Coping with Stress and Anxiety in the Workplace
For a moment, close your eyes and imagine that your boss just emailed you about an unfinished assignment. How does your body respond and why? The unfinished assignment, in this situation, acts as a stressor and your body instantly responds to it by activating a fight or flight response. This response can elicit immediate symptoms of stress, and if the worry about finishing the assignment remains for an extended period of time, it can lead to anxiety.
For those who work well under pressure, stress can sometimes be seen as a motivator which boosts work performance, however, too much of anything can lead to negative outcomes in the long-run. Prolonged, chronic stress in this case can lead to burnout, which can negatively impact your performance in the workplace. Symptoms of prolonged chronic stress or burnout can include:
- an overwhelming sense of exhaustion or fatigue
- lack of motivation
- sense of inefficacy when it comes to work – related assignments
- lack of self-esteem
Existing research has shown a correlation between prolonged chronic stress or burnout and symptoms of anxiety. Studies found that those individuals who face extremely heavy workloads on a daily basis, and who are under immense amounts of time pressure, are more often than not likely to experience generalized anxiety disorder. While stress in a workplace is very normal and common place, stress that is constant, overwhelming and affects daily functioning may indicate the presence of an anxiety disorder.
What is important to keep in mind, is that an individual’s work life can be managed in a healthy manner and doesn’t have to lead to situations like chronic stress or anxiety. Relaxation or well- being techniques can help with countering the psychological effects an individual’s body faces during a ‘fight-or-flight response’ situation. Some examples of relaxation techniques are:
- Progressive muscle relaxation, which can help reduce the muscle tension often associated with anxiety.
- Problem-solving; a coping mechanism that allows an individual to understand and decide what logical steps to take when dealing with a roadblock, instead of having a negative reaction to it.
- Mindfulness/Deep Breathing – paying attention to the present moment, instead of stressing about what’s to come in the future.
- Reconsider negative thoughts – try to replace negative thoughts with positive ones, consider the other possibilities out there rather than just focusing on the ones causing stress, tension or worry.
Regularly practicing these techniques can help individuals reduce negative emotions in response to stressors, especially in a work-related environment.
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