Stress is a big problem in the workplace, and the signs are everywhere.
Ever awaken at 3 a.m. in a sweaty panic over a work problem, a presentation you have to make, or looming deadline? Maybe you’ve lost your temper with the kids when the real problem was related to work.
The signs and symptoms of job stress are many and diverse—from a racing pulse to skipped meals, headaches, weight gain, depression, and lack of energy.
Whatever the cause, and however it manifests, workplace stress continues to be a problem—one that can cause reduced productivity, increase in accidents, and a spike in costs.
The American Psychological Association (APA) observes that, "While stress levels appear to be balancing out, they remain high and exceed what Americans consider to be healthy."
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According to the APA and other sources:
- 69 percent of employees say work is a significant source of stress, and 41 percent say they typically feel tense or stressed out during the workday.
- 51 percent of employees report that they have considered or made a decision about their career (such as leaving a job or declining a promotion) based on workplace stress.
- While more than half of adults say they are doing a good or excellent job of knowing when they feel stressed, half of them aren’t doing as well at preventing stress.
- Although 94 percent of adults believe stress can contribute to the development of major illness, a sizeable majority still thinks that stress has a slight or no impact on their own health.
- More employees are reporting that their employers provide sufficient opportunities for them to be involved in decision making, problem solving, and goal setting—one hopeful sign, since these are all steps believed to reduce employee stress.
Signs of Stress
As if life outside of the workplace isn’t stressful enough for most people, when they come to work, they often encounter more stress—lack of control over work, heavy workloads, productivity demands, tight schedules, conflicts with co-workers, and worries about job stability.
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When workers are stressed for any combination of reasons, the effects can be insidious. Dr. Albert Ray, physician director of Patient Education and Health Promotion for Kaiser Permanente in southern California, points to common signs and symptoms of stress:
- Acting angry and having a short temper
- Dealing with others in a curt, inhospitable manner
- Being present, but not fully productive
- Transformation from a friendly team player to an introvert
- Mocking the organization’s strategies and visions
- Physical symptoms, ranging from itchy skin to chest pain, fatigue, abdominal cramping, and ringing of the ears, among many others
- Emotional problems like depression, anxiety, compulsive behavior, and substance abuse
And, of course, another symptom is carelessness. Workers may be too tense or worn out to pay attention and take proper precautions. That’s when stress can lead to accidents and injuries.
Tomorrow, we’ll present some simple stress relief tips from a stress management expert who says, "These are complex times for people everywhere. The question we need to ask is, ‘What small, daily changes can we make to give us more balance, purpose, and the highest possible quality of life?’"