• September 22, 2019

STONE: Is work-related stress bringing you down? - Odessa American: Levi Stone

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STONE: Is work-related stress bringing you down?

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Posted: Sunday, August 18, 2019 5:45 am

The very backbone of our country is made up of millions of hard working men and women who provide countless services in a variety of industries, day in and day out.  They are a diverse mix of individuals, whose professions range from oil and gas, medical, retail, construction, food and beverage, to everything in between, including mothers and fathers raising children at home.

However, regardless of one’s profession or job, stress is a very real issue in many work settings and left uncontrolled can take a huge toll on physical and mental health.

Everyone who holds a job has some level of work-related stress. Mostly in the short term, it can come in the form of meeting deadlines, dealing with an irate customer, or playing catch up the day after taking a sick day. 

However, when work stress becomes chronic you begin to feel overwhelmed, perhaps even unable to control your day to day workloads. 

Others may see this stress building because they do not feel as though they are doing their best or failing to live up to both known or anticipated expectations. 

Unfortunately, long-term stress associated with our jobs is all too common. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 65 percent of Americans cited work as a top source of stress, and only 37 percent felt they were doing an excellent or very good job at managing stress.  This is quite alarming, as unresolved stress can lead to both physical and mental ailments if they are not addressed.

Stress can lead to physical symptoms such as headaches, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and fatigue. 

It wreaks havoc on our bodies and can even worsen chronic diseases, leading to flare ups, other illnesses, and may segue into negatively affecting your mental health as well. 

Depression, anxiety, isolation and feelings of helplessness can all be tied to unresolved stress. 

Dealing with the underlying issues is the best way to gain control and manage stress, but, unfortunately we might seek treatment that is not beneficial and can make issues even worse.

Far too many people rely on alcohol, and even drugs (both legal and illicit), to “manage” their stress. Dependence on these items only provide a temporary relief of symptoms, without tackling the root causes of what precipitates the stressors in their lives. 

We must all take an inventory of our respective situations and review things within our control versus those we cannot. Isolating the list to the things within our control gives a better angle to address these issues and better manage our daily stresses. 

Here are few items, from the APA, to lend a hand in gaining control of stress:

>> Develop healthy responses. Instead of attempting to fight stress with fast food or alcohol, do your best to make healthy choices when you feel the tension rise. Exercise is a great stress-buster. Getting enough good-quality sleep is also important for effective stress management. Build healthy sleep habits by limiting your caffeine intake late in the day and minimizing stimulating activities, such as computer and television use, at night.

>> Establish boundaries. In today's digital world, it’s easy to feel pressure to be available 24 hours a day. Establish some work-life boundaries for yourself. That might mean making a rule not to check email from home in the evening, or not answering the phone during dinner.

>> Take time to recharge. This recovery process requires “switching off” from work by having periods of time when you are neither engaging in work-related activities, nor thinking about work. Also, do not let your vacation days go to waste. When possible, take time off to relax and unwind, so you come back to work feeling reinvigorated and ready to perform at your best.

>> Learn how to relax. Start by taking a few minutes each day to focus on a simple activity like enjoying a meal. The skill of being able to focus purposefully on a single activity without distraction will get stronger with practice and you'll find that you can apply it to many different aspects of your life.

>> Talk to your supervisor. Healthy employees are typically more productive, so your boss has an incentive to create a work environment that promotes employee well-being. Start by having an open conversation with your supervisor. The purpose of this isn’t to lay out a list of complaints, but rather to come up with an effective plan for managing the stressors you’ve identified, so you can perform at your best on the job.

>> Get some support. Accepting help from trusted friends and family members can improve your ability to manage stress. Your employer may also have stress management resources available through an employee assistance program (EAP), including online information, available counseling and referral to mental health professionals, if needed.

And, while it may be hard to accept now, no job is worth sacrificing your own physical and mental well-being. Stress is going to happen, but if it’s controlling you versus you controlling it, perhaps it’s finally time to make some choices you’ve been putting off for far too long.

Odessa, TX

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