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How Job Stress Can Help or Hurt You (and How to Cope)

Job stress is more common than you may think. Find out how your health can be affected and what steps to take to minimize stress now.

June 16, 2017 | HF Healthy Living Team

Feeling stressed at work? You’re not alone. According to the American Institute of Stress, 80% of workers have job stress and about half need help to manage it.

Also, 42% said they think their coworkers need help with job stress. But not to worry, there are plenty of ways to cope.

Workplace Stress: How Much is Too Much?

A small amount of stress can be good for you. In situations where danger might be present, you naturally feel the need to seek safety. Job stress can even be good in small doses to help motivate you.

Short-term job stress can often be associated with how you perceive it. According to a study by the American Psychological Association (APA), participants believed they could change their approach to stress simply by associating stress with either fear or excitement. Instead of trying to stay calm when stressed, they did better at their task (such as speaking in public) if they told themselves they were excited.

Overcoming stressful times can also give you a more can-do attitude when another similar situation occurs. If you are unhappy at a job and feel as if you can’t leave, try to turn stressors into opportunities for improvement instead.

Tips to turn stressful situations around at work:

Overcome Work Stress
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  • Create Boundaries: If you’re stressed because you have no work-life balance, try to make boundaries. This might be as simple as limiting access to your work email after you leave the office. It’s even ok to create boundaries with coworkers to minimize stress, such as asking to work from home or for some time off to recoup.
  • Ask Questions Often: Whether you’re asking for clarification from a supervisor or asking for new opportunities to grow, there are many ways to avoid the stress associated with uncertainty. Rather than stressing about what might happen, see if a coworker or boss can help to ease your mind about new duties, etc.
  • Think Differently and Prioritize: American philosopher and psychologist William James said, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” Stress might be inevitable in certain situations, but remember, it’s usually a temporary response. Also, try to prioritize your personal goals so you can get to where you want to be.

While a little well-managed stress can be helpful, too much stress can be extremely toxic.

How Job Stress Can Harm Your Health

Stress can severely affect your health negatively in many ways too. It’s important to understand how long-term stress affects your body and mind so you can adapt healthy ways to manage anxiety.

Research has shown that chronic cases of stress can bring about a number of health problems, including but not limited to:

  • Musculoskeletal Disorders: Job stress can often result in back problems.
  • Psychological Disorders: Depression and burnout are the most common.
  • Cardiovascular Disease: Demanding jobs that give you little control over your work have been found to increase this risk.
  • Weakened Immune System: This is often linked to your overall work environment.

Stress can also appear with less severe physical symptoms, such as headaches and teeth grinding. There are small changes you can make daily to decrease your stress levels as well.

Try These Stress-Busting Tips Too

Tips for Overcoming Stress
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Many Americans continue to have the same stress levels year after year, but one in five people say they never engage in an activity to help relieve or manage stress, according to the APA.

Make yourself an exception—check out these easy tips to help reduce stress at work, and maximize your health.

  • Get plenty of sleep. Sleep is one of the most effective stress relievers. Help yourself get to sleep with these quick tips and skip the stress throughout your day.
  • Minimize excess sugar, caffeine, fast food, and any food that is considered “comfort food,” as these are known to drain your energy and make you crash.
  • Cut down on alcohol and quit smoking, as these stimulants can actually contribute to higher anxiety levels. The initial calming effect is temporary.
  • Don’t underestimate the benefits of a 20–30-minute daily exercise routine. Exercising has been proven to improve mental health by positively affecting stress, sleep patterns, energy, weight, and more.

Remember that a little stress can be a good thing, and having the right mind-set goes a long way. If you‘ve tried many of these tips and job stress or stress in general is becoming harmful, there are options available. Look into talking to a professional by checking out some of these free resources to get started.


© 2017 HF Management Services, LLC

Healthfirst is the brand name used for products and services provided by one or more of the Healthfirst group of affiliated companies.

This health information or program is for educational purposes only and not intended to treat, diagnose, or act as a substitute for medical advice from your provider. Consult your healthcare provider and always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions.

“Stress at Work,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed May 9, 2017.

“Help for Mental Illnesses,” National Institute of Mental Health. Accessed May 10, 2017.

“OECD Economic Surveys,” Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development. 2014.

“Stress in America,” American Psychological Association. February 4, 2015.

“Things to Know About Stress,” National Institute of Mental Health. Accessed May 11, 2017.

“Get Excited: Reappraising Pre-Performance Anxiety as Excitement,” American Psychological Association. 2014.

“Exercise for Mental Health,” National Institutes of Health. 2006.

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