American workers are more stressed than ever before, which is why corporate wellness programs dealing with stress have mushroomed to an $8 billion industry in the US.
Let’s look at some job stress facts:
- A 2005 Princeton Survey Research Associates study reports that 75% of employees believe workers experience more on-the-job stress than a generation ago.
- According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) annual Stress in America Survey, 65 percent of Americans cite work as a top source of stress. Only 37 percent of Americans surveyed said they were doing an excellent or very good job managing stress.
- A 2013 survey by APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence found that more than one-third of working Americans reported experiencing chronic work stress. Just 36 percent said their organizations provide sufficient resources to help them manage stress.
- A 2001 Gallup Poll found that 80 percent of workers feel stress on the job, and nearly half said that they needed help managing workplace stress.
And workers aren’t the only ones paying the price. According to the American Psychological Association, workplace stress costs American employers an estimated $300 billion annually.
What’s stressing everybody out?
More than 40% of adults say they lie awake at night plagued by the stressful situations we encountered during the day. What are they so concerned about? It’s more than just long hours.
Consider the following:
- The average business professional has 30 to 100 projects on their plate.
- Modern workers are interrupted seven times an hour and distracted up to 2.1 hours a day.
- 4 out of 10 people working at large companies said they are experiencing a major corporate restructuring, and therefore facing uncertainty about their futures.
According to the APA, the most frequently-cited causes of stress include low salaries, excessive workloads, few opportunities for growth, work that isn’t engaging or challenging, lack of social support, not having enough control over job-related decisions, and conflicting demands or unclear performance expectations.
And contrary to what many people think, having a job might be even more stressful than being unemployed. According to recent research, people with bad jobs (defined as low job insecurity, heavy workload, and unfair pay) had either the same or worse mental health than unemployed individuals.
What are the consequences?
Short-term job stress can be unpleasant, but manageable. If you’re having a particularly stressful day at work, you might experience headaches, stomachaches, sleep disturbances, short temper, and difficulty concentrating.
However, chronic stress has more devastating consequences. For example, a 2006 Workplace Stress & Anxiety Survey conducted by the Anxiety and Depression association of America found that more than three-fourths of respondents say work stress carries over to their personal life. Additionally, 7 in 10 of these adults report experiencing stress that can affect their personal relationships, mainly with their spouses.
It can also impact your physical health. According to the American Psychological Association, being chronically stressed can lead to anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. It can even contribute to health conditions such as depression, obesity and heart disease.
Moreover, some people cope with stress in unhealthy ways. We overeat or eat unhealthy foods, smoke cigarettes, and frequently abuse alcohol or drugs. These things can also impact people’s ability to keep their job.
Stress is responsible for 75 to 90 percent of all doctor’s office visits. Stress contributes to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and autoimmune diseases.
How do I know I’m too stressed out?
If you’re worried your job has become too stressful, LiveCareer recommends that you consider the following warning signs:
- Low morale
- Physical problems (headaches, stomach problems)
If you’re experiencing several symptoms, you may need to find better ways to cope with stress. Otherwise, you risk burnout.
What can I do about job stress?
If you’re having trouble coping with stress, one of the first things to consider is your lifestyle. Being stressed is a physiological process, which means that what we eat and what we do (sleep, physical activity) plays a big role in stress management.
Take care of three areas: food, exercise, and sleep habits.
According to Dr. Axe, including the following foods in your diet will help:
Foods high in B vitamins: fish, poultry, meat, eggs, or dairy
Foods high in calcium and magnesium: yogurt, beans/legumes, leafy greens, nuts, avocados.
Healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids: wild-caught fish like salmon or sardines
Try to avoid high glycemic index foods at lunch: burgers, french fries, pizza, and candy bars. They’ll make your energy levels spike and crash, leaving you feeling down in the middle of the afternoon.
Pack your lunch smarter!
Regular physical exercise regulates various metabolic and psychological processes in the body, boosting our mood and blood sugar levels, improving sleep quality, and much more.
You don’t have to become a gym rat, but try to do some walking at the end of a long day.
Sleep has been scientifically proven to reduce the presence of a stress hormone called cortisol, while sleep loss leads to an elevation in cortisol levels the next morning.
There are also some practical ways you can reduce work-related stress:
First, make sure you have manageable goals. Research shows that people who are able to adjust their expectations when faced with high demands experience less stress on the job.
“At work, stress is experienced when there’s a difference between what’s required of us and what we feel we can deliver,” says interview coach John Gregory, “Meet your boss and simply agree or re-set clear objectives.”
Second, clean out your workspace.
Neuroscientists at Princeton University have found that clutter in your surroundings competes with your attention, and can cause you to lose focus.
Clutter in your workspace will wear you out, so give yourself a break and get organized.
Third, cut down on interruptions.
Efficiency and workflow consultant Edward G. Brown says that interruptions can make you lose up to 6 hours of productivity every day. If you work long hours, that’s a big deal for both you and your employer.
The best ways to get rid of them? Start using an app like Forest on your phone – it will keep you from checking messengers and notifications while you work.
Additionally, you can help your productivity with RescueTime – it tracks which sites you visit and calculates your productivity score at the end of the day.