There are several reasons that might lead to workplace problems and stress. For example, you might be working long hours but still fall behind deadlines and feel unable to deliver on your work commitments. There may be issues with colleagues which leave you feeling misjudged, discriminated against, or bullied. Some people may feel dissatisfied with what they do for work, and this can bleed into their general experience of life. These issues can lead to arguing with loved ones due to irritability and the pressures felt, causing problems with relationships. Any of these issues can impact mental health, but stress is a very particular experience. Feeling stressed can be experienced as pressure and a lack of control, such that people feel stretched beyond their limits. If this pressure remains unaddressed, the effects of stress can impact physical and mental health, and your personal life too.
Some people can come home stressed from work and snack more, or binge on food for comfort. Others may experience a dip in hunger, and therefore not eat, or forget to eat if they are overly preoccupied with work tasks or the stress itself. Some people experience both at different times.
When people are feeling stressed, and especially if they experience low mood alongside it, they are likely to withdraw. This means they may avoid work (workplace stress is one of the major reasons cited for absence). Or if at work, some people avoid colleagues, and socialising as normal, where possible.
Occupational burnout was recognised in the 70s and is thought to result when stress is not effectively managed so worsens and becomes chronic. Burnout is a combination of psychological and physical symptoms that lead to increased dissatisfaction and demotivation. People become disinterested, negative, cynical, and feel exhausted, leading to compromised productivity.
When someone is feeling preoccupied with work stress, they are often unable to experience normal sleep. They may find it difficult to switch off at night, wake at various times throughout the night, or wake very early and find it hard to sleep. Some people even dream about work, and this can make them feel unrested too.
When we feel overly burdened and stretched, we can start to feel as if we have less control of our lives. This can stretch beyond work, for example you might start to exhibit some of the other symptoms listed, which can make you feel even less in control.
The word ‘stress’ relates to tension and pressure. When we experience adverse situations, over extended periods, tension builds and the building of this creates pressure. Pressure needs release for relief. Until that happens, we experience stress and other problematic symptoms.
When we experience the pressure that stress brings, we have less resilience and a very limited threshold. This results in the inability to regulate our emotional state as we normally would. This can mean we snap at others or lash out in ways.
Stress at work can make us feel strained mentally, emotionally, and psychologically. The mental strain and fatigue affect concentration, or memory, causing even more stress and pressure at work. The emotional and psychological burden impacts in various ways. We may feel low, anxious, panicked, or depressed, in addition to the stress. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed and the inability to regulate emotions, sometimes resulting in anger or tearfulness.
A demanding job and work environment can cause physical problems. Some people experience shortness of breath, headaches, migraines, stomach problems, sleep disturbances, inability to concentrate, a short temper, and exhaustion. Stress is also known as the ‘silent killer’, impacting cardiovascular disease, and cancers. It is also linked to the fourth leading cause of death, physical injury.
A significant cause of substance misuse is stress. Many people will use substances as a way of coping with stress and the feelings that accompany it. This means people increase their use of substances like caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, or prescription and illicit drugs, and can form a dependence on them. This however is a form of avoidance and exacerbates other symptoms.
There are many factors that can impact workplace stress according to the American Psychological Society, and often there is more than one stressor at work. These can relate to factors specific to individuals or the organisation they work for. Some reasons for work related stress include:
At Phinity we offer customised mental health care. We are aware of the issues that impact workplace stress and provide services that are tailored to individual needs. We will begin with a thorough psychological Initial Assessment, and together identify the issues that are relevant for you. Depending on the outcome of our assessment we can agree a useful course of treatment.
For example, we may recommend a practical approach like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help you build resilience and build the capacity to manage stress efficiently. This entails understanding what factors are within your control and which are not. If there are factors that can be changed, we will help you to do this in a manageable way. If there is no possibility to affect change in a situation, you can learn how to respond emotionally in a way that helps you to feel more in control of the situation. This CBT approach has shown success in reducing stress by helping individuals better manage situations.
There are also other ways we manage workplace stress, and these will be discussed with you, depending on your specific needs. For example, sometimes workplace stress might occur due to a pre-existing source of stress, or mental health problem. If so, we would wish to discuss the best way to help work with the core issue(s), and in turn, reduce overall emotional distress.
Ultimately, we will work with you to help you develop more helpful ways to manage work and life, this may relate to coping strategies, creating boundaries, establishing self-care, relaxation techniques, breath-work, mindfulness, or practical strategies that help you to manage at work. Essentially, you will build resilience and learn how to manage, rather than suppress your emotions.
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