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The 7 reasons you’re stressed out at work — and how to fix them

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Once you identify them, you can treat them.

The term “stress” is used to describe the physiological and psychological tension created by the demands of our environment (stressors), which create an unpleasant emotional reaction. At work, it’s difficult not to fall victim to stress due to frequent situations that create moments of tension. Employees experience workplace stress for various reasons, but in general terms, it happens when their work makes more demands on them than they can manage comfortably.

Stressed workers begin to suffer emotional and physical exhaustion, to the detriment not only of themselves, but also of their immediate environment and their productivity, which suffers due to the resulting lack of motivation.

Some of the most frequent causes of workplace stress:

1. The boss

Being a boss isn’t necessarily the same thing as being a leader. A boss who is a true leader organizes work in such a way that his workers can make the most of their abilities, without reaching a critical point of stress. If, on the contrary, you see that your boss behaves with anxiety or aggression, just focus on your own responsibilities, without reacting to provocations.

2. Bad planning of work distribution and deadlines

Many companies distribute tasks poorly, and as a consequence, some workers have it very easy while others are overloaded. Hand in hand with workers being overloaded with work, goes the fact of having to finish tasks while working against the clock. Tight deadlines elevate the body’s levels of cortisol, the hormone that causes stress. That increases our anxiety, diminishing our capacity to solve problems.

3. Facial expressions

Yes, although you might not believe it, an angry or grumpy face can influence the emotional environment of an office. Fortunately, a smiling face also has an influence. According to researchers from the University of Kansas, a smile helps us to feel better after a stressful episode.

4. The weight of responsibility

People who are in charge of teams or who, if they make a single mistake, could disturb entire chain of work processes, have a high level of responsibility, which can lead to them feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. Workers who need to be totally and constantly concentrated during long periods of time, or who receive constant complaints, can also become mentally exhausted and end up stressed by their work.

5. Bad coworkers

A coworker who is an egoist and/or bad-humored is bad for you. According to studies carried out at the University of California, bad humor or a negative mood can be contagious, just as a physical ailment can be. According to studies published in Psychological Science, if we are smiling when we are faced with stressors, it reduces the intensity of our organism’s response, which means that it will be easier for us to stay calm.

6. Lighting

Inadequate lighting in an office can cause eye strain, tiredness, headaches, and of course, stress. Try to work in areas where there is abundant natural light.

7. Environment and noise

According to health studies by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a plant doesn’t only make our work environment more welcoming; it also improves air quality. Various studies show that contact with plants — outdoors or indoors — reduces stress and increases productivity. Also, 25 percent of people suffer from anxiety stress as the result of noise. If you are in an office where there is a lot of movement and not much space, you might try using earphones with relaxing music to reduce your exposure to loud sounds that could disturb you.

According to publications in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, the blame for our stress doesn’t always lie with our boss or our environment; there is also a genetic factor that determines our ability to control stress. Generally speaking, the causes of workplace stress aren’t limited to just one factor, but rather are the result of a combination of various factors, which makes the problem more serious and more complicated. Also, not all people react the same way to stressors; consequently, situations that could cause a high level of stress for one person, might result in very low stress — or even none at all — for someone else. Therefore, it’s important to study the situation and analyze the causes of workplace stress so as to take the most effective countermeasures. 

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