You come home after work everyday exhausted. It’s all you can do to change your clothes and make or eat dinner, and then you sit on the couch the rest of the evening “resting”. When it’s time for bed, you still haven’t wound down enough and your sleep is affected. You either have problems getting to sleep due to your racing thoughts, or you fall asleep immediately but wake up in the middle of the night in a panic thinking about things that need to get done at work or that you forgot to do. Then the next morning you wake up and repeat it all over again. You may feel tense and hyped up throughout the day, but at the same time so tired it’s hard to think clearly. If this sounds like you, you may be experiencing work-related stress.
Multiple studies show that work-related stress is by far the most significant cause of stress for American adults. Even over the past two decades, the amount of work-related stress has increased due to higher demands of employees and less actual or perceived control that employees have over their job duties. While some professions are inherently stressful (such as Emergency Department Physicians, Police Officers, etc.), it’s not the profession itself that causes the stress. Everyone’s reaction to work stressors is different and is based on the correlation between the amount of control one has over their jobs and the demands put upon them by others.
Work-related stress has a significant impact on our health and bodies. Cardiovascular disease is shown to be correlated to high level of stress, and when we are more stressed our bodies often shut down and are more susceptible to illnesses. By first identifying if your high stress levels are due to work or not, you have taken a step towards mitigating that stress and finding new ways to cope with your job demands. Here are five ways to determine if your stress might be job-related:
1.) Conflict between coworkers
Conflict between coworkers or boss-to-employee creates automatic workplace stress. Participating in or witnessing conflictual situations may cause your heart to race, your body to tense up, and even may get your adrenaline flowing. When people are not in harmony in your work place, productivity suffers, attitudes change, and the work culture may become toxic to the point that you dread going into work. According to a study completed by the American Institute of Stress (www.stress.org/workplace-stress), 25% of workers have felt like screaming or shouting during work and 42% reported that yelling and verbal abuse is common in workplaces. If not only verbal but also physical abuse is present at your workplace, work is most likely a primary cause of your stress.
2.) Difficulty sleeping due to thinking about work
Sleep problems due to stress are highly common. You may have problems going to sleep at night due to racing thoughts, or you can fall asleep fine but you wake up in the middle of the night thinking and “stressing” about work-related things. While you don’t want to be consumed with work, you cannot seem to turn off your mind. The same study as cited above stated that 34% of respondents had difficulty sleeping due to work stress. Sleep problems can cause difficulty focusing and concentrating, poor decision-making, affect body weight, increase susceptibility of respiratory disease, emotional difficulties and poor job performance. So, while we stress about our jobs and lose sleep, your productivity at work is also affected.
3.) Relationship problems due to your job
If you are stressed about work, you may take your stress and frustration out on those closest to you, primarily your partner or spouse. Because you are stressed, you cannot manage your emotions effectively and normally small irritations may generate raging fights. We all want our partners to be supportive especially when we are having a difficult time at work, but it feels like they never listen, understand, or can help solve the problem. It’s so difficult to hold all that stress inside as naturally it tries to get out, and it often affects those closest to us when it comes out. If your relationship(s) are suffering due to your job, it is likely that your stress is work-related.
4.) Physical complaints stemming from your job
Many people who are stressed experience physical complaints from their jobs, which then leads to even more stress. Eye strain, repetitive use injuries, and back pain are all common body and physical issues that are directly caused by work environments. Being constantly uncomfortable or in ongoing pain is wearing not only physically but also emotionally. And there’s the separate category of specific work injuries that are incurred on the job. Anytime your body is not functioning at a high level, the associated physical pain will begin to wear on you mentally and emotionally. It’s hard to be happy and stress-free when you have constant back pain. Whether the physical complaints stemming from your job are a cause or result of your job, it still causes you stress that is job-related.
5.) Unhappiness with your job, boss, or workload
At some point during our jobs, most if not all of us are unhappy with our workload, our boss, or our overall job. What may have started out as a good job fit for you at one time may no longer fit your needs, desires, and goals. Your boss may change over time, or you may unexpectedly get a new boss that you don’t jive with. There are so many factors that can influence how you feel about your job, including personal life factors such as major changes in your personal life (think marriage, divorce, children, moving, family strife, etc.). When your unhappiness about your job, for whatever reason, becomes a constant in your life for days, weeks, months, or even years, then it is highly likely that your stress is related to your job.
If you are in a job that has a lot of conflict, causes you to have problems sleeping, impacts your relationships, generates physical pain (such as back pain or eye strain), and that you are unhappy with, it is a high probability that you are experiencing work-related stress. Once you have identified the source of your stress, is it now time to take action to address that stress. There are many at-home techniques that you can do to help manage your work-related stress, and there are many options out there for additional support. Therapy for work-related stress is very effective with a trained professional.
Shannon Heers is a psychotherapist, guest blogger, and owner of Catalyss Counseling in Englewood, CO. Shannon helps adults in professional careers manage anxiety, depression, work-life balance, and grief and loss. Follow Catalyss Counseling on LinkedIn or Facebook.