Workplace Stress Soars Amid Recession
Tips for overcoming stress inside the workplace
PHOENIX – (March 24, 2012) – Stress in small doses can be a good thing. It can serve as a motivator to deal with challenges, but prolonged stress and extreme stress can be mentally and physically harmful. According to the American Psychological Association, 69 percent of employees say that work is a significant source of stress and 41 percent say they feel stressed out during a typical workday.
“Over the past two years we’ve seen a much higher rate of patients coming in for physical and mental health issues related to their current job situations,” said Emily Cabezudo, PhD, a psychologist on the medical staff at St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center and Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital.
With the nationwide recession and a steady decline in economic stability, a majority of industries have taken hits and few people remain unaffected. The American Psychological Association reports that nearly seven in 10 employed Americans say that their employers have implemented financial cutbacks in the past year as a result of the weak economy — including freezing hiring or wages; laying off staff; reducing work hours, benefits or pay; or requiring unpaid time off.
Even some individuals who have been lucky enough to retain steady employment are being asked to take on new job roles they’ve never had before creating anxiety and stress in the workplace.
“People need to know it’s OK to experience grief after losing a job or job role,” said Dr. Cabezudo. “Psychologists can help people feeling stress, anxiety, or depression by calming them and assisting in setting personal goals to move forward.“
When work-related stress is prolonged, there can be several long-term mental and physical health complications. People who are under stress have higher incidents of obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and insomnia. Because stress also impacts the immune system, people under stress are more prone to colds, flu, sinus infections and other infections.
The best way to combat work related stress is to take the steps to resolve it. Here are seven tips St. Luke’s Behavioral Health offers to those experiencing work related stress:
- Communicate with a supervisor. If you are feeling stressed, talk to a manager or supervisor. Often times, supervisors can help prioritize tasks or find ways to delegate effectively. Plus, talking through a problem to find a solution can be a great way to let off steam and relieve stress.
- Be open to learning new things. Pursue on-the-job training opportunities and professional development opportunities to increase your knowledge base and be more comfortable taking on new tasks. As a bonus, you’ll become more indispensible to your current employer and more marketable to future employers.
- Prioritize tasks. Write a list of everything you need to do and tackle each item in order of importance. Do the highest priority items first. If you have a challenging task to accomplish, schedule it during the times of day when you are most focused.
- Take breaks. Be sure to plan for and take short breaks throughout the day. Walk or practice relaxation techniques. Try to get away from your desk or work area for lunch. Stepping away from work for brief periods will help you recharge and be more productive.
- Delegate. Delegate tasks whenever possible. If other people are capable of the task, why not allow them to carry out the task? Letting go of your desire to control everything will allow you to let go of unneeded stress in the process.
- Don’t over commit. Avoid scheduling meetings and/or social events back-to-back; trying to fit too much into one day is a recipe for disaster. Things often take longer then we plan.
- Arrive at work early. You can avoid feeling behind or overwhelmed right away by arriving at work a few minutes early and easing into your day. Running late will only increase your stress levels.
If work-related stress continues to be an issue, despite your best efforts, you may need to consider another job or a career change and seek advice from a career counselor.
“At. St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center, we’ll often treat people whose reaction to stress includes suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, compulsive behaviors and/or substance abuse,” said Chip Coffey, MAPC, NCC, LPC, director, Outpatient Services for St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center.
If job-related stress is causing serious mental health concerns, contact a mental health professional.