What is work stress?
Work stress is an inevitable part of the job but not all stress is bad as it keeps us on our toes and, at times, we can even learn to excel under the pressure. However, when work stress places unreasonable and overwhelming demands on an individual, this can result in undue anxiety and an inability to cope effectively.
Work stress can negatively affect your productivity by compromising your ability to adequately perform your job responsibilities. While it’s impossible to control everything within your work environment, you are not powerless when it comes to overcoming the negative implications of work-related stress.
The first steps for stress management in the workplace
It’s important to remember that you can overcome work stress with the right strategy and attitude. You should consider the following:
- Commit to proactive responsibility for your own physical, mental and emotional wellbeing
- Seek to overcome a negative attitude
- Refrain from making rash decisions out of anger or frustration
- Learn better communication skills and coping mechanisms
- Be cognisant of the warning signs of stress
Work stress has long-term effects, and after a while, your body and mind can take the serious strain. This can result in physical, mental or emotional symptoms and may indicate that you’re headed for a burnout. Watch out for these tell-tale signs of stress overload where you could find yourself experiencing:
- A loss of confidence in your abilities
- Social withdrawal or loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Becoming anxious, angry or irritable at work
- A lack of work ethic, enthusiasm or personal motivation
- Emotional or mental issues, like panic attacks or depression
- Sleep disturbances like insomnia
- An inability to concentrate
- Constant fatigue or exhaustion
- Physical ailments like headaches or stomach pains
- Substance abuse problems, like excessive alcohol consumption
- Developing unhealthy coping mechanisms, like overeating or smoking
Simple tips for coping with work stress
Research shows that the most effective remedies for effective stress management in the workplace are relaxation methods and psychological detachment. This means you should learn to engage in stress relieving activities like exercise, socialising or hobbies and by learning to balance your personal and work life. Some of the simple things you can do to destress include:
- Practising self-care methods like being aware of your own limitations
- Getting enough sleep
- Sticking to a healthy lifestyle with a nutritious diet and regular exercise
- Avoiding unhealthy habits like smoking
- Taking breaks or leave so you can recharge
- Practising mindfulness or meditation
- Learning effective time management skills
Communication and management skills can ease the pressure of work stress
Be realistic and practical when it comes to dealing with work stress. Identify the stressors and consider the possible changes or resolutions you can make to alleviate the negativity.
Poor communication is a common cause of stress at work because it creates misunderstandings, which can lead to frustration and heated emotions. Miscommunication is often the result of cultural diversity, language barriers, generational differences, differing managerial styles or educational backgrounds so practise effective communication techniques at work by:
- Being specific, whether you’re receiving or giving out instructions: it helps to be clear and unambiguous. If you’re uncertain about the expectations, or if you suspect that your instructions were unclear, make a point of asking for additional information or clarifying your point.
- Keeping an open mind and being receptive to new ideas, opinions and options. Just because a colleague may have an alternative viewpoint on a matter, doesn’t mean they’re wrong.
- Reframing negative language so that it doesn’t come across as being confrontational or aggressive. So, instead of saying “you didn’t understand the instruction”, you could rather say “;maybe I didn’t make myself clear?”
- Practising paraphrasing so you’re clear on what is being said and understood. In other words, you could summarise a colleague’s conversation with “If I understand you correctly, you’re asking that we do the following…”
2. Conflict resolution techniques
Work stress is often caused by office conflict so it’s productive to address this in a timeous and effective manner before it escalates. Try the following conflict resolution techniques:
- Avoid internalising the conflict as this creates resentment. Instead, view the problem as a challenge to be resolved by you and your colleagues.
- Refrain from office gossip or involving yourself in conflict that doesn’t directly involve you.
- Be professional: if you need to resolve an issue with a colleague then make an appointment so you can discuss and resolve the issue at an appropriate time and place.
- Where possible, try to resolve the conflict yourself so you can learn from the experience and improve your conflict resolution skills. However, getting an objective mediator to assist can also be beneficial in certain circumstances.
Work stress can have serious physical, mental and emotional implications if you’re unable to manage this effectively. At Topmed we’re committed to promoting a healthy lifestyle so encourage you to be proactive and take steps to combat the negative effects of work-related stress. Get in touch today and sign up for cover for yourself and your family.
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