For many leaders and professionals, the pressure is on, stress is high and exhaustion is the norm. Yet, workplace-related stress is not a new phenomenon. Self-reported data suggest that up to 72% of American employees experience daily stress that interferes with their day-to-day lives. Additionally, 40% report persistent stress or excessive anxiety linked to their jobs, which, left unaddressed, can easily lead to negative consequences for physical health, mental well-being, productivity, performance and career growth.
The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the existing challenges associated with stress at work. According to the American Psychological Association, 67% of Americans report feeling increased stress since the COVID-19 outbreak began. For some, the realities of working in public during a global pandemic raise significant health and safety concerns. For others, working from home carries challenges of its own, often blurring the boundaries of work and personal life, among others.
Sources of Workplace Stress
Employees report that the most common anxiety-provoking stressors are:
This can translate to experiencing stress when not given sufficient resources to get the job done, feeling stuck in unresolved conflict or even juggling multiple projects and deadlines. And this last one I see with almost every team I work with - the daily stress that comes from poor planning and unclear guidelines and expectations.
This brings up two important questions:
Addressing solutions to stress at work is the responsibility of leadership and every person in the workplace.
Why? Because stress can have a significant impact on the way people perform at work and function away from work, regardless of their role in the organization. According to self-reported data, many employees find that stress has a negative impact on workplace performance and quality of work, as well as interpersonal relationships both in and out of the workplace.
While the problems of workplace stress have long been present in American society, the COVID-19 pandemic created several situations in which stress is more prevalent and serious than ever before.
Stress related to working during COVID-19
For those working from home, the stress of social isolation and an “always-on” mentality could easily contribute to burnout, a common workplace phenomenon acknowledged by the World Health Organization. For those working in a physical workplace, the demands of adapting to COVID-19 and social distancing measures can hinder creativity and productivity in meaningful ways. Additionally, many employers and leaders might fail to create a culture of work/life balance, a significant cause of stress.
Causes of Stress
Causes of stress experienced during work can originate from both the workplace and personally. It’s important to know the causes of our external and internal stress to determine how to deal with it effectively.
Some of the potential external factors include:
Some of the potential internal factors include link to our mindset:
Symptoms of Stress
Even if we don’t think we’re stressed, our bodies feel the impact. Our bodies take on the stress whether we realize it or not. The many potential physical symptoms of stress include:
The Importance of Stress Management
Some stress can be helpful. It can give you that little push to reach your full potential. When it begins to negatively impact your work and personal life, stress management is critical. Too much of the wrong kind of unmanaged stress can lead to decreased motivation or even burnout. A consistent stress management practice can help your mind and body adapt and build resilience to life’s stressors. Without a consistent practice, your body might always be on high alert. Over time, this chronic stress can lead to serious health problems.
But not everything you hear about stress management is true. Let’s debunk some common myths first.
4 Myths about Stress Management
1. “I don’t feel stressed and therefore I don’t need to watch out for it.” - The high-performers I work with often don’t realize what they are experiencing is stress. Slowing down to notice what’s happening in their minds and bodies gives insights into their true experience. Without slowing down to notice, they can miss the early warning signs and symptoms from their body. At its worst, stress can be a silent killer and failing to manage it could result in heart attacks or even death.
2. Stress is the same for everyone. - Stress affects people in many different ways. Every person is unique to how stress impacts them and the solutions that help one person from the next are just as unique.
3. Stress is bad. The word ‘stress’ often creates an automatic assumption that everything surrounding it is a bad thing. A welcomed challenge at work is an example of good stress. The key is to learn to identify between the good and harmful stress and equip yourself with techniques to identify the symptoms and then to deal with it.
4. Stress responses are uncontrollable. Although stress is in many cases a natural response, the myth comes in when people think they can’t do anything about it. There are various practices you can incorporate into your daily life to minimize the effect stress can have on your mind and body.
Stress Management Techniques
When you’re feeling overwhelmed (and who doesn’t feel that way sometimes?) it’s a good time to slow down, take a deep breath, and step away from your desk. To address any type of stressor, whether external or internal, these six stress management tips will help you adapt and become more resilient to stressors over time.
The Key to Lasting Success
Always remember that mental and physical well-being is the foundation of professional success. Realizing your goals requires willingness, tenacity and a strong spirit. Pushing through stress will greatly slow down your progress to achieving your dreams and aspirations at work and beyond. Here at Pathfinder Solutions, our philosophy and approach in getting better and faster results, increasing performance and in gaining a sense of satisfaction is to slow down in order to act with intention and purpose. And in the case of stress, slowing down to adequately address the stress impacting your work and personal life.