Over the past 20 years, the U.S. workplace has changed dramatically, resulting in a sharp uptick in work-related stress. American employees have found themselves dealing with longer hours, heavier workloads, expectations of 24/7 connectivity, job insecurity, poor organizational support, stagnating wages, and a higher cost of living. It’s no wonder that 29 percent of workers in a recent Yale survey reported that they were "quite a bit or extremely stressed" at work. California state employees, in addition, also face a unique set of workplace challenges.
For the California government worker, the 2008 recession brought massive budget cuts, reorganization, and uncertainty. While the economy has stabilized, workers are experiencing a reduction in benefits, such as requirement to pay ahead for retiree health care. California's first-ever survey of California state workers, completed in August 2015, indicated that while employees generally feel that they do important work, they are underappreciated by management.
Chronic job stress can initially lead to harmful physical and emotions responses, such as headaches, sleep disturbances, and low morale. Over time, it can lead to anxiety and depression, as well as high-blood pressure and a higher likelihood of obesity and heart disease. An August 2015 study by researchers from Harvard Business School and Stanford University found that work-related stress can be just as harmful to your health as secondhand smoke.
It may seem difficult to slow down and make changes in your work and personal care habits. While you may be able to barrel through demanding job situations in the short-term, prolonged stress can ultimately impact your long-term health. Your work performance may also slip, which impacts your standing with your employer.
Try a few techniques to reduce stress:
• Organize your time - Even the simple act of making a to-do list can put your day in perspective. Schedule difficult tasks for times when you are fresh, such as first thing in the morning.
• Discuss your concerns with your employer - With your input, your supervisor or Human Resources manager can work to make a better work environment.
• Make healthy food choices - A poor diet can leave you lifeless, cranky, and less productive. Make sure you properly fuel your body.
• Exercise regularly - The endorphins your body generates during exercise, and the meditative pursuit of a single task, can clear your mind, improve sleep, and relieve mild symptoms of anxiety and depression.
• Try regular relaxation - A few yoga classes each week or a simple five-minute daily meditation practice can alleviate stress and promote clarity.
• Make time for yourself each week - Everyone needs some time to rest and reset. Block off time in your calendar if you need to.
• Don’t take out your stress on loved ones - If you find yourself being short with your family and friends, take a step back. Instead, share your concerns with them and ask for support and suggestions.
• Avoid use of alcohol and tobacco - While these may seem to alleviate symptoms in the short term, the effects on your body can be detrimental and cause additional health problems.
• Consult a professional counselor - Trained professionals can recognize patterns of behavior that may be causing you undue stress at work and provide helpful coping techniques.
• Consider a job or career change - Sometimes a work environment may ultimately be toxic and intolerable. Consider changing companies or going into a new line of work altogether. Seek advice from a career counsellor or psychologist.
For state workers already prone to depressive episodes, or those managing major depression, the high pressure and unrealistic expectations of the modern workplace can induce episodes or worsen existing depression. Furthermore, there is still stigma around mental illness, and employees with depressive symptoms may feel the need to hide their feelings and continue working though their pain in order to keep their jobs. Many do not realize that for the vast majority of people, depression does not go away on its own.
If you experience some or all of these symptoms for more than two weeks, you may be experiencing depression.
• Little interest or pleasure in doing things
• Feeling down or hopeless
• Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much
• Feeling tired or having little energy
• Poor appetite or overeating
• Feeling you're a failure or have let yourself or your family down
• Trouble concentrating
• Moving or speaking so slowly, or quickly, that other people notice.
• Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
If you job pressure is affecting your health, it’s important to seek help. Don’t be ashamed to tell your doctor if you’re experiencing depressive symptoms--only they can properly diagnose whether you have depression, anxiety, or another illnesses. Your physician can refer you to a psychologist for counseling or a psychiatrist who can prescribe short- or long-term medication. They may also suggest therapies, such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), a non-invasive, painless treatment that has proven incredibly effective, especially for medication-resistant patients. Whether you are experiencing work-related stress or feel that job pressure may be contribution to depression, there is no need to suffer in silence--reach out and get the help you deserve.
Be sure to read next week’s blog on how TMS Health Solutions offers an alternative treatment option for patients with depression.