Photo credit: Bench Accounting, Unsplash.com
When you think about going to work tomorrow, do you have a feeling of anxiety?
Does your heart beat a little faster?
Do knots form in your stomach?
If you said yes, it sounds like work is stressing you out — and you’re not the only one. A survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that 20 percent of Americans consider work to be the number one cause of their stress, beat out only by financial/money worries (45 percent).
Is work affecting your health?
Dreading your job is more than just an uncomfortable feeling; stress actually has physiological consequences on your body and your mood. According to Mayo Clinic, stress could be behind your headaches, fatigue, stomach problems, sleep issues, irritability, mood swings, and more. The Journal of Aging Research also presented findings that show a correlation between increased stress and increased mortality — which means that your stress could literally be killing you. Scary, right?
While it’s probably not reasonable to quit your job, if your stress levels are exceptionally high, it might be time to start looking for something new. But for the rest of us, there are helpful techniques for better managing stress at work. Start by figuring out exactly what is stressing you out. Once you’ve identified the cause, you can come up with smarter strategies for alleviating stress or even eliminating it altogether.
To help you identify some potential causes, here are the top five triggers of stress at work—along with some ideas for how to deal with each one, so you can lead a healthier, happier work life in 2017.
You have too much work on your plate.
Many companies reduce staff size during economic downturns, forcing the remaining employees to pick up the slack. In some cases, that becomes the “status quo” and many employees grow overburdened and overwhelmed by their workload. This results in high levels of stress at work. Whether you have too much work to do or you’ve been given unrealistic deadlines for completing a specific project, figuring out how to finish it all can be seriously stressful.
Communication is your best bet when you’re feeling overworked. Talk with your boss or your team about what’s on your plate and how to adjust your workload. You may need to delegate or change deadlines to make sure that you have enough time to complete your work… correctly and on time.
You’re concerned about job security.
Even though the economy has recovered, it seems that there are more reasons than ever to worry about job security. Baby boomers are facing forced retirement, millennials are struggling to find work after graduation, and people in their mid-careers have to keep up with ever changing technology in a digital world. Add the growing trend of companies hiring contract workers, instead of full-time employees, and it’s no wonder that job security is such a concern.
To keep yourself from spiraling, take a proactive approach. Many employers will pay for some (if not all) of continuing education classes, so enroll in a workshop or course that will help you develop new skills or better understand your industry. If attending classes in-person would be tough to fit into your schedule, try an online education program like Lynda.com. Even if you do wind up losing your job, you’ll have more skills and knowledge to help you secure a new one.
You lack confidence in management.
A study conducted by CultureAmp found that confidence in leadership is the main factor in employee motivation. If you don’t believe in your boss or the management above him or her, you may start to feel like you’re on a sinking ship — or at least one that’s veering wildly off course. This can make it hard to find purpose in the work that you’re doing and can leave you feeling stressed about your company’s future and your own.
If the cause of this stress at work is your immediate boss, try to have a conversation to get a better sense of his or her vision or to discuss his or her management style and how you can better work together. In some situations, it may be more practical to deal with your direct boss the best you can and look for confidence and vision in those above him or her. If you’re feeling worried about the direction that your company is moving in, or you take practical or ethical issue with the ways it operates, it’s probably best to start looking for a company that’s a better fit.
Your work is too demanding.
Trying to juggle a full-time job with family, friends, and your own well-being is challenging under the best circumstance, and an overly-demanding job can make it that much more difficult. While many companies are making the cultural switch to allow for more work-life balance, there are still plenty out there that require 12 hour days or expect you to work over the weekend.
If you’re losing sleep stressing about how to fit in all of your responsibilities, talk with your boss or with HR about your options. Many companies allow flexible work schedules and may even allow you to work from home on occasion. You can also try to negotiate flexibility as part of your next compensation package. If flexibility isn’t practical in your position, think about other solutions. If you negotiate more money, you can afford to pay someone to do things like cook, clean, or carpool, letting you spend the free time that you do have more meaningfully.
You’re starting to feel stuck.
New studies are showing that more and more people value meaningful work and the opportunity for professional growth over high pay and other more tangible benefits. People in today’s workplace want to feel like they’re making a contribution, feel proud of the work they do, and see that there’s room to continue growing professionally. When you hit a ceiling — glass or otherwise — and can’t see any potential for growth in the future, feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction are bound to take over. A dead-end job is bound to become a source of stress at work.
As soon as you start worrying that there are no more opportunities for you at your workplace, talk with your boss. You may be able to make a move to another department, or project, where you can continue your career development. If your boss is unreceptive or simply has nothing to offer, it’s time to update your resume and start looking for those opportunities elsewhere.
So many reasons to find work-life balance.
While these are the top five causes of stress at work, there are plenty of other issues that may make your blood pressure rise. If you find yourself feeling overstressed on a regular basis, consider working with a life coach to learn effective coping techniques or to assess alternate career options.
You may find that it’s time to ditch the high-stress job and begin a more rewarding career as a life coach yourself!
Also published on Medium.