Everyone inevitably reaches a point in their life wherein working has absorbed most of their everyday lives. While the wide range of interests translate to differing lines of work and professions, all of these falls under the paid work category. Paid work is necessary for most people. As individuals grow older, get married or raise families, needs and wants grow with them. Increasing needs and wants require money.
Aside from the necessity of doing paid work, another factor contributes to the stronghold that work has established in the lives of most people. This is the changing pace of the global economy in general. Today, work has become increasingly fast-paced and modern. Jobs have become more and more demanding with respect to skills, dedication and most of all, time.
Work has both positive and negative effects on an individual. On one hand, work can be challenging, rewarding and fulfilling both intellectually and financially. Work entitles an individual something to look forward to, something to strive for and something to learn about. Work can be viewed in this sense, as a learning process. Unfortunately, the effects of work do not end here. Work can be so demanding that it can bestow significant amounts of stress on an individual’s mental and physical health.
What is Stress?
According to ERIC Digest, “stress is an interaction between individuals and any source of demand (stressor) within their environment.” In other words, stress stems from an interaction between an individual and a stressor. A stressor can be a person, an object or an event that the individual perceives to be potentially unsettling. Stress comes about when the individual’s ability to cope is exceeded or overtaken by the stressor.
The level of stress that an individual can experience at work is highly relative. This means that it is dependent on the ability of the individual to cope with the stressor. While some consider balancing their work with their family affairs as their primary stressor, others may consider work conditions as their primary stressor. The two examples are very different from one another yet they cause the same thing, stress. Despite the different levels of stress that can be experienced, the effects of stress are easily distinguishable.
Manifestations of Stress
There are numerous manifestations of stress in the workplace. The more general and common manifestations includes absenteeism, anxiety, low productivity, low morale and sickness.
On a more personal level, manifestations range from mental disorders to serious physical ailments. Depression, heart diseases, ulcers and recurring pain are quite common among individuals experiencing severe work stress.
Understanding Work Stress
Because of the differing ability of individuals to cope with the stressor, there is no one particular aspect that can be conclusively changed to reduce stressors. Altering one stressor could lead to the creation of a new stressor for other individuals. Therefore, intervention must be made with caution and knowledge regarding the primary stressor of particular groups of people or organization.
On the personal level, work stress can be minimized by developing one’s ability to cope and exercise job control. Job control is a concept wherein the individual is able to actively influence the work environment, so that a certain sense of control can be felt. Opening up to the workplace, interacting with others, making necessary changes and arrangements and demanding certain privileges are necessary to obtain a sense of control over one’s work-life. By doing this, the individual makes the work a rewarding experience as oppose to a threatening one.
Managing Work Stress: Avoiding Burning out on the Job
Because most of the lives of people are spent working, individuals find it extremely stressful. Stress can stem from so many different things. There are the long hours required at work, overtimes, tight deadlines; conflict with co-workers, friction with clients, and the long list goes on and on.
There are about only a few people who can absolutely say they have not experienced stress at work. Because stress is the result of the interaction of an individual with a stressor (an unpleasant or unsettling object, person or situation), it is necessary for everyone to at least know the basics steps in avoiding work stress. Stress arises when the stressor exceeds or overtakes the ability for the individual to cope. Since there are a wide range of stressors and their effects vary across different people, the best way to avoid stress is to develop one’s ability to cope.
Preventing Work Stress
There are numerous ways to avoid or minimize work stress. The tips that will be presented are among the more general and basic ways to minimize stress at work.
The first step in preventing work stress is taking time to recognize and deal with work stress. It is important that an individual recognizes that he or she is under stress. Without this recognition, a desire to deal with the stress will never come.
The second step is identifying your primary stressor. In doing this, you would need to sit down, be alone and do some deep thinking. Assess your regular activities. Identify in which part of the day you feel most stressed, tired or upset. And then, identify the factors that stress you most. By identifying your primary stressor, dealing with it will be much easier.
Now that you have identified your primary stressor some helpful tips can be helpful in dealing with them. First, a positive attitude or take on work matters must replace old and negative ones. The key is always looking for an alternative to the key situation. A positive take on conversations, thoughts and actions must be practiced. Second, it is important to remember that you are just one person. Despite the demanding terms and obligations that your work puts you up to, it is impossible for you to do everything. Therefore, it is important that you recognize that getting everything done is not as important as getting everything done on a specific schedule. Schedules are made because they make work realistically paced. Do not focus yourself on how much you have to do, rather direct it on the schedule that has been made and just do your best to live up to it.
Third, not skipping meals such as your lunch is also very important. Lunch breaks were created for a good purpose. They give you an opportunity to take some time to relax your mind and your body. It also gives you the chance to recharge your body. Nourishing your body means replenishing the energy you have already spent on work. It is important to take your lunch and use this time to relax yourself.
Fourth, keeping a balance between your professional and personal lives is important in minimizing and preventing work stress. Striking a balance is not apportioning yourself to these two aspects, rather it means giving your total attention and dedication to one at a specific time and to the other at another specific time. It does not have to a tug-of-war game. It is a matter of delineating the two aspects of your life.
Finally, keeping work matters at work will keep stress at bay. The home is your sanctuary. It is your personal space and it is important that this space is not contaminated by work concerns. Listening to music, engaging in recreational activities or simply being alone in your home several hours a day will do wonders for your ability to cope.