Almost everyone is, by now, familiar with stress. The demands placed on us by today’s society means that most of us will, at some time or another, need help in managing our stress. But there are different types of stresses – we have relationship stress, personal stress and, of course, work place stress. Although the general feeling of being stressed is the same throughout, the causes and triggers of the stress are different and, so too, the management thereof. Workplace stress is unique in that it occurs, as the name suggests, in the workplace. This is not to be confused with simple pressure or demand placed on you through your job.
Workplace stress occurs when the demands placed on you are different, or above your level of expertise and experience leaving you feeling anxious about your performance. In other words the demands and pressures are not matched with your knowledge and ability leaving you unable to cope with the demands placed on you. Workplace stress also occurs when the work environment itself is stressful. In this sense, when employees don’t get on with one another, or management is not supportive, or you don’t feel like you have any control over what happens at work then the work environment itself becomes stressful.
It is important to remember that all jobs come with some level of pressure and demand. All work has an element of stress associated with it and, in many ways, this stress is beneficial as it keeps you on your toes, driving you forward. However, when the pressure or demands placed on you become excessive and you are no longer able to cope with these, or feel out of control, isolated and have no support from fellow colleagues or supervisors, then the stress becomes problematic.
There are many ways in which people cope with workplace stress. The very first step in managing your stress is identifying when and how you are struggling. Feeling tired all the time, demotivated, irritable and having trouble sleeping, losing your appetite and feeling restless are all signs that you are struggling. Once you have identified that your stress is becoming problematic, it is important to begin taking proper care of yourself. When your basic needs are taken care of you will find that you have more emotional resource to cope with external stress. Get proper sleep, eat healthy, drink water instead of coffee, tea or carbonated beverages and exercise. Consider having a walking meeting with a peer instead of sitting. You both will appreciate the movement. Seek external support by seeing a psychologist or counsellor. Many organisations have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Use it and if you are a manager or leader in your organisation, encourage all of your employees to use it as well.
Identify how much of your job stress is due to poor organisational or time management skills and how much is due to too much pressure or demand on you. If you can identify some problems in time management or organisation then address these first and reduce your stress this way. If demands placed on you are too high then it may be time to evaluate your job description and have a talk with your supervisor. Perhaps you need to upskill yourself to cope with the demands placed on you, or perhaps you need to shift the focus of your job description slightly. If the work environment is stressful, consider discussing this with your manager so that they may be aware of the problem at hand. If no resolution can be found then you may have to re-evaluate your current situation. Request an executive or leadership coach to help you create a healthy course of action while a psychologist can support you in sorting through and managing your emotional health. It is important to maintain some quality of life even while you are working and a job that does not meet your needs will likely only be damaging in the long run.