What Makes You Vulnerable to Work-Related Stress?
Monday morning, you get to the office and you already have a ton of paperwork to do. And on days when that isn’t the case, your boss is in a bad mood, or your coworkers have already made things complicated, and you’ve been left with a ton of extra work to do.
You start to get more nervous and anxious because you can’t get all your projects up and running, or because you think they’re going to assign you all the work that no one else wants to do. You feel stuck and overwhelmed and enter into crisis mode. Finally, you don’t know quite how, but you’re able to complete everything. But then the next day comes and you suffer a new setback that gives you even more stress.
“Real difficulties can be overcome; it is only the imaginary ones that are unconquerable.”
-Theodore N. Vail-
Work-related stress is a set of emotional, cognitive, physiological, and behavioral reactions to adverse or harmful aspects of the content, organization, or environment of your job. By cognitive reactions, we mean the thoughts or internal dialogue that run through your head. Physiological reactions refer to changes in your body, such as an increase in heart rate.
Stress is a part of adapting to the demands of your work environment. At first it helps you manage these demands, but it becomes a problem when it interferes with your performance and produces high levels of agitation and anxiety. The situation is overwhelming and you feel like you can’t deal with it.
Whether you suffer from this kind of stress or not depends on a bunch of different factors, including situations that depend on the business and the work environment. But there are also some personal characteristics that can make you more vulnerable to work-related stress. Knowing what they are will help you manage and prevent it.
“Stress is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there.'”
Job characteristics that produce stress
There are many organizational factors that can produce stress. These include schedules, shifts, physical conditions, salary, associated risks, role ambiguity, and hierarchy, among others.
If the job requires you to maintain a fast pace or a high level of attention for more than half the workday, it is more likely to produce stress. The same is true if the tasks are very repetitive for more than half the workday.
If your job is by shift, this could also influence the appearance of stress. The sectors that are most commonly associated with this phenomenon are the health, veterinary, social services, transportation, communications, public administration, and education sectors.
A study done by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) in 2012 and 2013 reported the following as triggers of work stress:
- Job insecurity or workforce reorganization
- Long hours and heavy workload
- Workplace harassment or intimidation
- Lack of support from coworkers or superiors
- Little control over workplace rules
It’s great to know what the work environment characteristics are that influence stress. But if you’re just one more employee, it’s difficult to do anything to change it, unless you work in the human resources department. So now we’re going to look at the personal factors that can influence work-related stress as well, so that you can remedy the situation.
For example, if you’re highly perfectionistic and ambitious, you’re more likely to suffer from work stress. This is also the case if you get too involved in your job and put in too much effort. Keep in mind that, in the right amount, these characteristics don’t have to be harmful.
“One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.”
Also, if you’re incapable of relaxing or if you’re always tense, you get stressed more easily. This also happens if you depend on others to make decisions, don’t trust your abilities, or tend to perceive your surroundings as threatening.
But there are also other influencing characteristics. If you’re introverted, in such a way that you don’t utilize your social supports, your work situation is going to affect you more. If you’re rigid, you’re more likely to have conflicts, which makes you more prone to stress. This can also lead you to have poor lifestyle habits and nutrition.
If you see one of these characteristics in yourself, don’t worry about it. If you become aware of them, you can work to improve them. This way, you can make your work life easier and avoid work-related stress and all of its negative consequences.
Images courtesy of Ryan McGuire