Whether you work as a corporate manager, a restaurant server, a teacher, a retail worker, or – especially during the pandemic – a health-care worker, you experience stress in the workplace. It can come from any direction – a supervisor or co-worker, your workload, or trying to balance work and life – and it can hurt your health if you don’t manage it well.
The American Institute of Stress is a nonprofit corporation that researches and teaches about stress and stress management. It cites statistics that show that workplace stress is a primary source of stress for Americans – up to 80 percent of us experience it – and that it has increased dramatically in recent years. Stress can affect your physical and mental health, and some attempts at managing it can actually make things worse. Read on to learn about some of the most common sources of stress on the job and how to manage or reduce stress at work.
Common Sources of Workplace Stress
Imagine the postal carrier or package-delivery worker whose job now includes delivering hundreds of packages a week, some weighing 20-50 pounds, as Americans order everything from dog food to furniture online. Put yourself in the shoes of a restaurant worker living through the pandemic who depended on tips to help pay the bills. Perhaps you are a supervisor constantly having to make do with fewer resources, or a front-line worker who deals with angry customers. Every occupation has particular characteristics that cause stress, but there are many common sources of workplace stress:
- Insufficient pay: When you work hard but just cannot get ahead.
- Heavy workload: Whether it’s due to staff shortages or just a wildly successful business, a heavy workload can take a toll.
- Long hours: Even for people who love their work, long hours can contribute to a poor work/life balance.
- Job insecurity: Worrying about whether your job is secure can affect both your job performance and your attitude.
- Lack of control: When decisions that affect your work are made without your input.
- Poor management: Workplaces where supervisors have not had the proper training in terms of managing their staffs.
- Lack of challenge: When your work is boring and/or when there is no chance of advancement.
- Dangerous workplaces: When your work is dangerous by nature, or you feel the threat of violence in the workplace.
How to Handle Stress at Work
If you think stress is only in your mind, think again. The Mayo Clinic cites the physical effects of stress as including headaches, fatigue, an upset stomach, sleep problems, and change in sex drive. The effects on your mental health can include irritability, feeling overwhelmed, restlessness, or lack of motivation or focus. The Mayo Clinic also lists many ways we try unsuccessfully to cope with that stress (which can in turn make our health worse): overeating, alcohol or drug misuse, tobacco use, less exercise, outbursts of anger, or withdrawal from our social circle.
The American Psychological Association has conducted an annual Stress in America Survey since 2007, asking Americans about the biggest stressors in their lives. In 2017, 61 percent of respondents said that their work was a common source of stress. When asked how they managed that stress, the highest responses were “listening to music” (47 percent), “exercise or walk” (46 percent), “pray” (29 percent), and “meditation or yoga” (12 percent).
Here are some tips for how to deal with stress at work:
- Pinpoint your biggest stressors: Part of coping with stress is recognizing it and heading it off, and we don’t all react in the same way to the same things. Keep a journal for a week (yes, it’s more to do, but it will pay off) and keep track of the situations where you feel the most stressed – and how you reacted. You’ll see your patterns in a relatively short time.
- Establish boundaries that can help you: If your household is chaotic in the mornings, you probably already arrive at work in a state of stress. Try planning your mornings the night before to smooth things out. If you’re struggling with work-life balance, try to leave work at the office by not answering work email or texts at home or during set hours of the day.
- Cut down on multitasking: Some people are multitasking gurus, but many of us benefit more from handling a task start to finish and then moving on to the next. Splitting your focus among many priorities can mean you don’t do any of them well, which in turn causes more stress.
- Get exercise back into your life. You don’t have to train for a marathon or become a gym rat. The Mayo Clinic notes that even a little exercise goes a long way toward stress management. Take a walk at lunch or head to a welcoming yoga class after work. Exercise increases your endorphins, has positive effects on your cardiovascular, digestive, and immune systems, and helps with mood support.
- Check your nutrition: Someone brings donuts in the morning, we depend on caffeine all day, then the vending machine calls in the afternoon. Is this you? Are you using sugar, caffeine, and unhealthy carbs just to get through the day? Try to work on this, one snack or meal at a time.
- Teach yourself to relax: Not everyone finds relaxation easy, and most of us think it’s less important than checking more things off the to-do list. Not so. Learning to meditate or practice mindfulness can help you deal with stress throughout your work day.
- Find ways to be kind to yourself: Being a perfectionist may pay off at work, but it takes a toll on your psyche because you never feel like you’re doing enough. If you can be your own biggest fan, you’ll be surprised at the relief it brings.
- Put your playlists into action: Music can calm you down, inspire you, give you energy, and get you to move. Whether you’re revving up on your commute in, listening through earbuds at work or dancing around your home at night, music can help you combat stress.
- Avoid conflict or toxic situations: This can include gossiping, talking about money or religion or politics, or inappropriate workplace humor. It may be tempting to chime in when everyone’s chatting about these topics, but they can be minefields that end up making you feel worse.
CBD for Occasional Stress
If you are unfamiliar with CBD, it stands for cannabidiol, which is a compound found in the hemp or cannabis plant. While it’s a cousin to marijuana, CBD contains less than .3 percent of THC, is not intoxicating, and does not cause a high. (In comparison, some marijuana can contain as much as 17 to 28 percent of THC.)
CBD is used in many products today, and can help support a sense of calm when you experience occasional stress. A 2015 review published in Neurotherapeutics showed CBD to help with mood support, and a 2019 study published in The Permanente Journal showed that it has a calming effect in the central nervous system, which can also help with sleep.
Charlotte’s Web has a whole line of CBD products, including oils, creams, capsules, and gummies, designed to combat occasional stress. Here are a few that may help:
- Calm Gummies (10 mg): Take them with you to help deal with stressful workdays. Lemon balm and whole-plant hemp extract support a sense of calm.
- CBD Oil (17 mg): A good foundational oil, which comes in a dropper bottle and in four flavor options: lemon twist, orange blossom, olive oil, and mint chocolate.
- CBD Oil Capsules (15 mg): Easier to transport, get the benefit of CBD oil in capsule form, in either 30-count, 60-count, or 90-count bottles.
Interested in learning more? There are many ways that CBD products can help with the stress of everyday life. Check out these blog posts for more information Top 7 Uses and Benefits of CBD Oil, New Routines to Manage Everyday Stress, and 5 Ways to Develop a Healthy Stress Response, or contact us directly.