Is your job killing you?
I often wonder if work has always been so stressful or if it is a new phenomenon? Was the concept of work meant to be so challenging? If we examine Adam, the first man in the Bible that got a job, he didn’t seem to have it so bad: he had a workplace, a good boss that gave him instructions and the freedom to do the job. He even had family and work life balance. Isn’t that all you need? Not so in today’s world. People’s jobs are so stressful that they take a toll on their total wellbeing – body, mind, and spirit.
What are some signs that your job is stressing you out?
Do you have trouble sleeping on a regular basis? Do you need to take medication or perform certain rituals to get to sleep? Typically I find people have difficulty sleeping when there is a lot on their mind. People, especially in management, tend to lose sleep over vexing situations at work, a solution that eludes them, an impression they feel they need to make, a deal they need to close. Usually, there is some pressure to perform and in the stillness of the night is when the mind can be most active. I find that keeping a notebook – or some prefer putting notes in their smartphone or creating a draft email – helps to get the swirling thoughts on paper so the mind can rest. If it is a deeper issue, then other steps will need to be taken to address the root cause of the negativity being experienced.
Fear and anxiety
These two tormentors tend to go together, wreaking havoc on a person’s psyche and body. Physical manifestations of fear and anxiety can be sweating, shaking, nervousness, upset stomach, diarrhea, palpitations, racing heart, nausea, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, sleeplessness, and elevated blood pressure. It is important to get a grip on what is making you afraid or anxious and address it. Oftentimes is the fear of losing one’s job. Is it really the loss of the job or the impact that the job loss will have: like being able to pay bills, taking care of one’s responsibilities, and maintaining a desired lifestyle. If that is the cause of fear, address it. Start looking for something else and leave when the time is right. This is the time to be wise and strategic, not emotional and irrational. Sometimes the anxiety is caused by people that defame or demean you, or make the workplace hostile. Unless those relationships can be addressed and restored, time will tell who will have to move before too much damage is done.
Digestive and heart problems
Workplace stress can cause digestive issues. I remember dealing with acid reflux and high blood pressure during a very stressful time of my life at work and home. I didn’t even know that acid reflux caused a dry cough so I went to the doctor for this nagging cough that I soon was informed was a result of the acid rising in my throat. I had to change my diet completely but also had to deal with the things that were causing me stress. My blood pressure was through the roof and my doctor wanted me to start medication to regulate it. I knew I had to change my circumstances and I did not want a lifestyle of taking medications to suppress what was happening in me and around me. Addressing the stress and making lifestyle changes solved those problems for me and I’ve never had them since.
Depression and hopelessness
People can get stressed to the point that it feels that there is no hope in their situation. They not only become resigned to it but feel so lost that they get overwhelmed by depression and even become suicidal. Hopelessness can also be attached to loneliness or isolation, when people feel misunderstood and alone, that no one understands their plight or can help. It is important to take these two emotions very seriously so that you can seek help. As coworkers and managers we should pay attention to signs of depression and suicidal thoughts – like comments about dying or no reason to live, changes in demeanor, behavior or habits. There are always signs and if we are not qualified to help, we can report abnormal behavior and show concern. Even though it may seem insurmountable, nothing ever is and you are never alone. Sometimes all we need is someone who can help us to think through the situation and find solutions that are realistic and achievable.
When worry turns into paranoia, it appears that everything that happens is occurring because of evil intent. While this may not be the case, this is how it feels to the paranoid person. Paranoia makes you suspicious, fearful or thinking the worst about every decision or every action taken at work is a plot to destroy you. We must be careful that we are not creating our own reality because of low self-esteem, unresolved hurt, feelings of inadequacy or jealousy. This negative mindset will cause you to misinterpret actions that were not intended the way you perceive it. If in fact you can see that you are being treated unfairly at work, then there should be ways to address that with management or Human Resources.
A senior executive when asked what to do in challenging work situations said, “Always remember it is only a job!” He is right. It is only a job. Don’t let it kill you. Keep everything in perspective and know that nothing is so overwhelming that it can’t be resolved, even if you have to leave.
- Simmone L. Bowe, MSc, SPHRi, is a seasoned human resource and organization development consultant & trainer, speaker, author, mentor, and activist who focuses on helping business owners, leaders and professionals diagnose their people and performance problems and implement strategic solutions. For comments, queries and bookings, email firstname.lastname@example.org.