Let’s not mince words: work stress hurts job performance. It’s been studied and researched, it’s almost a truism: high stress equals low performance, equals less success.
What’s Going On?
Some people, perhaps your boss, think that reasonable levels of stress stimulate employees and improve work performance. But this notion no longer holds true. Today, health experts and management professionals report that even a little bit of stress everyday will negatively affect work performance. It seems that:
- Even low stress is distracting. Concentration is diminished. Stress at any level affects people’s intellectual, emotional, and interpersonal functioning.
- Extended or repeated exposure even to minor levels of stress may have detrimental effects on health and this might lower employee’s work performance.
- Our responses to stress are very individualized. At first, stress has a positive effect on performance. But very quickly, it becomes negative. Just how quickly depends on job complexity. The more complex the work, the less stimulation it takes to reduce performance.
- Employees under stress lose their creativity and innovativeness. Their thinking ability is narrowed.
The Facts About Stress
Many workers report suffering from anxiety that is persistent and excessive, which adversely affects their ability to function. Yet many fewer report suffering from an anxiety disorder, a telling inconsistency. Anxiety disorders resulting from workplace stress has become the most common mental illness in America.
According to published surveys, only one in four workers admits that persistent stress or excessive anxiety impairs their ability to function at work and at home. Four in ten agree that persistent stress and/or excessive anxiety are a normal part of life, particularly men (44 percent vs. 36 percent for women). Very few of those suffering from an anxiety disorder will tell their boss for fear of being stigmatized or of losing their jobs. With almost 20% of American adults suffering from an anxiety disorder, the impact on productivity, worker safety, and other workplace issues is much greater than we care to admit.
How to Relieve Stress
Well, it’s up to you. You are the only person who can take control of yourself for effective change. You don’t need major surgery. Step by baby step, you can learn how to manage the most stressful jobs. There are many ways to reduce both your overall stress levels and the stress you find at work. You need to take responsibility for improving your physical and emotional well-being., avoid negative attitudes that add to the stress you experience at work, and learn better communication skills to ease and improve your relationships with management and coworkers. Health professionals suggest these tips:
Pay attention to the warning signs of excessive work stress. Allowing things to go on too long becomes chronic stress, which leads to severe physical and emotional health problems. Symptoms of excessive job stress include things like: anxiety, apathy, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, headaches, lower sex drive, overeating and drinking, and drug use.
Take care of yourself. When stress gets the better of you at work and at home, it’s time to take action. Consider seriously your physical and emotional health. When you feel better, dealing with all the crazy stuff becomes easier.
- Make yourself feel better by starting to exercise more frequently. Being in shape is being prepared, both in body and mind.
- Get enough good sleep. Stress can cause insomnia, and lack of sleep can leave you vulnerable to even more stress. When you're well-rested, it's much easier to keep your emotional balance, a key factor in coping with job and workplace stress. Try to get 8 good hours of sleep every night.
- Reach out to friends and family. A supportive network is a powerful defense against a harmful buildup of stress. Moreover, withdrawing into your shell, becoming lonely and isolated, makes it harder for you to practice these forms of stress management.
- Eat right. Seek the right balance in your diet. Eating too little makes you cranky, eating too much makes you lethargic.
- Control the booze. Alcohol will temporarily reduce stress, but too much can cause symptoms of anxiety as it wears off; and chronic drinking can lead to depression.
Set Priorities and Organize. Here are some time management ideas for reducing job stress.
- Plan your time and make time for fun. All work and no play leads to burnout. Don’t over-commit, save the small stuff for another day.
- Add a few more minutes to your morning commute. Don’t add to your work stress by running late.
- Take regular breaks. A brief rest can recharge your body and mind for better productivity.
- Prioritize tasks. Make a list. Do first things first.
- Divide projects into manageable parts. Make a step-by-step plan. Focus on one manageable step at a time.
- Delegate responsibility. Don’t try to do everything yourself, you’re just adding to your stress.
- Finding a reasonable middle ground reduces stress for everyone.
Finally, don’t forget that success is in the eye of the beholder. When we think of success we usually think of material things, happiness, and accomplishment. To be sure, success can include all those things and more. But what does success mean to you? What does it really mean and how important is it to you? Once you can put those questions into perspective, the rest gets easier.