As inevitable as death and taxes, occupational stress has become the new normal for most Americans. It could be considered a major workplace health hazard. Merriam-Webster defines stress as “a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation . . . that tends to alter an existent equilibrium.”
Daily stress at work can lead to everything from actual physical illnesses and injury to substance abuse and depression. A Michigan public health study concluded that poorly managed anger (which is a common result of ongoing stress) can lead to a 2.5 times higher risk of death from heart disease.
Stress will always be a part of life. How we deal with occupational stress can change our health for the better or worse.
Our bodies are geared for a fight or flight response to stressors that resolve or finish quickly. Most occupational stress in today’s modern work environment is prolonged and rarely takes a break. Your body’s response that is meant to be short-term (increased heartbeat and respiration, increase in adrenaline and other hormones, etc.) becomes more long-term and just adds fuel to the fire.
Causes of work stress
Anything that puts pressure on or challenges our physical or mental systems can be a stressor. Because of that, the list of possible causes can get rather long. When it comes to the workplace, there are a number of physical, mental, and chemical factors that are most commonly cited:
- A feeling of being overwhelmed or overloaded
- Poor ergonomics (posture, station, etc.)
- Poor lighting, heating, ventilation
- Lack of control over how work is done
- Lack of adequate rest
- Job insecurity
- Discrimination or harassment
- A feeling of helplessness
- Lack of recognition or respect
- Disproportionate pay for the level of work/skill
- Physical or emotional isolation
- Lack of advancement opportunities
- Overtime or odd hours
- Unreasonable deadlines
- Inconsistent demands
- Physical danger
- Lack of training
- Repetitive activity
- Always feeling rushed
- Poor nutrition
- Substance abuse
Physical stressors like poor posture and ergonomics, repetitive motions, and injury and even emotional stressors often cause subluxation in the spine. This compression of the nervous system can affect many areas of your health since every system in your body is dependent on it.
Keep an eye out for the warning signs of work-related stress so you can head off more serious problems before they cause too much trouble. Here are some:
Physical signs of stress
- Increase in blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Muscle tension (Get A Free Muscle Tension Scan)
- Frequent sickness
- Chronic pain
- Decrease in energy
- Low libido
- Shedding hair
Emotional signs of stress
- Concentration and memory problems
- Compulsive behavior
- Mood swings
- Low libido
The long-term effects of occupational stress can be disastrous and even deadly. High blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems, cardiovascular disease, and psychological disorders are just a sampling of the many ways it can affect your overall health and well-being.
Identifying what may be contributing to your personal stress load and understanding how it is affecting you is the first step toward eliminating it or dealing with it in a healthy way. With all the information available, trying to figure out how to deal with your stress load can become a stressor in and of itself. The four-step process below can help you clear out anything that may not apply and zero in on your unique situation.
Investigate – Identify the factors contributing to your personal stress load.
Eliminate – Get rid of any stress factors whenever it is possible.
Mitigate – When you can’t eliminate a factor completely, what can you do to diminish its impact?
Alleviate – Actively seek out ways to defuse the stress.
Ways to reduce stress at work
Let’s say you’ve identified poor work station ergonomics as a physical stress factor for you. Can you eliminate this problem by switching to an adjustable sit–stand desk and making your whole work-space more ergonomic? If so, then great! If not, how can you mitigate the situation?
Maybe you can’t spring for a new fancy desk, but you can adjust your chair and monitor and plan in some micro-breaks for stretching. Good chiropractic care, and maybe a massage on occasion, can help alleviate any residual physical stress. You can also never go wrong by being more intentional about adding some exercise and getting a full night’s sleep.
The sheer business of modern lifestyles also plays a part in our overall stress levels. Stress from work can often flow over into our off hours making it difficult to fully relax. Immersing yourself in a creative hobby or interest and making time for just enjoying life and loved ones is an excellent way to help shed some work stress.
Chiropractic care for stress
Chiropractic care is unique because it seeks to treat the whole person. By combining the various elements of chiropractic care, we can help you identify stress factors and alleviate the adverse physical and emotional effects of stress. Gentle adjustments to your spine and joints can release pinched nerves and improve blood circulation. It can also help relax the body. Correcting a spinal misalignment helps your central nervous system to function correctly so that communication between your body and your brain is more effective. This translates to clearer thinking and a reduction in emotional and mental stress.
Are you feeling the effects of occupational stress? Take control of your health and make an appointment today
**Are you the Human Resources Director, Benefits Coordinator or Ergonomics Specialist for a small, medium or large size corporation? Then Sign up here for a free 10 day trial of our Corporate Wellness portal for information and tutorials that can help guide you to your perfect workstation set up or watch this video: “How To Set Up Your Computer Desk and Ergonomic Chair Properly.”