Workplace stress


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Are you Stressed at Work?

It started with a small spat with your partner because you have not had enough time to help set up the new house you recently moved into. You decide to take a few days off soon to help them as you have submitted all your work for the time being. Fast-forward to three weeks later, you have a project submission due tomorrow, as well as two meeting reports and an outline of events for the company weekend getaway.

Your partner is worried as you are constantly irritable, haven’t slept or eaten well in three days, can’t really concentrate on perfecting the project that could result in a promotion and are teetering on the edge of a breakdown – clearly, you are stressed.

Stress is a reaction to a demanding obstacle (extra work, in this case) when the individual does not possess the skills, time or knowledge to overcome the situation at hand. These stressful experiences can be triggered by activities, people, situations and environments that are perceived to be beyond control. Stress can be positive as it often makes us work harder to achieve our goals. But if it begins to disrupt your daily life, then this mild pressure might be turning into a truly distressing situation.

What does stress look like?

When the body undergoes a stressful episode, the secretion of stress-causing hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) enhances the experience, leading to increased heart rate, hyperventilation and high blood pressure. If the fight-or-flight response is activated due to a stressor, the individual becomes irritated and nervous or aggressive and impulsive, depending on their reaction to the situation at hand.

A prolonged episode of stress leads to hypertension, fatigue and problems with sleep. The individual experiences forgetfulness and a reduction of attention and perception, where they are not able to focus on the activities they are engaged in. At the workplace, their vigilance and efficiency reduces drastically.

 Causes of stress at work

The most common stressors in the workplace, some of which you may have experienced, are as follows:

–     Lack of Control – Having little to negligible control of one’s surroundings and work can cause a lot of stress, affecting the attitude toward work and the motivation of an employee. Gaining a sense of control can help reduce stress to a large extent.

–     Little or No Feedback – Feedback helps employees improve. When there is no feedback given, employees are constantly in the dark and begin to doubt their abilities, causing stress. Asking for feedback in regular intervals can help with understanding your strengths and weaknesses, making the workplace a stress – free environment

–     Job Insecurity – Job security is a very important part of an employee’s work motivation. Job insecurity is stressful as often employees are not the only one’s depending on their steady job. Let your boss constantly realise your value, by working hard and achieving results. This won’t go unnoticed and hence will decrease security related stress.

–     Social Networks in the Workplace – A good social network within the office leads to increased job satisfaction and increased motivation. While a good network of co-workers acts as a stress buster, it also can cause distress. New employees and those that are socially withdrawn are often stressed about the existing networks and how they may not be welcomed into it. Making an effort to make new friends and slowly getting rid of such destructive thoughts will help reduce social stress.

–     Insecure Environment – A secure work environment is necessary to every individual. Stressful encounters increase when there is a potential threat at the workplace. For example, an oppressive co-worker, irritable customers, being abused or harassed by co-workers/superiors can be traumatic and induces high levels of stress. In these situations, reach out to the necessary authorities such as the human resources team or a union head to help take action against them or help diffuse the situation better.

Stressors are existent and often hidden in several environments. Having an upper hand over these triggers helps avoid and overcome crippling stressful situations as well as gives you an opportunity to develop ways to cope with it. But how does one recognize a stressor?

Retrospection is your answer – Try to identify a stressful experience. Trace your behavior and the activities that you have engaged in, in the recent past that lead to the day/time you experienced stress. Pin-point that exact activity or behavior that could potentially have led to your distress. That is your stressor.

The next step would be to try and find a pattern within these occurrences, such as stress due to an approaching deadline, the annual board meeting, a fight with a family member, etc. When you have recognized a pattern, it makes it easier to focus on particular repetitive stressors, overcome their effects and eventually put a stop to forthcoming stress as well.

It is usually difficult for one to objectively identify stressors and hence it is essential to seek professional help. Stress is unavoidable, but it’s effects can be thwarted. If it gets to a point where it is seeping into your daily life and interfering with your regular functioning, seek help. The professionals at HealthEminds are well-equipped as will able to help you recognise your stressors, cope with their effects, overcome the stress that they produce and help avoid further distress.


Contributed by Ms.Namrata Ramaprasad