Work, Stress and Health

By Donna Tosches, LCSW, CEAP

Surprise – Americans are stressed at work.

2007 nationwide poll by the American Psychological Association shows that three quarters of Americans list work as a significant source of stress. More than half of those surveyed point out that they have suffered a decrease in their work productivity because of stress. Here are more statistics that illustrate the financial, physical and emotional toll of stress on the employee and the workplace:

• Health care expenditures are nearly 50% greater for workers who report high levels of stress. -Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
• Workers who must take time off work because of stress, anxiety, or a related disorder will be off the job for about 20 days. -Bureau of Labor Statistics
• Mental disease, including stress-related disorders, will be the second leading cause of disabilities by the year 2020. -The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Burden of Disease Survey
• Stress is the cause of 80 to 85 percent of all human illness and disease. Each week, more than 90 million Americans suffer some kind of stress-related symptom for which they take medication. -The American Medical Association

If you are experiencing stress at work, here’s the good news – clearly you are not alone. And the better news is that there are ways to increase your resilience so you are feeling stronger and happier. Resilience is the ability to successfully adapt to changes and events. Being resilient means staying emotionally healthy during the ups and downs of daily life.

Here are steps you can take right now to increase your resilience and reduce stress:

1. Nurture your Health and Well Being
Exercise at least 3 times per week for 20 minutes
Eat a balanced diet; limit alcohol and caffeine
Sleep (at least 6-8 hours per night)
Engage in activities that you find enjoyable
Get up and walk around your work place – are you able to take ten minutes and go outside?

2. Positive Self Talk and Behavior
Focus on the things you can control
Manage your exposure to negative experiences/negative people
Remember that events are neutral – it is our internal response that induces stress
Reduce your internal catastrophic messages, i.e. “Is this day EVER GOING TO END?” Instead say – “The day will end, as does every day and I will be just fine.”

3. Make Healthy Connections
Maintain healthy relationships in all areas of your life
Identify 3 things you are grateful for at the end of each day
Keep a written list of your personal strengths to remind yourself of your unique gifts
Keep a positive connection with your religious practices

4. Active Approach to Problem Solving
Define the real problem based on what you can control
Identify the outcome you’d like and generate options to reach the outcome
Select the option that seems best and act to make it happen

Remember – things will not change unless we change something! If you would like support in building your resilience and following the plan outlined above, give the Living Well Network a call at 901-762-8558. We provide free, confidential telephone assessment and will connect you to existing resources in the community. You can reduce your stress and increase your resilience today!

Donna Tosches, LCSW, CEAP is the Director of the Dennis H. Jones Living Well Network and the Methodist Healthcare Employee Assistance Program.