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Workplace Stress By Michael Fairlie

It is a common assumption that health ailments have a direct correlation to physical problems, but in actuality stress can play a major role in the deterioration of one’s health. Despite the fact that going to work allows for people to pay for their homes and vacations as well as an assortment of other things that make our lives more comfortable, the workplace can also be a considerable breeding ground for stress.

Over the past few decades, a multitude of studies have shown that this job related stress has led to increased rates of heart attack, hypertension and several other disorders. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is directed by Congress to study the psychological aspects of occupational safety and health, including stress at work. NIOSH works in collaboration with industry, labor, and universities to gain a better understanding of the stress of modern work, the effects of stress on worker safety and health, and ways to reduce stress in the workplace.

NIOSH released a publication, which can be found online, entitled Stress…At Work, which highlights knowledge about the causes of stress at work and outlines steps that can be taken to prevent job stress. Among other things, the publication contained various statistics. According to a survey by Northwestern National Life, 40% of workers reported that their job is “very or extremely stressful.” A survey by the Families and Work Institute had 26% of respondents say that they are “often or very often burned out or stressed by their work.” Yale University ran a study that reported that 29% of those questioned were “quite a bit or extremely stressed at work.”

According to the American Institute of Stress, there have been numerous studies performed showing that stress at work is by far the leading cause of stress for adults in the United States. These studies also show an alarming trend that this high level of anxiety has increased steadily over the past several years. Although there is a common belief that certain occupations are inherently more stressful than others, the truth is that stress levels can greatly fluctuate even in identical situations for various reasons. It is much more about the individual and how they fit in their work environment than anything else.

There is also a growing level of unpredictability in the current job market that adds to the troubling amount of workplace tension. Due to the uncertainty of today’s economic environment, there has been an increase in downsizing, layoffs, mergers and bankruptcies, which has led to hundreds of thousands of workers losing their jobs. Budget cuts always seem to be right around the corner, keeping employees fearful at every turn. Fear can be a great motivator, but it can also be a dreadful deterrent, making it almost impossible to function properly on a daily basis.

Additionally, this decrease in the overall workforce has led to millions of workers being forced into performing tasks they are unfamiliar with, making them uncomfortable in their everyday actions and leading them to speculate how much longer they might be needed. Add on new bosses that workers are unfamiliar with, meticulous computerized surveillance of production, and fewer benefits and the levels of stress escalate.

There is also an overwhelming sense that workers have to work longer and harder in order to simply keep a roof over their head, with little chance for advancement.  There is no possible way to eliminate stress altogether in the workplace. There is always going to be something that comes up that you are not 100% prepared to deal with at the time. Small amounts of stress are normal and the average person can handle them as they go along their daily work routine. The problem is when the stress levels become excessive they can have an adverse effect on one’s physical and emotional health, leading to a decrease in productivity and a possible personal crisis situation.

Being that it is an inevitable aspect of the workplace, it is essential that you find ways to successfully handle stress at work. This does not mean that you have to make colossal changes or reexamine your career aspirations. The best thing you can do is concentrate on the only component you have control over, which is you. True, there are things that others can do to make your work experience less arduous, but ultimately you are the master of your own destiny.

There are a variety of steps you can take to reduce both your overall stress levels and the stress you find on the job and in the workplace. For one thing, you have to remember that your emotions can be infectious, so the more able you are at handling your own stress, the more beneficial it will be to your co-workers and the less likely that others stress will rub off on you in a negative way. It is important that you steer clear of impulsive negative reactions, take full responsibility for enhancing your own well-being, and learn to communicate more clearly with co-workers and management.

One of the key components to lowering the amount of stress you feel is to learn to identify the warning signs. These can include anxiety, chronic fatigue, depression, headaches, sleep deprivation, irritation and apathy. You also need to consider taking care of yourself better by getting adequate exercise, eating healthy and getting proper sleep. Training yourself to practice improved time management and task management skills is another way to fight high stress levels. In addition, the elimination of bad habits and improvement of your emotional intelligence are vital factors in the process of stress reduction. When it comes down to it,  nobody is perfect and not one person is going to be able to go through their daily life without a care in the world, but all of us can make changes that will allow for us to make our journey a much more enjoyable one. With the appropriate amount of effort, patience and perseverance, the workplace can become much more of a source of joy than one of dread. There are so many factors that are out of our control, so why not grab the reins and take charge of what you can?


If you are experiencing high levels of stress at work, there is no reason to feel helpless as there is plenty of assistance out there readily available to you.  Organizations such as the American Psychological Association, Society for Human Resource Management and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health all offer advice and information to those in need through their websites. You also have the option of seeking professional help through individual or group counseling as well as joining a support group.