion, diarrhea, insomnia, sweaty hands, hypertension, fatigue and dry mouth
  • Psychological—anxiety, irritability, depression, racing thoughts, anger, hypersensitivity, apathy, feelings of helplessness, feelings of worthlessness and a feeling of doom
  • Behavioral—overeating or loss of appetite, impatience, being argumentative, violence, procrastination, withdrawal, increased smoking, increased alcohol or drug use, neglecting responsibility, change in close relationships and change in religious practices

Stress in the Workplace

Work is a common source of stress, especially when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources or needs of the worker. Other causes of work-related stress include poor communication with management, a dangerous work environment, job insecurity, lack of support or social outlets, a heavy workload and long hours.

Employers can help reduce job stress by:

  • Clearly defining the employee's roles and responsibilities
  • Aligning employee workloads with their capabilities and resources
  • Providing opportunities for employees to participate in decisions affecting their jobs
  • Addressing known issues and finding possible solutions

Reducing Stress

Identify stress triggers and take steps to deal with the source of stress:

  • Improve time management skills—Create realistic expectations and deadlines. Use a master list of tasks that is evaluated and prioritized daily. Work on one task at a time to avoid multitasking.
  • Set boundaries—Learn to say "no" when necessary. Delegate work, if possible. Take time off when you need it.
  • Stay healthy—Get adequate sleep and eat balanced meals. Release tension with exercise or a hobby you enjoy.
  • Separate work and home life—Make rules not to check email or take/make calls after work hours.
  • Share your concerns—Discuss your concerns with a trusted friend, family member, supervisor, therapist or mental health professional. Talking can help relieve stress and put events in perspective.

Relaxation Techniques

Regularly practice relaxation techniques to help reduce muscle tension and lower your heart rate and blood pressure.

  • Visual Imagery—Close your eyes and imagine a relaxing environment.
  • Relaxed Breathing—Inhale slowly, hold it for a few seconds, then exhale.
  • Stay Composed—Think first, take a breath and then act. Respond to anger in a more productive manner.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation—Tense and then relax groups of muscles from head to toe.
  • Meditation—Concentrate on breathing while silently repeating a calming word or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts.
  • Exercise—Practice Tai chi, yoga, walking or more intense physical activities such as running and biking.

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