“Among the interesting things about stress,” says LIUNA General Secretary Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni, “is that, in moderation, it’s actually not all bad. It can help you stay focused. The problem is that stress can easily become overwhelming, which can undermine job performance and wellbeing. It is essential to find healthy ways to manage stress so that it does not become detrimental to your health or your career.”
What is stress?
Stress is the body’s reaction to life’s events and demands. Promotions and layoffs and weddings and funerals have one thing in common: they disrupt equilibrium. Perceiving this as a threat, the body’s defense system kicks in. A burst of adrenaline makes you breathe quicker, your heart pump harder and your blood pressure rise. This is the “fight-or-flight” response. It causes an increase in energy, awareness and focus that is key to surviving danger and getting to the top of your game.
Stress is a normal response, but it can easily climb to damaging levels that affect mood, personal relationships and work productivity. Stress contributes to an array of illnesses including high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. It can also cause headaches, stomach problems and depression.
In today’s sluggish economy with the added likelihood of budget cuts and layoffs, ample opportunities exist for high stress levels to develop. An American Psychological Association (APA) survey finds that more than one third of workers feel tense or stressed out.
Stressed workers call in sick more often than those who are not. When they are on the job, they are more likely to be fatigued. This increases the likelihood for costly mistakes and injuries. According to the American Institute of Stress, stress-related conditions and behaviors cost employers $300 billion every year.
Employers can reduce workplace stress by:
- Ensuring that workloads are in line with workers’ capabilities and resources
- Designing jobs to provide meaning and stimulation
- Clearly defining workers’ roles and responsibilities
- Giving workers opportunities to participate in decisions and actions affecting their jobs
- Improving communication
- Providing opportunities for social interaction
Employees can reduce workplace stress by:
- Recognizing when they don’t have control, and letting it go
- Focusing on what makes them feel calm and in control
- Setting realistic goals
- Seeing if they have access to a Member Assistance Program (MAP)
Stress can’t always be avoided, but it doesn’t have to control your life. Make time to unwind: take a walk, read, visit a friend. Also get enough sleep, exercise regularly, reduce caffeine and sugar and eat a healthy diet.
On and off the job, you will be more productive and you will feel better.
The LHSFNA’s Health Promotion Division offers a workshop on stress management in the workplace. For more information, call 202-628-5465.
[Janet Lubman Rathner]