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Stress At Work: Taking Control Of It May Begin With You


Researchers are finding work stress can contribute to physical and mental health problems.

Dr. Jacqui Stephens,  director of Behavioral Health & Social Services Community Oriented Primary Care at Parkland Hospital System, defines stress as situations where you perceive demands and pressure greater than you have the resources to deal with. 

In KERA's consumer health series, Vital Signs, she says some of the biggest work stressors are within our control.

Identifying the stress

Stephens says the following are the types of on-the-job stress she sees most often:

  • Work load and expectations
  • Relationship issues with your boss or co-workers
  • Work-life balance
  • Lack of job security

Work stress not only causes a person to feel irritable, anxious, or depressed, but it can also manifest itself in physical symptoms, such as fatigue, headaches or digestive issues.
Any kind of physical symptoms can indicate you’re having job stress,” she says. “It is really incumbent on you to take care of yourself and to figure out what [you] need to do.”

That may mean evaluating whether your job is right for you.

You need to find a job you want to get up for most mornings.

“If you find yourself that you’re not wanting to go into the office, that you’re dreading it, it’s time to either look for something else or start to really look at what you need to change,” Stephens says.

Controlling the situation

Managing job stress doesn’t mean turning in the pink slip if the situation is something you can control, such as dealing with relationships with the boss or coworkers.

You really have to start thinking about what role are you playing in whatever the difficulty is,” Stephens advises. “That’s what you have to most control over.”

Talking over the situation with a coworker or boss may seem intimidating, but Stephens says the outcome tends to be better if you offer a solution to the problem up front.

“That feels like you’re saying ‘Let’s look at this together’ versus ‘What’re you gonna do about this, boss?’”   

Why stress causes physical problems

“What happen for you emotionally impacts you physically,” she says. “If you’ve got a chronic illness and you are in a stressful situation, it’s going to aggravate that illness.”

Stevens says that people under stress tend to be less attentive to their health and may forgo taking medication or exercise.  

“When you start having difficulties in one area or the other, it’s going to impact your entire life.”

For more information:

CDC Report on Stress at Work

Amerian Psychological Association: Ways to Manage Stress