Do you feel like your job is making you ill?
Are you having frequent people problems with your colleagues and/or superiors at work?
Maybe you are experiencing heightened anxiety, irritability and decreased attention at work?
These are classic signs of workplace stress. While some stress (sometimes referred to as "positive stress") is considered good because it serves as a challenge and motivator to put in effort, other types of stress can put too much pressure on a person and contribute to accidents/injuries. Too much stress at work can also cause mental and physical problems, including increased blood pressure, stomach acids and headaches. It is important to understand the different types of stress that exist and what causes them in order to better manage your stress.
Causes of workplace stress
Stress can be caused by one or a combination of factors commonly known as stressors. Some people, for example, may experience stress due to factors unique to their job, such as work overload or underload. Other people may experience stress due to factors in their working environment, such as air quality and noise. Yet other people may experience stress due to seemingly minor things like a lack of appreciation and perceived unfairness at work.
Whatever the cause of stress, it is important to remember that different workplace situations affect people differently. One person's challenging job situation maybe another person's serious stressor. If you want to control your workday, manage your stress and increase your level of productivity, you need to understand the most common types of stress and know how to stop them.
Common types of workplace stress
Dr Karl Albrecht, an executive management consultant, pioneer in the development of stress-reduction training for businesspeople in the U.S. and author of more than 20 books on professional achievement, organizational performance, and business strategy, observes that there are four basic types of stress you should look out for in the workplace.
1. Time stress
Time stress occurs when you worry too much about time or the lack of it. You fear that you have too much to do and not nearly enough time to do it. Things like deadlines, meetings and business trips distress you because you feel like you may not be able to achieve them due to time constrain. This stress makes you feel anxious and unhappy and in the worst cases trapped and helpless.
Employ better time management skills to deal with this type of stress, including using To-Do lists and Action Programs. Also, prioritize your tasks to manage time stress. Prioritizing means doing the most important or urgent tasks first and then turning to the less important tasks.
2. Situational stress
Situational stress occurs when you find yourself in a frightening or distressing situation that you have no control over, such as an accident emergency. In the workplace, situational stress often manifests itself as conflict or status tussles among workmates. This type of stress may also occur if you are laid off or publicly criticized by your boss for a mistake you made.
Adopt a positive approach to conflict resolution whenever you find yourself in a scary situation that you have no control over. For example, be more courteous and non-confrontational in heated discussions. Also, focus on issues rather than on individuals and try and be more self-aware to recognise when you are getting too charged in conflicts. Keep in mind that conflict may be a major source of situational stress, but it is also a major opportunity for learning and growth.
3. Encounter stress
Encounter stress happens when you worry about meeting or interacting with certain persons or group of people. You want to avoid these people because they make you feel overwhelmed or drained whenever you meet them for different reasons, such as they are uncivil, unpredictable or you just don't like them.
Work on your people skills to ensure you play well with others and to avoid "contact overload," including developing patience for others and learning to say "no."
4. Anticipatory stress
Anticipatory stress occurs when you worry about what will happen in the future. For example, preparing for an upcoming presentation can be more stressful than the actual presentation itself. Similarly, waiting for a job interview call back can be more stressful than the interview itself. This dread of what will happen causes anticipatory stress, which can leave you unable to sleep, eat and generally terrified.
Try positive visualization and imagine the situation you dread going right for you. This can help to relieve some of the worry. You can also try meditation to focus on what is happening right now as opposed to an imagined future. Just remember that what you dread does not have to play out as you imagine. Things can go right for you in the end.