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Work Stress Symptoms and Suggestions

Updated on December 11, 2012

Work Stress Knows No Boundaries

Everyone of employment age experiences periods of career related fatigue and frustration in the extreme. Stress in the workplace is neither new nor secret. It is has no regard for convenient timing and is globally felt and universally destructive. It doesn't matter if you work in the rice paddies, or on Wall Street, it's all relative. In certain regards, work stress is also contagious. It permeates all aspects of a person's life - mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. If let go too far, there can be long term health affects and disabilities that can be avoided with care.

The first line of defence against work stress is awareness. Understand where and how it starts and learn how to recognize that it's happening to you.

Causes and Influences

  • Dog-eat-dog environment - stiff competition for business or for company positions and projects tend to put you into a survival mode that has you panicking to succeed before someone beats you to it. Add to that the increased workloads of recent years, and you have a stewing pot of stress that can well make you ill and keep you awake at night.
  • Being too stressed to notice you're stressed - more commonly put, too close to the forest to see the trees. If you haven't stopped to realize what is happening to you, you aren't likely to do anything about it. I can hear some of you now...I don't have time to stop... , which of course, is a sign of being overburdened.
  • Inability to refuse requests - agreeing to take on tasks and favours that you really don't have the desire or time to do only increases stress levels.
  • Not asking for help - many people find themselves so overloaded at work that they are putting in far too many hours, or have lost control of what needs doing at home, usually because they're working too much. These people are reluctant to ask for assistance, or to let anyone know that they're drowning in their to-do list.
  • Burnout - that complete and utter exhaustion that breaks down the mind and body. This is the last stop on the work stress express. When a person reaches this point, help and rest must be sought as soon as possible.


When work stress has reached a critical level, or has gone on for too long, it can begin to have adverse affects which show up in a myriad of ways. Pay attention to the signs.

  • Insomnia or the inability to stay asleep through the night
  • Uncharacteristic anger and frustration which usually affects relationships and home life
  • Inability to concentrate because the mind is so mired in stress
  • Anxiety in periodic attacks, or as a constant
  • Depression from the weight of worry and overload
  • Development of physical ailments, from headache to ulcers to heart and back problems
  • Substance abuse as a means of self medication to attempt relaxation and calm
  • Absenteeism to avoid the stressful overload
  • Burnout as mentioned above

While none of the perils of work stress are desirable or healthy, they can all be dealt with. As with any ongoing situation of this nature, sooner is better than later.

Stress Defined

Stressed At Work - Too Many Demands

Stressed Out

Suggestions to Combat Work Related Stress

  • Take a break when you need it. Leave your work area for a few minutes and slowly draw in a deep breath to relax your muscles and your mind. Direct your mind to some happy place and time, or just a location that you enjoyed visiting. It doesn't really matter what you focus on as long as it is not work or a problem - make it your calming time. If you can, take your lunch break at a park or other nature inspired place. When you do, leave work at work, don't cart it mentally along with you. This technique works best when you first notice slight increases in your stress levels.
  • Learn to say NO to personal activities that you normally do out of guilt or obligation. Say it nicely, preferably, but put your well being first when weighing the pros and cons of extra time thieves. If you start the vicious cycle of short changing yourself then scrambling to catch up at home before you have to run to the office and start all over again, you'll quickly find it escalating. Before long, you'll be the hamster on the wheel. The difference between you and the hamster is, the hamster stops when he wants to and you won't feel that you can.
  • Schedule regular relaxation time and stick to it stringently. Even if it is only one hour a day, or one evening a week, do it. Turn off the phone, pager, computer and anything else that will distract you from restoring your sense of peace and balance. Take care of your nerves and they will take of you.
  • Surround yourself with calm, positive people whenever possible. Hanging around with those who are stressed and negative will affect you and soon your thoughts and feelings will reflect that.
  • Learn to love yourself. People with healthy self-esteem seldom compromise themselves. Make confident decisions that are self-respecting and self-supportive. Once you get used to doing this, anything you do over and above what is expected of you at work, is done with an open, light heart and does not feel like a burden.
  • Ask for help when you need it. It is not uncommon for people to be overburdened at work and yet be shy to mention it to anyone. What workers sometimes don't realize is that the higher ups may not be aware of the fact. You've never said anything about it, so they think you're good to go. Meantime, you're sinking daily and stressed to the max about it. Asking for assistance is not weak, it is strong. It shows confidence (unafraid because you know there's nothing wrong with asking for help), control (on top of things so the work doesn't fall behind), and self-respect (you know you deserve the needed assistance).
  • Bond with your loved ones. If you're not consciously destressing, work pressures never stay at work. They travel home with you and create or contribute strain with the very people you should be closest to. Deal with your stress in the beginning stages to avoid this happening. If you have a spouse or significant other, let them know you're stressed and dealing with it. Keep the connection intact with those you care about most.
  • If necessary, take a leave of absence or change jobs. If work stress has been allowed to reach a level that can't be ignored, these may be your best options. These choices can be used to best advantage if your new start includes working on your stress as it happens, rather than letting it build all over again.

The time to face and deal with work stress is long before the critical burnout stage. Ideally, a person has safeguards and strategies in place that are part of a daily routine of self care. If this doesn't currently describe you, please develop some healthy stress-busting regimes to protect yourself.

Drowning in stress at work is simply not worth it. If you can't remember that, then remember this: there are other jobs, but there is no other you.

Peace. :)

Strive for Peace In All You Do


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