How to Manage Job Stress
When I was in therapy, I devoted a lot of time to talk about my job and work issues which were causing me stress and anxiety. In therapist’s offices all across the country I can envision people asking for help on how to cope with job stress. It is no wonder that so many of us do experience work related stress because we spend so much of our time working. According to a 2009 Expedia survey, approximately two in five employed U.S. adults (37%) report regularly working more than 40 hours per week. In addition, up to one-third of employed U.S. adults (34%) usually do not take all of the vacation days they receive each year. (Of course Expedia would probably like us to take a vacation to alleviate our job stress but that is beside the point.)
The fact is that we are working longer and harder and even if we have vacation days many of us are not taking them. Other job related stressors may include the threat of job loss, interpersonal conflicts with co-workers and superiors, and general career dissatisfaction.
How many of us are feeling stressed out about our jobs? There are a lot of statistics and numbers thrown about in answer to this question but there is no doubt that many of us are experiencing job related stress. The American Institute of Stress cites gallop poll results which show that as many as 80% of workers feel stress on the job.
So what can we do to alleviate work related stress?
There are no easy answers but here are some of my suggestions gleaned from my own personal experience battling stress and anxiety on the job.
1. Choose a job which is least likely to stress you out
I can hear some of you laughing over this one. “Which job would that be?” I can hear you say. The thing to remember is that most times it is not the job itself which is stressful but your personal stress triggers which make any particular job anxiety provoking. Some people thrive at a job which is constantly changing every day. But that element of inconsistency might be one of your stress triggers. Some people derive energy from being around people all day but if you are an introvert, a job which puts you in contact with a lot of people may cause you to feel stressed and fatigued. Finding a job which matches your personality and ability to cope with certain on the job stressors is key.
2. Set personal boundaries about your time
Sometimes you have to be reminded that you have a life outside of work which includes time with your family and your friends. One of the stress inducing aspects of work is that it can easily creep into and invade your time to relax, to sleep, to eat, to be with friends and family, and to pursue interests and hobbies. One of the disadvantages of our technologically advanced society is that we can now do work 24/7 if we wanted to due to computers, cell phones, and other gadgets. Some workers are so entrenched in their jobs that they bring their work laptops with them while on vacation, they check work emails during their child’s birthday party, or they find a way to work while in the hospital. Everyone needs some separation between work and personal time even if you work at home. Set your limits by designating time periods when you are not working or distracted by work emails or phone calls.
3. Limit the time that you ruminate about work with co-workers, friends, and family
Everyone needs a chance to vent. But sometimes the venting goes too far and you end up rehashing the same issues over and over with no resolution except to keep your stress alive. It is like wearing a deep groove into a record where eventually it is hard to get off the topic of work. If you are having problems at work it is better to begin generating solutions or ways to cope than to keep talking about what is wrong. For help with this please refer to my article on how to stop ruminating.
4. Set your own goals
Your boss, supervisors, and even co-workers may have goals for you or certain expectations that they feel you should meet at your job. But it is also important for you to have your own goals and aspirations when it pertains to your job. Long term goals can make present day work stressors easier to deal with. For example, if you remind yourself on a bad day that your current job is only temporary and that you have plans for moving on to doing something different in the future, it can make you feel less trapped and more able to cope. Creating your own short term work goals can also be a way of showing initiative and helps you to define your role. The counter to stress is to feel that you are in control and have options. Setting both short term and long term work goals can help you to achieve this.
5. Get help if you need it
Nearly everyone feels stress at one point or another at their job. Some stress is even good for us in order to get things done and to avoid boredom. But when your job stress is interfering with your day to day functioning, impairing your relationships, or is making you sick, it is time to get some help. A counselor or therapist can be extremely beneficial in giving you strategies and tools to help you lessen your anxiety and stress. Remember too that this is just a job. You don’t need to jeopardize your physical and/or mental health over it. Get the support that you need to cope at the job you have or to help you to generate ideas of how to find a job which causes you less stress.
For more information about job related stress please refer to the following Anxiety Connection articles: