Stress in the Workplace

  • Published: Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020

One of the buzzwords of the last decade is stress. That rings especially true for 2020. But stress can be difficult to define. The way we perceive and subsequently deal with that stress ultimately affects our overall health. Most people tend to focus on stress as something negative. But stress is not always harmful. In fact, research shows that healthy stress actually results in increased productivity.

The American Institute of Stress suggests two categories to help define stress. In small doses, stress is good (eustress), such as when it helps you conquer a fear or gives you extra endurance and motivation to get something done. But prolonged stress (distress), which is often caused by worries over things such as money, jobs, relationships or health, can lead to burnout. Burnout is the result of the prolonged chronic stress from situations that leave people feeling a lack of control over their lives. Certain conditions in a job can create a greater risk of burnout. These conditions include a high level of demands, unclear expectations, lack of recognition for achievements and high risk of negative consequences for mistakes.

Whether it be sudden and short or long-lasting, too much stress sets off your body’s warning system of physical and emotional alarms. There are many variables in the stress that individuals maybe dealing with, but you may frequently see these two in the workplace:

  • Acute stress. This is the type of stress that throws you off balance momentarily. It comes on quickly and often unexpectedly and doesn’t last too long, but it requires a response and shakes you up a bit, like an argument with someone in your life or a project for which you don’t feel adequately prepared.
  • Chronic stress. This is the type of stress that tends to occur on a regular basis. It may leave you feeling drained, and it can lead to burnout if it’s not effectively managed. This is because if the stress response is triggered and the body is not brought back to a relaxed state before the next wave of stress hits, the body can stay triggered indefinitely.

Your body’s stress warning signs tell you that something isn’t right, much like the “check engine” light on your car’s dashboard. If you neglect the alerts sent out by your body, you could have a major engine malfunction. Taking time to check your level of stress can lead to a longer, healthier life.

University of Missouri Extension programs focus on the high-priority needs of Missourians to improve lives, communities and economies by providing relevant, responsive and reliable educational solutions. MU Extension programs are open to all. More information on this topic is available at extension.missouri.edu.

Writer: Amy Bartels

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