The recession has changed the way we work. Companies have cut back, by laying off and asking those that remain behind to pitch in and do more work or by not hiring, even though the workload could use an additional person. While there are many out of work, those that remain in jobs are stressed. They feel overwhelmed with the amount of work they have to complete and are afraid of losing their jobs. Many stopped taking lunches, opting instead to eat lunch at their desk for fear of falling behind. Others come in early and leave late, wanting to show that they are worth keeping. Those that don't like their jobs, don't get along with their bosses or co-workers or would, under other circumstances, have moved on to greener pastures, feel stuck. They worry about losing their jobs and their homes.
Impact of Stress
The stress is hurting the workforce, emotionally and physically. According to an article on ABCNews, Harris, Rothenberg International operates an Employee Assistance Program which helps with mental health concerns. Since 2008, when the recession began, they have increased their staff by 20 percent to accommodate the increase in the number of calls they receive. These calls aren't all work related, employees call to talk with a counselor about debt, stress, marital problems and their child's behaviors, showing that the stress they feel is impacting just about every part of their life.
Some of the most common situations that cause stress at work are:
- Giving presentations or having to speak in front of co-workers
- Interacting with co-workers
- Fear of failure, not doing your job correctly or not getting enough work completed
- Losing your job
- Not getting along with your boss or your co-workers
Stress, the feeling of being overwhelmed or overworked, can, when not managed properly can lead to physical problems and put you at a higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder. If you already have an anxiety disorder, stress often makes symptoms worse.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Although there are a number of different types of anxiety disorders, each with a specific set of symptoms, the American Psychiatric Association list following symptoms as typical of most anxiety disorders:
- Unrealistic or excessive worry
- Trouble concentrating
- Exaggerated startled reactions
- Problems sleeping: insomnia, waking up through the night, waking up too early
- Dry mouth
- Feeling as if there is a lump in your throat
- Heart palpitations
Symptoms of anxiety can interfere with your ability to go to work or your ability to do your job, both of which can lead to higher levels of stress and anxiety.
Understanding Your Rights
You may be eligible for accommodations at work under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Companies with more than 15 employees are required to provide "reasonable accommodations" for people with disabilities. Your anxiety disorder, if it impairs your ability to do your job (not your ability to work-you must be able to do your job with accommodations) may be eligible for accommodations.
These accommodations need to be specific to your disability and although they are different based on individual symptoms, can include things like flexible scheduling, giving extra time to learn new tasks, hiring a job coach or allowing you to tape record meetings. In order to receive accommodations, you will need to provide proof of your disability to your boss or to your human resources department.
Things You Can Do
There are some strategies that you probably already know: eat right, get a good night's sleep, exercise and make sure you spend time in the evenings and weekends doing activities you enjoy. Additional ways to combat work related stress and anxiety include:
Finding someone you trust to talk to. This could be a friend who is willing to listen (although you don't want to overburden her - this is good for once in a while, not a nightly routine), a therapist or a counselor.
- Think about whether your fears are realistic or exaggerated. Is your co-worker really that bad? Or are you letting her get to you and the more you talk about it, the more aggravating she becomes.
- Begin practicing meditation. Meditating once a day helps to relax you all day but you can also use meditation for a quick 5 or 10 minute break during your day to help you let go of the stress and concentrate better.
- Think about situations at work that are increasing your sense of worry and anxiety and try to find solutions. For example, are you stressed because you feel your boss takes advantage of you? Work on assertiveness training to help you resolve your differences without losing your job.
- Look for an anxiety self-help or support group in your area.
- List problems you have at work and determine if learning a new skills would help increase your work performance. Look through area adult continuing education classes or those offered at the YMCA or other community resources. Brushing up on your skills or learning a new one can give you an increased sense of confidence about your job.
If nothing you do takes away your sense of dread and anxiety, seek professional help.
For more information on anxiety at work:
How to Talk to Your Employer About Your Anxiety
Anxiety and the Workplace
Dealing with Social Anxiety at Work
Coping with Your Own & Other People's Anxiety at Work
"Work Overload Brings Panic, Anxiety, Stress," 2010, Feb 18, Michele Goodman, ABCNews.
Published On: September 06, 2011