Why Mental Health Matters at Work–Stress in the Workplace

The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

Main Physiological Reactions to Stress

Approximately more than 25% of Americans would describe themselves as “super-stressed.”  Stress-related issues are continuously rising and can adversely affect how people think, act, and react, which can compromise not only our health and productivity, but also our safety.

Often a healthy work-life balance seems impossible with juggling heavy workloads, managing relationships, family responsibilities, and fitting in social activities. The stressors in our daily life can be hard to turn off and keep us in a constant state of stress.

While some stress is normal, if our bodies stay in a constant state of stress for too long, we can develop or worsen health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease and decreased immune system. Too much stress can also lead to substance abuse and serious mental health problems, like depression and anxiety disorders.

If we’re experiencing excessive stress in the workplace it can make the difference between success or failure. Common stress related symptoms include anxiety, frustration, poor judgment, memory lapses and difficulty concentrating or making decisions that can translate into burnout, accidents, injuries and other mishaps on the job. Ignoring safety procedures or not using proper safety gear is just one example of how stress may interfere with our behavior and cause workplace safety problems. Stress in the workplace hurts your productivity and takes a serious toll on your mind and body.

Stress is a costly problem in the workplace
Working and juggling the demands of career and personal life will probably be an ongoing challenge. Finding a healthy work-life balance isn’t a one-shot deal and is a continuous process. It’s extremely important to manage our stress level to keep our mental health in check. Periodically take a look at your priorities and, if necessary, make changes to ensure you’re keeping on track.

Are you stressed?  Take a stress test

Even making small changes in your daily life can greatly help manage every day stress and will help you find that healthy balance between home, work, and social activities which are essential for getting a handle on stress and feeling good about life. Learn how to manage stress better and live life well with these tips:

  1. Connect with others
  2. Stay positive
  3. Get physically active
  4. Help others
  5. Get enough sleep
  6. Create joy and satisfaction
  7. Eat well
  8. Take care of your spirit
  9. Deal better with hard times
  10. Get professional help if you need it
  11. Take the stress out of your commute

If your life feels too chaotic to manage and you’re spinning your wheels worrying about it, it’s time to seek help.  Who should you contact for help?Employee Assistance Program

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Stress in the Workplace Activity

Stress in Workplace

Fact: Cookies, snacks, and short presentation all help reduce stress.

Workplace stress is a common part of interacting with customers. In our case customers include our colleagues, vendors, students, parents, and even community members.

The key is how we handle stress under pressure. We need to be able to maintain our composure while serving our wide variety/range of customers. Using established best practices and techniques, we can deescalate others people’s emotions and focus on the facts to work towards a resolution.

Stress in Workplace

Participants getting into character (stressed employee, neutral third party, and upset customer).

The Financial Aid department interacts frequently with students and family members who have concerns regarding their financial aid. In some cases the conversations become emotionally charged and responding in a calm and effective manner is the key to transitioning towards the next step. Most recently this department took advantage of a collaborative group workshop, where they learned techniques to handle stress in the workplace.

Stress in Workplace

Using simple techniques, the situation was quickly deescalated.

Common Techniques Include:

  • Acknowledge person’s emotion and describe impact
  • Invite person to share thoughts and feelings
  • Determine whether continuing conversation is appropriate
  • Listen to understand
  • Probe to uncover underlying issues
  • Help the person move on
  • Tag a team member
  • Avoid internalizing emotions
  • Reach for fish in tackle box (personal method used by Financial Aid staff member)
Stress in Workplace

The happiest (and stress-free) department at Green River!

If any department is curious about beginning this same conversation or collaborative group activity, feel free to contact training@greenriver.edu.