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Understanding and Fighting Stress in the Workplace

Everybody understands stress in the workplace, and the phenomenon has real world impact. Measured by the American Psychological Association, 60% of Americans found the workplace to be a major source of stress in their lives. For many, it was the #1 cause of stress of all. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention sees that stress grows as people work longer hours for less pay, as has been happening in the post-Recession western world.

Stress should be understood as something entirely separate from workplace challenge. Challenge in necessary in satisfying work. But when other forces make people feel that their work is depleting them of energy and other effects, it can start to have a very negative impact on their lives inside and out of the workplace.

Fight or Flight and Stress in the Workplace

Dealing with work stress isn’t easy, but there are reliable ways to do so. Implementing these strategies is necessary, because workplace stress has far-reaching effects. Low morale results in low productivity and high employee turnover. Low morale may be the result of poor management styles, that contribute to workers feeling insecure or powerless. Job responsibilities which are too difficult or too varied can also leave employees frazzled. The feeling grows that “I have too much to do. I’m not paid enough for this. Why am I doing this with my life?”

Dangerous job concerns, problems of advancement, and even a less than appealing workplace setting can all contribute to stress. Now that we know what causes stress, what does stress look like in the life on an individual employee?

Science has shown that stress as a phenomenon is the result of the Fight or Flight nervous system response. Evolving through millions of years, the stress response was meant to help our ancestors survive dangerous situations. If met with a dangerous predator, our ancestors would immediately spring into action, either to flee or to engage in combat.

These nervous system responses are still in place, but rather than dealing with a charging rhinoceros, we’re dealing with a mountain of busywork with no measurable impact, positive or negative, on the world.

Nervous System Response

These nervous system responses affect hormones and chemical levels. The negative results include headaches, digestive problems, high blood pressure, and short attention span, just to name a few. One can well understand the far reach of stress in the American workforce, as these maladies have become part and parcel with modern life. Unchanged for years, these states of being can give way to cardiovascular and psychological disorders, among many other common workplace diseases.

It’s clear that eliminating stress from the workplace is important. This can be done by helping employees to feel that their work is valued, that their jobs are secure, and that their work has positive impact in the world. Much of the responsibility of eliminating stress is placed upon management, but employees can have an important hand in it.

Eating healthy food and exercising have huge ramifications for perceived stress, and it’s a reason that many promotion campaigns are being adopted in the modern workplace. Finally, establishing a healthy work life balance may have the biggest impact of all at eliminating workplace stress.

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