Stress management: Managing job stress

Job stress comes in many different forms and affects your body in various ways. Minor sources of stress may include equipment that won’t work or phones that won’t quit ringing. Major stress comes from having too much work, not having enough work, doing work that is unfulfilling, fearing a job layoff, or not getting along with your boss.

Usually it is the major sources of stress that lead to burnout, causing people to become unhappy and less productive in their work. Job stress can affect your health and home life as well. Low levels of stress may not be noticeable; slightly higher levels can be positive and challenge you to act in creative and resourceful ways; and high levels can be harmful, contributing to chronic disease.

The major sources of job stress fall into seven categories:

  • Control. This factor is the most closely related to job stress. Studies show that workers who believe that they have a great deal of responsibility but little control or decision-making power in their jobs are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease and other stress-related illnesses.
  • Increased responsibilities. Taking on additional responsibilities in your job can be stressful. This can be worse if you have too much work to do and are unable to say no to new tasks or projects.
  • Competence. Are you concerned about your ability to perform well? Are you challenged enough, but not too much? Do you feel secure in your job? Job insecurity is a major source of stress for many people.
  • Clarity. Feeling uncertain about what your duties are, how they may be changing, or what your department’s or organization’s goals are can lead to stress.
  • Communication. Workplace tension often results from poor communication, which in turn increases job stress. An inability to express your concerns, frustrations, or other emotions can also lead to increased stress.
  • Support. Feeling unsupported by your coworkers may make it harder to resolve other problems at work that are causing you stress.
  • Significance. If you don’t find your job meaningful or take pride in it, you may find it stressful.

Managing Job Stress:

Here are some options for lowering stress on the job:

  • Meet with your supervisor at least once a year (every 3 or 6 months is better) to talk about your performance and your job. If a performance review is already part of your job, treat it as a chance to clear up issues that may be causing stress for you. Discuss the following:

* What is expected of me in this position?
* Where is this company going, and how do I fit into that plan?
* How am I doing? What are my strengths? Areas for improvement?
* What can I expect from you if a problem with my work or my job should occur?
* If I continue my current high-quality performance, how and when can I expect to be rewarded?

  • Manage your time well. It’s important to leave your job at the office, even if your office is a room in your home. If you give up free time to get more work done, you may pay for it with stress-related symptoms. If your employer offers a flexible work schedule, take advantage of it to fit your own work style. For instance, come in earlier to have a longer midday break or to make time for a yoga class or workout.
  • Unplug. Technologies such as cellular phones and the Internet have made it possible to be available to everyone, including clients and coworkers, at all times. Do not allow technology to eliminate the boundaries between your time and your employer’s time. Leave your work cell phone behind when having it with you is not absolutely necessary, or decide not to answer it during times you have set aside for yourself or your family. Avoid checking work e-mail at home.
  • Know when to quit. If you are truly miserable because of a stressful job and the suggestions above have not worked, it may be time to think about changing jobs. Make sure you know whether it is you or the job that’s the problem. Before quitting, spend time researching other job options. Being unemployed will probably also lead to stress. Getting another job before quitting is ideal, but sometimes that isn’t possible. Decide what is less stressful for you: unemployment or being miserable in your current job.

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