Did you use to enjoy the stresses and challenges of your job? Some pressure at work can be motivating and satisfying, but when the pressure becomes excessive it can lead to all sorts of problems, including negative health effects, feelings of overwhelm, and vulnerability to mental health issues.
A short burst of stress at work can give you a boost of energy and help you perform well. Our bodies have evolved to deal with short-term stress in a way that allows us to take action that does not cause damage to our health. When we perceive an important challenge, our brain and nervous system kick into high gear, stress hormones are released, our heart-rate increases, and our breathing quickens. This is an optimal condition that helps us deal with acute stress. Once the challenge is over, our bodies return to a homeostatic balance, we relax, rest, and repair.
In the case of a well balanced work environment, an occasional deadline or crisis can be stimulating and even good for us. However, if pressures and challenges mount every day, we can find ourselves in a situation where we are chronically stressed. This is where we need to stop and take notice.
Chronic stress is known to lead to a range of physical, emotional, and even cognitive effects.
When is work-related stress a problem?
We know our normal states of emotional, physical, and mental health. If we notice our job is causing us to feel too much stress, especially stress that does not leave us after we’ve left the office, it may be time to seriously consider the impact of our job on our overall health and life.
There are several signs and symptoms of job burnout and chronic stress. Some of them include:
- poor sleep quality or lack of time for adequate sleep
- physical signs of chronic stress such as gastrointestinal problems, headaches, weak immune system, and skin problems
- feelings of overwhelm and inability to cope
- reduced ability to concentrate and make decisions
Physical and psychological symptoms tied to work stress are the body’s way of signaling that it is in crisis and needs help. Studies have shown that even in young healthy workers, too much stress increases the chances of a clinical diagnosis of anxiety and depression. When this happens, it’s time to make changes and/or seek help.
You don’t always have to change your job
Sometimes we need to change our job. Sometimes it’s best to walk out of a poorly managed and toxic work environment.
However, it is important to understand that we all cope with stress differently. It may be that if we learn healthy coping strategies, what was once stressful is no longer stressful or at least substantially less stressful.
Working with a therapist can teach you how to cope well and at the same time address underlying issues that may be impacting your quality of life.
Therapy can help you gain perspective and find the answers you need. Finding a supportive and guiding influence can make all the difference in how you take steps toward a healthier and happier future.
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