What are the main causes of the stress you encounter in your job? It could be a combination of some of the following: a heavy workload, unclear expectations, lack of agenda and decision-making abilities, an overload of responsibilities, and boundaries that are not respected.
If you feel stressed at work, you are not alone: According to the 2019 publication Work-related stress, anxiety or depression statistics in Great Britain, there were just over 600, 000 workers in the UK suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety (new or long-standing) in 2018/19. Over the same period, just under 13 million working days were lost due to these conditions. And stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 44 per cent of all work-related ill health cases and 54 per cent of all working days lost due to ill health.
To help understand this we’ve developed the stress at work questionnaire. If you haven't completed it yet, please do so by hitting the link below. It takes less than three minutes and will shed some light on your personal experience at work and inspire you to think about the causes of stress you encounter in your job in a way that allows you to dig deeper into understanding and consequently managing your work stress.
After you’ve gotten the result from your stress at work questionnaire, it's time to analyze it. The results are on a scale from zero to 60, with zero representing no stress at all and 60 an extreme and even dangerous amount of stress. What do you think about your result? Did it match your expectations? Share your thoughts with us in the happiness Forum.
Stress generally refers to two things: the psychological perception of pressure (real and imagined/ anticipated), and the body's response to it.
Avoiding an accident on the way to work will cause stress as well as social tension, or the fear of being held responsible for a bad result at work. This all triggers the release of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones increase heartbeat and the circulation of blood to support quick action, fast breathing, focused attention, and more.
But this lifesaving bodily response is only meant to solve short-term, acute problems.
While occasional stress can be motivating and energizing – even life-saving – chronic stress is harmful, not only to our mental but also to our physical health. The signs of prolonged stress include headaches, insomnia or problems falling asleep, a racing heartbeat, stomach aches, muscle tension, and concentration difficulties, among others.
Chronic stress can emerge in the absence of severe incidents by ruminating about anticipated problems, changes and challenges. Any situation you perceive as threatening, or which requires you to adjust to a change, can set the stress response off. This is not necessarily the best way to deal with ongoing difficulties such as unrealistic demands at work or hierarchical problems in a company.
When the stress response gets continuously triggered, the mind and body stay in the state of high alert, which, over time, will cause wear and tear, as we fail to enter the important state of rest and recovery.
Indeed, Segen's Medical Dictionary defines chronic stress as: “A state of prolonged tension from internal or external stressors [causes of stress], which may cause various physical manifestations – e.g., asthma, back pain, arrhythmias, fatigue, headaches, hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers – and suppress the immune system.”
Similarly, Wikipedia states: “While the immediate effects of stress [hormones] are beneficial in a particular short-term situation, long-term exposure to stress creates a [constant] high level of these hormones. This may lead to high blood pressure (and subsequently heart disease), damage to muscle tissue, inhibition of growth, suppression of the immune system, and damage to mental health.”
Here we need to distinguish between inner and outer factors. Stress management is not made to endure unacceptable and toxic work environments but to keep us healthy and encourage improvements within ourselves at the workplace in a calm and productive way.
The first and most important step is the realization that we are actually stressed. Only the acceptance of the fact that stress is there allows us to do something about it. Though stress is often inevitable, you can help control your body's response to it. Exercise, meditation, invoking the relaxation response, and mindfulness are great stress busters.
By actively managing our stress we change from passively sitting in the passenger seat of our stress reaction into actively choosing our response to the situation. Accepting that there is stress also doesn't mean that we have to endure it but that we see it for what it is. We are then able to analyze the situation and choose how we work within ourselves and in regard to the organization we work for.
We have more clarity, are able to really listen to and understand other points of view, and find satisfying solutions that consider all parties involved. We can navigate difficult situations more skillfully and become aware of mechanisms at the workplace that cause unnecessary amounts of work and can, therefore, address them calmly.
Explore these articles from happiness.com and wider afield to discover practical tips that can help you manage your stress effectively.
Tine is part of the happiness.com team. She's an artist, meditator, media engineer and MBSR teacher. If she's not traveling she's working on turning her rooftop terrace into a garden paradise. Find out more about her on Instagram.
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