• Kerry Johnson

Work Related Stress

Work Related Stress

Stress is worn like a badge of honour by many of us, but normalising stress is a cause not a solution to the overall problem. If we accept too much of this horrific entity into our lives as something we should expect and deal with, then we are accepting a predominantly miserable existence.

Some stress is good. It’s a natural response to danger and challenges in our lives, and helps to motivate us and keep us on track. But Chronic stress is a common issue faced in our society, much of it stemming from the workplace.

Saying no is difficult for many of us to do. However, when we say yes to jobs that don’t reflect our pay, our capabilities, or time availability, we are verbally accepting this as part of our contract and our job description slowly expands without any reward or recognition. Meanwhile, our mental health slowly declines.

‘But I’m scared to say no to my boss!’ This is a common issue I hear. The problem is that employers are aware of your fears. Particularly during this pandemic where you may feel the future of your job is uncertain, stress is just something you have to accept.

But what is stress and what is it doing to us?

Stress is the feeling that occurs when you’re under pressure. When you are stressed, your body releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. The problem with cortisol in particular is a big one. It can lead to problems including Anxiety, Depression, Digestive problems, Headaches, Heart disease, Sleep problems, problems conceiving, Weight gain Memory and concentration impairment.

While your workplace might need you, you are not a machine and there will be a point where you will break, and potentially unable to work at all, and this can have a large impact on your self-esteem and confidence. Working like a machine does not always lead to career progression and pay rises, instead it can sometimes prevent it, why would they move you up the ladder when they can get you to do this much work at a reduced rate?

There has to be a balance between hard work and reward, the employer needs to know you are an asset and good at the job, whilst being valuable, having potential and more to offer. They need to be scared to lose you!

It all starts with self-worth, if you can’t value yourself, how will everyone else value you? There are always parts of a job that we enjoy less, but when we are overwhelmed by a workload that is unmanageable then the employer needs to address this. Can the work be split amongst the team? Can we recruit another person? Is there a way this work can be reduced or be achieved more efficiently? None of these questions will be considered if you don’t raise the problems, and you will head down a path of more unmanageable stress!

Of course this will not apply to everyone, but there is one word that I have learnt in my training that has helped many people, and that is ‘assertiveness’. Some of you will already be familiar with the importance of this, and how beneficial it can be to work on becoming your most assertive self.

I see assertiveness as a balancing act, it does not mean saying no all the time, it does not mean being aggressive, it means being aware of your boundaries and your self-worth, and learning how to effectively command this in all areas of our lives. If you are looking after yourself, after all, you are able to look after those around you.

My biggest piece of advise with stress management is to address the cause. A workplace that pushes you a healthy amount is good for your career and wellbeing, too much stress will hold us back and make us ill. Remember, your employer won’t make changes if you keep battling through and doing what they want you to, so it’s important to use your voice and take ownership of your own mental health, or no one else will!

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