Research from IKEA (2014) shows that the average Brit experiences 14 occurrences of stress every day; with almost 2000 reporting they get their first flash of stress even before getting out of bed.
Work stressors included heavy workloads, computer malfunction and a lack of time, adding to an already stressful day. A staggering 22% said they worried about what to do at work the day before and sadly one in four thought they spent more time feeling stressed rather than feeling relaxed.
When asked how they went about relieving this stress most said they adopted the typical UK ‘keep calm and carry on’ mentality, and just pushed through to the end of the day, presumably when it all starts again.
This pushing through to the end of the day may work for you but what about your colleagues and team, how do they cope? Could you be contributing to their stress at work by trying to deal with your own inappropriately?
Have a look at the 7 deadly sins of stress work, and see why these will only provide temporary relief and could affect your long term health and others around you.
Some will be more prone to stress at different stages in their life and career for example:
- After illness and during the return to work phase
- Lack of social support
- Previous experience of stress or negative life event eg divorce, bereavement
- Personality – are you a half empty or half full kind of person?
- Lack of control of you situation
- Lacking confidence
Many people know about stress and what to do, but in my experience, they do not apply that to themselves; stress happens to other people instead.
In order to combat their own stressors they adopt a lifestyle or start behaving out of character and that only makes matter worse – is this you?
7 Deadly Sins of Stress at Work
1. Increased Use of Chemicals
Drinking or smoking to excess can be a symptom of even a low level of stress in our lives. The use of non-prescription drugs is also a common reaction to stress and using coffee as a stimulant. Not only is this behaviour unhelpful but the added risks to health are linked to coronary heart disease, lung cancers and accidents.
2. Changed Eating Habits
Many people learned in childhood the pleasurably feeling around eating; especially if sweets were used as a reward for good behaviour – so it’s easy to see how that subconscious feeling can help as an adult when things go wrong.
Not eating too can be an effect of stress – both over and under eating bring their own serious health risks. See links here of Bulimia, anorexia, obesity
3. Working longer, harder, and faster
Many are stressed because they have too much to do in too little time both paid and unpaid. A common reaction to this is to work harder and longer to get everything done usually with fewer and shorter breaks. People skip lunch or have lunchtime/breakfast meetings, work late and start early, skip days off or get caught up and take work home, missing out on holidays and relaxation time.
To add to the pressure many have no option of changing their job; their families well-being depends on getting through the workload.
The body will rapidly become tired, drained and open to disease and also become less resistant to stress. Also the quality of work may suffer with mistakes made and being perceived as incapable of doing a job well. This vicious circle leaves workers feeling more stressed and probably physically and psychologically ill. Presenteeism, absence
4. Over Activity
Another common reaction to stress is to keep busy doing ‘things’, sometimes to excess. Every minute of the day can be filled with work, projects, hobbies, clubs, sport or socialising. This can be linked to feeling anxious and keeping going to mask the feeling, or it can be a way of avoiding a stressful situation.
All activity usually means that the problem itself is avoided but you become more and more exhausted.
There are various forms of denial, many of them harmful, although temporary denial can be protective, as in the case of serious trauma or the death of a loved one.
A person ‘in denial’ does not acknowledge that something bad is or has happened and may:
- Keep everything inside
- Pretend there isn’t a problem
- Reason it all away
- Hide their feelings
- Carry on as if nothing had happened
- Put on a brave face
In my experience, denial is prevalent in those stressed at work especially where workers with stress are seen as weak, in workplaces valuing ‘coping’ with success and stress as failure. But, whatever the reason, denial means the situation causing stress is not acknowledged and, more importantly tackled.
In the long term this can result in exhaustion, stress-related disease, anxiety and depression, or sudden outbursts of rage and grief; with some cases the result of unresolved grief or trauma for years.
Many people simply escape from stressful situations, rather standing and facing it head on. They might move from job to job, and from relationship to relationship, never attempting to sort out difficulties. This can place the person in something of a downward spiral, with no permanent say in any aspect of life.
Also when a situation from which there is no escape occurs, such as a bereavement, the person will experience a particularly serious reaction.
7. Taking it out on Others
This takes the form of either blaming others for everything, or taking out feelings of anger and frustration on them. Loved ones will often be the targets of this type of anger.
There is little long term benefit from this apart from relieving some pent-up emotions, and it can permanently damage relationships.
All of these coping strategies only make matters worse.
What should I Do?
Have a good think about your own circumstances and behaviour. Are you acting as you want to act, doing things consistent with how you want to be?
If there is a problem – you need to deal with the situation or if that isn’t possible, change the way you are to cushion the effect.
The 7 deadly sins of coping with stress at work are not appropriate, won’t work in the long term and could lead to poor health and isolation. And you will be causing others stress too. For sure!
For more advice about help available, see your GP or do the NHS stress at work test now.
If you are lucky enough to work where they have an occupational health service, employee assistance programme(EAP) or a counselling service why not give them a try? It can’t be any worse than what you are already doing, can it.
Available articles on this site
Steps to Workplace Wellbeing