It doesn’t matter what you do for a living, chances are there are times where you find your work stressful. Even worse, if you are like most Americans, the line between your work and “home” has been invariably blurred due to changing demographics and improvements in communications technology.
The NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) report cites the following statistics relating to work and stress:
- 40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful.
- 25% view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives.
- 75% believe that workers have more on-the-job stress than a generation ago.
A Gallup Poll conducted in 2000 entitled “Attitudes in the American Workplace” found that 80% of the workers surveyed felt stress on the job with nearly half of those saying they needed help in learning how to manage stress.
So What About You?
Are you suffering from workplace-induced stress? Below is a quick test that will rank you on the Workplace Stress Scale™ (developed by the Marlin Company). Give yourself a score between 1 and 5 on each question, with each number corresponding to the following:
- 1- Never
- 2- Rarely
- 3- Sometimes
- 4- Often
- 5- Very Often
Thinking about your current job, how often does each of the following statements describe how you feel?
- Conditions at work are unpleasant or sometimes even unsafe.
- I feel that my job is negatively affecting my physical or emotional well being
- I have too much work to do and/or too many unreasonable deadlines
- I find it difficult to express my opinions or feelings about my job conditions to my superiors
- I feel that job pressures interfere with my family or personal life
- I have adequate control or input over my work duties
- I receive appropriate recognition or rewards for good performance
- I am able to utilize my skills and talents to the fullest extent at work
Interpreting your Workplace Stress Scale™ scores:
Total score of 15 or lower (33% of us are in this category): Chilled out and relatively calm. Stress isn’t much of an issue.
Total score 16 to 20 (35%): Fairly low. Coping should be a breeze, but you probably have a tough day now and then. Still, count your blessings.
Total score 21-25 (21%): Moderate stress. Some things about your job are likely to be pretty stressful, but probably not much more than most people experience and are able to cope with. Concentrate on seeing what can be done to reduce items with the worst scores.
Total score 26-30 (9%): Severe. You may still be able to cope, but life at work can sometimes be miserable. Several of your scores are probably extreme. You could be in the wrong job, or even in the right job but at the wrong time, and might benefit from counseling.
Total score 31- 40 (2%): Stress level is potentially dangerous – the more so the higher your score. You should seek professional assistance, especially if you feel your health is affected, or you might need to consider a job change.
You Cannot Ignore Stress
If you are feeling stressed out and are trying to suppress it, you are making a huge mistake. Stress can be managed and minimized but it can’t be ignored. Doing so puts your health at risk and virtually guarantees that your job performance will suffer. If you suffer from stress you need to attack it on two fronts:
- Learn how to manage the stress you already feel or that you can’t avoid.
- Learn how to minimize the stress you let into your life in the future.
So how can you manage your stress?
I don’t believe there is anything that can have a more profound effect on your mental state in a short amount of time than meditation or yoga; furthermore, with some practice it can be implemented into your daily routine fairly easily. I know a high-level professional at a Hedge Fund who has four children. He was literally breaking at the seams until he discovered meditation. Between the frenetic pace of his work and the needs of his children at home, he never had time for himself. He now takes 15 minutes every morning before his children wake up to meditate and it has made an incredible difference in his life.
What else can you do that helps you work off your anger and frustration, releases endorphins that improve your mood, and strengthens your heart and body making you less susceptible to stress-related illness in the future? The answer is nothing. Trying to come up with a reason not to exercise is almost impossible.
Adequate sleep is crucial to proper brain function – no less so than air, water, and food. There is a vicious cycle with sleep and stress since lack of sleep can make you feel stressed and stress can make it harder to sleep. If getting enough sleep is a problem, make a conscious effort to leave yourself more time than you think you need in bed and try meditating to clear your mind.
What about minimizing stress in the future?
Leave Your Work At Work
It seems simple but too many people spend their evenings and weekends checking their email or thinking about what they have to get done in the office. Unless you are one of the few people who absolutely love their job and find it the best part of their life, take the time away from the office to explore all the other things that make you who you are.
Get Out Of Dodge Often
Nothing clears the head like getting out of town. Even if you just take a day trip to somewhere new, you force your brain to focus on the present, which is where a healthy mind should spend most of its time.
Find A Hobby
Relaxing doesn’t always mean doing nothing… it just means doing something you enjoy that doesn’t stress you out. Whatever it is you like to do, make it a part of your routine and don’t let work violate its sanctity.
Work tends to hurt our relationships and without concerted effort those relationships can fall apart. I know numerous couples that set aside one night a week to spend time together. Even with their extremely busy schedules, they manage to keep these date nights almost 100% of the time by making it a routine and their relationships are better for it.
In summation, evaluate if your work is causing you stress, figure out how to best manage that stress and most importantly, work towards minimizing it in the future. If you can maintain a good work-life balance you will improve your physical and mental health AND be more productive when you do work.
If you like Goldy, go ahead and check out his personal blog, GoldyWorld, where he talks about absolutely nothing important and has fun doing it.