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Living Well News – Job Stress

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Highly Stressful Jobs

Perhaps it is no surprise that customer service departments in call centers, production-line workers, managers, supervisors, and other jobs that are client, patient focused, time and production oriented are considered most stressful. However, most of us may be aware that what is considered stressful to one person may not be as stressful for another. What is most important is the person- environment fit.

In looking at job stress, we also need to take into account how technology is used along with the expectations of access to people and response. It is easy to develop unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others, due to the use of “24/7” devices. Technology has even more impact for production and service oriented jobs, as guidelines, boundaries and expectations can easily become blurred.

NIOSH cites that, “Job stress results when requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker.” Given the changing business climate, application of technology and globalization, both workers and employers need to be aware that job requirements may change and no longer be a suitable fit for workers and may require training or help with making changes in job roles or responsibilities. The person, who had excelled and who was considered a high performer for many years past, may be silently struggling with changes and burning -out, but is no less skilled than yesterday. Identifying what has changed and intervening with solutions becomes a critical preventative measure for all parties.

Contributing Factors:

There are many factors that contribute to work stress. Some are able to be changed and some not. However, they don’t generally, “go-away” or change without working with them. And, of course some cannot be changed at all. In these cases we either change our perception of the stressors and perhaps release the need for control or reevaluate our expectations of ourselves.

Factors include: When we are feeling stressed and worn down it can be confusing as to why. Sometimes we need to step back and look at what is going on in our daily lives to identify contributing factors. Journaling our health habits, what we eat, when and how much we sleep, etc, for a short period of time can be helpful to be able to see what we are doing on a daily basis that may be impacting our stress levels and overall health.

Consider the following:

  • Lack of communication between employee and employer.
  • Lack of control or input over pace of work.
  • Frequent distractions.
  • Excessive workload demands.
  • Combination of high-demands and low rewards.
  • Unrealistic work expectations.
  • Poor working conditions and environments.
  • Rusting out – Low workload, lack of challenge or opportunities for growth (opposite of “excessive”)
  • Negative mindset.


Early Warning Signs of Job Stress

While stress cannot be avoided, it can be managed. Being aware of early warning signs is key and of course then taking action to prevent further problems, including, but not limited to, the development of stress related conditions: obesity, depression, and addictive behavior.

  Headaches   Sleep Disturbance   Difficulty with Concentration
  Short-temper or impulsivity   Upset Stomach   Irritability
  Job dissatisfaction   Low morale   Exhaustion

It is easy to judge ourselves and others for these behaviors. However, these are warning signs that something is wrong – NOT someone is wrong or is intentionally being “difficult”, a low performer, or negative. Being aware and acting on early warning signs is an opportunity for problem solving, getting back on track or re-evaluation. It is important to remember that we cannot always see these behaviors or changes in ourselves. Well intended – humanely delivered observational feedback serves an important role in intervention. It offers everyone involved “choices” preserving relationships and opportunity.

Tips for Breaking the Cycle of Chronic Job Stress

  • Avoid high calorie and fatty foods. Make sure that plenty of fruits and vegetables are included in your diet.
  • Keep moving! Stay physically active throughout the day. Exercise daily.
  • Minimize or eliminate caffeine, energy drinks, and alcohol. Drink plenty of water.
  • Take short breaks when working – Walk around or stretch (Click here for video on stretches).
  • Relax and unwind every once in a while. Use breathing exercises, yoga or meditation to both soothe and sharpen the mind.
  • Stay on top of your health. Get a massage, follow your doctor’s recommendations, and get your yearly physical.

Every adjustment and every change counts. Many of our most concerning problems are constituted of many small habits which fuel them. If we were to “tweak” a few behaviors, such as make sure to have breakfast, protein with each meal, small snacks, go to bed a half-hour earlier, a 20 minute brisk walk, turn off the Smart phone at 6pm, etc., imagine the benefit over the course of time. How might these “tweaks” make a difference over the course of a month, season or year?

At times, we need to step back and examine where we are in our professional lives and to see what is working and what is not. Reevaluation is both healthy and necessary. What can you do right now to improve your health and inoculate yourself from the negative effects of job stress?

Next Issue

Join us for the next issue of Living Well News focused on Job Stress and the Healthcare Professional.

About the Author
Paula Tropiano is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Addictions Specialist providing holistic – skills based counseling and therapy to adults in West Chester, PA. (610) 692-4995.