The job-stress epidemic and how to deal with it

Stressed Employee

Stress is a part of life and limited amounts can play a beneficial role, pushing people to improvement and excellence. But let’s face it, businesses in today’s world need to meet deliverables and be efficient, creating pressures that often result in high-stress environments. 

CareerCast.com has been conducting polls related to US-worker job-stress for years now, and their most recent was conducted in March 2019. The poll has two significant takeaways:

  • A vast majority of Americans report high levels of work-related stress: 78% of those polled rated their job-related stress levels at 7 or higher out of 10.
  • Work-related stress in America was already high in 2017, when 68% rated their levels at 7 of 10 or higher. 

So, this new poll tells us that it’s only getting worse.

The American worker is over-stressed, and it’s worth noting that the stress of a job doesn’t end when exiting the workplace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average employed US adult between the ages of 25 and 54 spends just over 40 hours a week at work. On top of this, the average commute is now nearly an hour a day. Further, many people dwell mentally on their workplace issues after they’ve physically gone home for the day or weekend. In other words, uncontrolled job-related stress can have far-reaching consequences on an employee’s well-being. 

When stress levels are constantly spiking, it can easily become a burden that demands relief, and many employees find themselves searching for it with food, alcohol, or tobacco. The negative consequences on health and productivity can be devastating. Stress is also a major known factor in sleep problems, which also negatively impact health and workplace performance. Stress is like the Giving Tree of unhealthy behaviors and comorbidities, bearing fruit as long as it remains out-of-control and untreated. 

So, what’s the best way for an employer to deal with the issue of job stress?

At first blush, it may seem like the best thing to do would be to improve working conditions. However, the data tells us that the most commonly cited cause of workplace stress, at 38%, was “meeting deadlines.” So, what can an employer do? Stop creating deadlines? Not a good idea … deadlines are a necessary part of almost every functioning business. 

The answer is not to try to eliminate stress from the workplace, because that isn’t even possible. Instead, help employees change the way they react to stress by retraining their brain’s habitual, impulsive reaction to the recurring stressful situations they face on a regular—probably daily—basis. 

The reality is that the human brain is both smart and efficient. When we repeatedly think about and respond to certain substances or situations a certain way, the subconscious part of the brain eventually stores it as a habit. Once the habit has been formed, the brain no longer needs to “think”—it can simply react. 

In other words, when an employee is put in a stressful situation—such as being given a tight deadline—their brain reacts with the same thoughts, feelings, and behaviors they have unwittingly taught it to respond with over the years.

This explains why some employees are resilient enough to quickly bounce back from virtually any situation while others become easily overwhelmed and unproductive at the first signs of stress.

The SelfHelpWorks stress and resiliency course, LivingEasy, is a self-guided 8-session online class that guides participants to an entirely new and empowered way to take control of the specific stressors and feelings of stress that burden them most. 

The early sessions of the LivingEasy course allow the participant to realize their own brain’s trained, reflexive response to their main stressor. This trained response is almost always one that creates a sense of victimhood, of disempowerment. As the course continues, the response is gradually uprooted and replaced with a new and empowering one. The stressful situation that was once viewed as a threat begins to shift, gradually losing its menace and becoming a mere challenge to be met and conquered.  

By the time an employee completes the LivingEasy course, they have retrained their brain and how it relates to stress. They reach high levels of resiliency and bounce back from the situations that formerly had them down-and-out. They can handle their key situations effectively and proactively, and there is no longer a need to search for relief. Sleep improves, diet improves, and work-life satisfaction sky-rockets. This is an employee who is happy at work—not free of stress, that’s impossible, but no longer crumbling under the pressure. They are now up to the challenge.

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