Coping with work-related stress


Stress may be referred to as an unpleasant emotional or physiological state. It is a reaction to stimulus that affects or disrupts our mental and physical health. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s very difficult to balance work, family and social commitments.

If unmanaged, work & work stress accompany us home, on weekends and even on “vacation”. Stress displaces priorities like self, family and our social circle which results in more stress. Stress has become a part of our every-day life, however, if endured for a long period of time can have an adverse effect on our overall wellbeing.

Types of Stress:

Not all forms of stress are negative. In certain situations, stress enables us to work more efficiently than a person would do in a normal situation.

Following are the main types of stress.

  1. Acute Stress:-  is our body’s immediate response to a new challenge, event or demand, and it triggers our flight or fight responses. It is not always negative however, overdoing on short-term stress can lead to psychological distress, tension headaches, upset stomach and other symptoms.
    Since it’s short-term, it doesn’t’t do much damage. Common symptoms are
    -Emotional distress
    -Muscular problems
    -Gastro-intestinal issues
  2. Episodic acute stress:- When acute stress happens frequently, it’s called episodic acute stress. People who always seem to be having a crisis tend to have episodic acute stress. Another form of episodic acute stress comes from ceaseless worry. “Worry warts”, such individuals see disaster around every corner and pessimistically forecast catastrophe in every situation. Common symptoms include-
    -Extended over-arousal
    -Short-tempered behaviour
    -Always tense
  3. Chronic stress:- If acute stress isn’t resolved and begins to increase or lasts for long periods of time, it becomes chronic stress. This stress is constant and doesn’t go away. The worst aspect of chronic stress is that people get used to it. They forget it’s there. People are immediately aware of acute stress because it is new; they ignore chronic stress because it is old, familiar, and sometimes, almost comfortable. Common symptoms include
    -Short tempered behaviour

According to a survey conducted by APA, work is one of the most common sources of stress. Although, stress is common in work place, if unmanaged, it affects productivity and performance.

Statistics on work related stress

Common Stressors and Sources of Work Stress

Certain factors tend to go hand-in-hand with work-related stress. Some common workplace stressors are:

  • Low salaries
  • Excessive or insufficient workload
  • Bullying or harassment
  • Time management
  • Poor working relationships
  • Abdication or no delegation
  • Job insecurity
  • Remuneration, rewards, and recognition
  • Discomforting work environment
  • Few opportunities for growth or advancement
  • Work that isn’t engaging or challenging
  • Lack of social support
  • Not having enough control over job-related decisions
  • Conflicting demands or unclear performance expectations.

Coping with work-related stress

Identify stressors. It helps when we know and understand the source of our stress. It gives us an idea of what’s bothering us and then we can formulate a plan to work on it.

Develop healthy responses. Instead of attempting to fight stress with fast food or alcohol, it is best to make healthy choices when the tension rises. Exercise is a great stress-buster. Yoga can be an excellent choice, but any form of physical activity is beneficial. Build healthy sleep habits by limiting caffeine intake late in the day and minimizing stimulating activities, such as computer and television use, at night.

Catch-Up: make time for hobbies and favourite activities. Whether it’s reading a novel, going to concerts or playing games with family, make sure to set aside time for the things that bring joy and pleasure. Getting enough good-quality sleep is also important for effective stress management.

Establish boundaries. In today’s digital world, it’s easy to feel pressure to be available 24 hours a day. Establish some work-life boundaries, that might mean making a rule not to check email from home in the evening, or not answering the phone during dinner.

Take a break: To avoid the negative effects of chronic stress and burnout, we need time to replenish and return to our pre-stress level of functioning. This recovery process requires “switching off” from work by having periods of time when one is neither engaging in work-related activities, nor thinking about work.

Learn how to relax. Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises and mindfulness (a state in which we actively observe present experiences and thoughts without judging them) can help melt away stress.

Talk to supervisor. The purpose of this isn’t to lay out a list of complaints, but rather to come up with an effective plan for managing the stressors you’ve identified, so you can perform at your best on the job.

Learn to say NO: it’s healthy to know one’s limits. We often hesitate to turn down extra tasks even when we’re already burdened. It’s better to know what we can and can’t do in a stipulated time.

Get some support. Accepting help from trusted friends and family members can improve our ability to manage stress.

Image Source: Concordia University, St. Paul online



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