Stress is a natural part of life—it's not necessarily evil. It occurs whenever you need to cope with changes in your body as well as in your surroudings. In fact, short-term stress can be good for you as it can push you to focus more and try harder to achieve a certain goal;in times of emergency, it helps you prepare for imminent danger.
Long-term stress, however, is what's considered harmful, and it is commonly experienced by the working masses.
What is work-related stress?
The World Health Organization defines occupational stress as "the response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope." In fact, work-related stress, which can eventually worsen into a full-on burnout has already been acknowledged as an "occupational phenomenon," which has pushed the Department of Labor and Employment to prepare and release guidelines for local companies by June 5, 2019.
What are common sources of work-related stress?
According to the American Psychological Association, work-related stress is caused by the usual culprits, such as "low salaries, excessive workloads, [and] few opportunities for growth or advancement;" however, it can also come from things that you probably don't even notice. You may feel stressed when you're not challenged by your job, or when you're just relegated to a menial task when you know your capabilities have more to offer. A lack of support from colleagues and management can make you feel like you're of no value to the company, which may cause you to stay only because you need the money—and we know that that staying in a job or in a work environment that you hate can quickly burn you out. Lastly, "not having enough control over job-related decisions" can also be a cause of anxiety, especially if you're in a position of leadership and you find your authority often undermined.
If any of these things sound familiar to you, then you may have to watch out for any stress-indused manifestations and symptoms.
What are the emotional symptoms of stress?
You're probably already familiar with the physical symptoms of stress, which include headaches, tense and painful muscles, upset stomach, and insomnia, among others; but did you know that stress—especially one as chronic as work-related stress—can also affect you emotionally? According to WebMD, some of its emotional symptoms include "becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody; feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control; having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind; feeling bad about yourself, lonely, worthless, and depressed."
When untreated, stress can contribute to a slew of health problems, from something as seemingly simple as a cold, to something as serious as heart disease. Stress can weaken your immune system, as well as turn into anxiety disorder when left unmanaged.
How to deal with stress at work
One can surmise that stress is not something to be taken for granted, especially if its main cause is your job which you do on a daily basis. Imagine going to work and getting constantly bombarded with anxieties for at least eight hours a day—you're not doing your body any favors by just sweeping the symptoms under the rug just because you're "too busy." In fact, you're only setting yourself up for a burnout, and when you do reach that point, it can be very easy to think about giving up on your career even if it's actually something that you love doing.
To manage stress, it's important to first acknowledge that it's happening, and not just in the off-handed "stressed ako, e" manner. Actually take time and assess your situation. Here are a few things you can do to help you deal with it, and bring back gratification, efficiency, and positivity in your work life:
1. Define what's stressing you out.
The American Psychological Association recommends first tracking your stressors by keeping a journal, and writing down people and things that cause stress. Aside from recording what exactly you felt during these occurrences, it's important to take note of how you addressed them: Did you walk out on the situation? Did you find yourself snacking? Did you get angry?
Do this for at least two weeks, and pinpoint the recurring items that cause you negative thoughts and feelings.
2. Find a healthy outlet.
Once you've determined the things that cause you stress, try to eliminate them; however if it's something (or someone) that you really can't escape from at work, then find positive ways to deal with them. Instead of smoking or snacking, try something healthier such as simply taking a walk. If you can, find a garden or a park where you're able to calm down even for just a few minutes. Shinrin yoku or "forest bathing" is a known practice in Japan that's actually pretty straightforward—you just take in nature. The pause, no matter how short, can effectively calm you down.
If you still feel bad after work, find something that's totally unrelated to your job: sign up for an interesting workout like wall climbing or mixed martial arts, or maybe you can even find your personal advocacy and help spread good vibes in your community.
3. Define boundaries and manage expectations.
There are work cultures that keep on stressing you to deliver results to the point that you're left over-extending yourself. Don't train your officemates—or even your boss—to push you way beyond your healthy limits by always saying yes to everything that's asked of you. While it's great to do your best, it shouldn't be at the risk of your health and your personal life and relationships. Don't be afraid to say no when you know you're already dealing with something you can't handle.
4. Speak with management.
Sometimes, it does help to speak with your direct supervisor about how stressful things are going for you. There are many bosses who would actually appreciate the initiative—the last thing that they want is for a long-time employee to resign because it can be more expensive to retrain a replacement. Airing your side honestly can help management understand your situation, and create a compromise that will be beneficial for everyone.
5. Improve your lifestyle.
Sometimes, unhealthy habits can cause a destructive cycle: you sleep late, wake up late, skip breakfast, rush to work, become inefficient, do overtime, come home way past your normal shift, skip dinner and begin the same, negative cycle by sleeping late. Tweaking one part of your life—for example, sleeping on time and actually re-learning how to relax—may actually help your body adjust and make you more active and effective in the office.