Director, Naperville Clinical Services
With all the job insecurities, deadline pressures and excessive workloads we face in the business world, it’s inevitable to experience some degree of stress and anxiety while at work. But over time, these fears and concerns can impede job performance, reduce productivity, decrease self-esteem, diminish relationships among colleagues and clients, provoke substance abuse and negatively impact mental and physical health. But there are proven ways you can successfully manage occupation-related stress and prevent worries from overwhelming you.
Before you can control it, however, it’s important to understand that stress, to some degree, is a normal, healthy response that is instinctually embedded in each of us as a mechanism crucial for human survival. There’s a built-in “fight or flight” mode that’s triggered when we’re faced with a serious threat. Physiologically, the body immediately responds: heart rate speeds up, extra glucose is burned to produce energy, the adrenal glands secrete stimulating hormones, the brain distributes cortisone, epinephrine and other hormones, and blood flows to the muscles.
But while stress can make you ready for action, maintaining this heightened state of alert for too long taxes the body. Tension accumulates, leading to a variety of undesirable mental and physical symptoms, including depression, headaches, difficulty concentrating, a weaker immune system, sleep problems and cardiovascular disorders.
The first step toward managing unease and anxiety is recognizing exactly what it is that’s stressing you out and distinguishing whether your fears are rational or irrational. An irrational fear is something that is not likely to happen to you and that is typically beyond your control—for example, panicking that you’ll be downsized from your job tomorrow because you just read a newspaper report predicting the loss of 500,000 more jobs nationwide over the next month. A rational fear is one that can be more substantiated and justified based on immediate signs and symptoms manifest in your reality—case in point, you just heard that your company was bought out and that an undisclosed number of positions will be soon eliminated.
With either type, it’s important to have a self-dialogue, acknowledge what it is that is fretting you and then process the problem-solution by asking and answering questions: What is it you’re afraid of? What is the likelihood that what you fear will happen? What is the worst that can happen? How will this outcome affect my life in the long-term? What can I do to prevent it from happening or resolve the problem? What goals can I set to improve the situation? And what can I learn from this experience?
Additionally, try these suggestions to better cope with job-provoked stress:
• Speak to others about what’s troubling you. Vent with trusted coworkers and loved ones. Vocalize your concerns. Consider consulting with a mental health professional and beginning talk therapy.
• Set realistic goals and expectations and pursue challenges that you know you can tackle.
• Break up tasks causing you stress into manageable chunks: Instead of worrying about getting everything done this week, concentrate on one day at a time.
• Use visualization techniques—close your eyes and imagine your fears embodied in a big white ball that you can shrink with the power of your mind, picture yourself as successful, confident and in control, and conjure up positive views of your life and career.
• Try writing about what’s bothering you. Journaling your feelings and experiences and putting down your problems and possible solutions on paper is therapeutic.
• Aim for a better work-life balance. Rework your schedule or shift to accommodate spending quality time with your family and friends. Engage in hobbies, pastimes and fitness to round out other areas of interest.
• Delegate appropriate tasks to others—if you’re an employer or manager, entrust extra responsibilities and decision-making to those who work for you in a fair manner.
• If you hate your job, think about a job or career change or perhaps meet with your supervisor to restructure your duties.
• Get organized, create schedules and lists to stay on top of deadlines, manage your time more effectively, avoid procrastinating, and make your work area more efficient.
• Take small breaks during the work day, and get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.
• Try deep breathing: Using your diaphragm, take slow, deep breaths and exhale slowly.
• Incorporate a stretching and exercise routine in your daily/weekly schedule, engage in athletic activities and engage in yoga, which can calm your mind, relieve tension and strengthen your body.
• Consider meditation. Sit in a quiet, comfortable room with your eyes shut and clear your mind until you feel calm and content.
Don’t let occupational stress control you—get in touch with your doubt, angst and consternation and practice techniques that can help you overcome fears, get your mind off your problems and gain greater command of your situation.
Naperville Clinical Services specializes in working with individuals, couples and families and offers a wide assortment of treatment options, among them: anger management; anxiety; child/adolescent counseling; family therapy; grief therapy; group counseling; hypnosis; infertility treatment; marital therapy; medical evaluations and testing; parental counseling; pregnancy counseling; improving school performance;