How To Effectively Avoid & Combat Stress At Work

Facts About Stress At Work

  • Stress affects all people, regardless your position in the company.
  • High stress concerns 23% of men workers and 32% of women.
  • The level of stress is higher in the age category 45-54 years old.

Stress And Society

Stress at work has never been as acute as today. The landscape of world economy has changed during the last decade with the new challenges of world’s competitiveness due to globalization. Additionally, we are living in an increasing connected world. The use of smartphones and the 24 hours access to our emails are increasing difficulties to switch off from the stress of the workplace and focusing on our personal priorities.

What Is Stress?

Stress is an adaptive response of our organism to the external changes of the environment; it’s a sign that you’re trying to cope with new conditions. However, if this adaptive response turns into a permanent one, due to a prolonged challenging time at work, it’s the sign that your health can be in danger. Stress can affect physical health by provoking anxiety, depression, sleeping problems, etc.

Stress At Work

Stress at work can come from contradictory orders, from the strict application of orders, from work impact on company’s results and from the complex relationships than can exist at work with colleagues and managers.

The psychosocial stressors are:

  • The charge of work: important high quality and quantity of work in a short amount of time.
  • Changes: dealing with restructuration and new technologies.
  • Frustrations: lack of positive reinforcement such as no salary raise, no career plan, lack of consideration.
  • Relationships: contact with unsatisfied clients, difficult to deal with managers and colleagues.

The Burnout Syndrome

Long and chronicle stress at work can lead to a work related pathology called « burnout syndrome ». It’s the new century syndrome and it’s a process and not a state. It comes from a long exposure to a difficult climate at work. The individual will try to resist until the total extenuation of his abilities and physical resources. This will lead to a severe depression and intense fatigue that will result in a work cessation and intake of antidepressants. Many mental health professionals are confusing burnout with depression: it can be dangerous because, in the case of burnout, a change has to be made regarding work, it’s a depression due to work circumstances.

Stress And Personality

The complexity of our personality is influenced by genetic factors, family dynamic, social and cultural influences and personal experience.

Stress adaptation has to do with our personality.

To illustrate this thinking, we are going to talk about 3 types of personality coming from the Rosenman and Friedman model in the 60s, which seems to be a good indicator in term of coping with stress in a work environment. This typology is divided into 3 personality types:

Type A

  • Very hurried, impatient, can be hostile and aggressive in their relationships. They are risk takers; very competitive, tense and agitated when it comes to work.
  • Poor impulse control and need to be active all the time.
  • Express their emotions with the outburst, verbal comments.
  • Unpredictable
  • They want to be all the time in control and are all the time watching others.
  • They are often boss or company leaders.
  • Prone to coronary disease.

Type B

  • They live in the « here and now ».
  • Tends to be friendly and feel that the world is good and bad but have a preference for the good side.
  • They are competing with themselves by saying « I can do better than before » and are open to criticism.
  • They are intuitive, spontaneous and patient.
  • They think that changes are inevitable and that sharing is learning
  • They are supportive of others and likely to express positive feelings.
  • They have a lesser chance of stress related disorders.

Type C 

  • They like to take their time and are future oriented.
  • They like to weigh the pros and cons before taking decisions.
  • They like to analyze and try to figure out what to expect from future events, they need to anticipate changes, as they can be a source of fear.
  • They are very sensitive to critics and have a tendency to not express their emotions.
  • Aversion to risk and are inflexible.

They are prone to cancer and psychosomatic diseases.

We can, therefore, see that the personality that is unlikely to resist stress in the workplace are personality A and C. Personality B is the most likely to resist stress.

The factors that lead to stress resistance in the workplace are:

  • Ability to cope with stressful situations.
  • Flexibility to unexpected changes.
  • Ability to seek social support.
  • Perception of stress as a challenge.
  • Taking care of others.
  • Try to seek for harmony in relationships.
  • Optimism and sense of humor.
  • Stress resistance.

3 powerful perceptions that are leading to stress resistance:

  • Commitment: having a purpose to life and involvement in work, family, friends, community
  • Control: is about thinking that you have the power to change things and stress agents.
  • Challenge: perceiving the events as challenges rather than threats.

How To Become More Stress Resistant?

Daily life is made of interactions and social exchanges. Stress comes often because you are trying to guess people expectations towards you, by fear to be perceived as an ignorant. It’s very important to ask clear questions about people expectations.

This is a clear proof of social integration and commitment. By doing this, you are clearly respecting your position in the company. Don’t try to predict, ask! It’s also very important to accept your humanity! Even in a more competitive environment, we are all human beings, which implies that we do all have primary needs such as sleeping, eating and relaxing. Don’t worry! Your colleagues are sharing the same needs as you just because of their same belonging to the mankind!

Don’t try to be a superhero, accept that you have physical limitations, which need to be taken into consideration to be more effective.

Give up on perfectionism! Following the old saying, “nobody is perfect” and allowing yourself to do mistakes and accept the fact that you’re not 100% efficient at all time doesn’t mean that you’re not valuable.

Some people have the tendency to think that each single mistake is taking away all their value, by trying to avoid mistakes all the time, you become exhausted because you’re always in control and you’re not learning anymore. We’re all progressing and learning from our mistakes.

Try as much as possible to change your lifestyle habits. Avoid as much as possible caffeine and nicotine, which are fake friends and can induce sleeping problems. Try to eat healthily and as much as possible fruits and vegetables.

Protect your bedroom from the intrusion of non-desirable items such as smartphones, computers and tablets.  The on-going flow of information they provide, added to the high luminescence of their screens, make them the worst enemies of sleep.

Make sport to release tension and charge your batteries, this will increase tremendously your stress resistance.

Set up realistic goals by doing an effective “to do list” for your day at work. This will help to break confusion and overwhelming feelings. Our brain needs to categorize, by doing this, you’re naturally helping to follow its physiological program. Don’t overcharge this list, realistic goals mean respecting your humanity. Try to finish the list every day, if you really can’t, then it will be important to re-evaluate your objectives!

If despite, some organization in your life, you’re still feeling too anxious or overwhelmed, then it’s maybe the good time to seek the help of a psychologist. Keeping everything for yourself will increase stress and confusion, and a psychotherapy can be very beneficial. A psychologist will help you to identify the problems and defining with you, adaptive strategies to cope with your work environment and effectively decrease your stress and your anxiety.

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