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Job Stress: Causes, Symptoms, and Ways to Reduce It

Almost every job has stress–it’s a fact of life. Stress is highly subjective, uniquely perceived by the person experiencing it. Stress in itself is neither good nor bad; however, its effect may be positive or negative. Some common causes of job stress include: your work environment; your job’s demands; your expectations; and the people around you. Your ability to tolerate stress depends on many factors, including the quality of your relationships, your general outlook on life, your emotional intelligence, and genetics.

Excessive stress can interfere with your productivity and impact your physical and emotional health. Chronic stress can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, and speed up the aging process. Stress may also contribute to ulcers, gallbladder disorders, asthma, allergies, colitis and migraine headaches. It can cause a normally good-natured person to become irritable and depressed. It can hurt the way you relate to your family and friends. If left unchecked, stress can leave you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression. Studies show that people under stress are more likely to have accidents caused by mistakes in judgment; too much stress can also rob you of energy and make you feel tired and apathetic.

To reduce job stress, maintain good health habits: get moving and try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days. (consult your health care provider before starting an exercise program); eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and grains (at least half should be whole grains), limit fats, cholesterol, salt and added sugars, and choose lean, low-fat or fat-free items when possible; get enough sleep; drink alcohol in moderation; and don’t abuse drugs.

Manage your time wisely: don’t try to do everything all at once; make a list of everything you must do and prioritize tasks; don’t procrastinate; take a break from a heavy workload to recharge; be aware and assess the amount of stress you’re feeling–and take steps to reduce it; and pace yourself.

Improve your work environment; physical discomfort can increase stress levels. Simple changes to your work area can help prevent discomfort.

Change your personal habits; acknowledge your successes; avoid nicotine and reduce caffeine; share your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust; set aside time during the day for your personal recreation; do things you enjoy such as soaking in a hot tub or attending a sports event; develop friendships with some of your co-workers; take time to find out what’s important in your life; and seek professional help if you’ve been feeling depressed for a long time.

Lastly, learn to relax. Try these exercises to relieve unhealthy stress: yoga, medication, deep breathing, visualization, and quick relaxation (take a quick break from work and do some light stretching, or take a few deep breaths if you’re in the middle of a stressful situation). Job stress should not control your life. Take responsibility for improving your physical and emotional well-being; when your own needs are taken care of, you’re stronger and more resilient to stress.

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