Stress affects us all, and it is everywhere. Today, I would specifically like to look at symptoms of stress in the workplace and the effect it not only has on us, but also on colleagues.

So What Is Stress?

Stress is the body’s reaction to dangerous situations, whether they are real or imagined.

When you feel threatened, a chemical reaction occurs in your body that takes you into a stress reaction known as “fight-or-flight”.

During this stress response, our heart rate increases, our breathing quickens, our muscles tighten, and our blood pressure rises. We are now ready to fight lions and tigers.

Stress means different things to different people. What causes stress in one person may be of little concern to another. Some people are also better able to handle stress than others.

And, not all stress is bad. In small doses, stress can help you accomplish tasks and prevent you from getting hurt. For example, stress is what gets you to slam on the breaks to avoid hitting the car in front of you. That’s a good thing.

Our bodies are designed to handle small doses of stress. But, we are not equipped to handle long-term, chronic stress without consequence.

Too much stress can wear you down by compromising your immune system, making you more vulnerable to illness.

We so often flippantly say, ‘oh I am just stressed’ but can we recognise when we have stress symptoms?

What Are The Symptoms of Stress In the Workplace?

Stress can manifest in our bodies through our emotions, behaviours, and thoughts. No part of the body is immune. Because people handle stress differently, symptoms of stress can vary.

Physical symptoms of stress:

  • Low productivity

  • Increased absence

  • Work / life balance out of alignment

  • Low energy

  • Ailments e.g. headaches, general aches and pain, frequent coughs & colds

  • Sleeplessness

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Ringing in the ears

  • Clenched jaw and teeth grinding

Emotional symptoms of stress:

  • Mood swings

  • Feeling agitated, frustrated, irritable

  • Feeling out of control of your life

  • Can’t switch off

  • Feeling overwhelmed

  • Low self-esteem

  • Feeling isolated

Behavioural symptoms of stress:

  • Lack of concentration

  • Changes in appetite

  • Not wanting to take responsibility for yourself

  • Procrastination

  • Use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes to numb feelings

Emotional Symptoms of Stress

The Effects Of Stress In The Workplace

A little stress every now and then is not something to be concerned about.

However, longer term, when stress becomes chronic, it can cause more serious health issues:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • high blood pressure
  • weight gain
  • Menstrual problems
  • changes in sexual desire
  • IBS
  • hair loss

The knock on effect in the workplace can be huge.

But, is it the employer’s responsibility?

You can argue the case both ways.

Yes, in the case of poor management or workplace bullying

No, if the stress is as a result of external influences.

However, if management are purposely oblivious, or simply don’t care about the state of the individuals working for them, ultimately they could not only see a reduction in overall productivity, they could also lose good employees – whether it’s their responsibility or not.

So What Are The Strategies For Managing Stress In The Workplace?

Stress is a part of all of our lives. What matters most is being able to recognise stress symptoms and then understand how to handle them.

I intend to cover this in more detail in my next article.

However, for now, if you are feeling stressed, or you can see that an employee / colleague is showing signs too, here are a few simple suggestions to help you get started to feel better:

•       drink more water (see article: How many litres of water should you drink a day?)

•       exercise regularly

•       cut out junk food (see article: How Junk Food Affects More Than Just Your Waistline!)

•       mindful meditation (see article: Benefits of Mindfulness)

As I said, they are simple and very straight forward, BUT don’t underestimate their effectiveness. I consider these areas to be the ‘4 pillars’, underpinning your future with less stress and increased happiness and wellbeing.

Do you have any specific strategies for managing stress in the workplace?