Workplace Stress & Anxiety: The Impact on Personal Health, Family, Productivity & More
What is at stake, when stress strikes? Read on to understand why stress management is so crucial for you to be the best version of yourself, at home, at work, and everywhere in between.
At times life can get busy, making us stressed and tired. And with increasing everyday demands, comes the need for taking action in a timely manner with the right support network. As a Psychotherapist, I have helped many clients deal with workplace stress and anxiety through balanced and holistic approaches to healthy living (what I also call a "body, mind & spirit check-in").
“Wellness is not the absence of illness but rather the way you respond and attend to physical and psychological needs now.”
Maintaining a work-life balance is hard. Sometimes, you just can't do it all.
Speaking of relationships and family, parenting, work responsibilities, etc. — spending time on each of these comes at a cost. Having a family is a blessing and a job — a privilege; which requires a sense of responsibility, belonging and purpose.
With life, change and transitions are inevitable, pushing our human envelope to what I call the "mental health & wellness structural limits." Of which happens on a daily basis and for the most part; resulting in what we casually term as being "busy, stressed and tired". It doesn't have to be this way. Stress management is extremely important for your personal well-being.
Navigating and maneuvering through the demands of today while meeting individual or family needs (especially for new parents), with everyday expectations; such as in our respective careers or school project requires more than superman powers. No wonder the negative ripple effects, given the job workload while juggling family needs such as a kid's soccer game or your daughter's dance lesson, and I haven't mentioned hockey training routines, piano lessons and traffic delays, maintaining a tidy household and making nutritious meals for the whole family.
Addressing workplace stress starts with asking yourself some serious questions
Often, when starting a course of therapy, either in-person or through online consultations, I ask my clients from individual, couples and corporate wellness training programs, as well as front-line staff workshops and engagements a series of questions to help them identify their issues, and to understand their workplace stress & anxiety level, as well as the impact on personal health. I encourage everyone to ask themselves these questions and answer honestly:
- What is your style of coping when under stress?
- Where are you on the stress trajectory (on a scale of 1-10)?
- How would you rate yourself on the stress scale at home and in the workplace?
Since we all cope differently in various situations and with life demands, understanding your style of stress management best starts from none other than building your personal "self-awareness." This is the foundation for the self-care and regulation portion of my workplace stress management course. My self-care and self-regulation rule is simple: know a bit of your self and care for those around you.
With both self-awareness and self-care, comes the understanding of how to respond effectively. Together, we work on communicating those needs in a timely manner. Having an understanding of how we deal with what happens, other than the stress itself, is what matters. How you respond to stress includes both an understanding of how one's body reacts and the associated sensations, as well as what one does after they have experienced the stress.
People are becoming more stressed
According to the Canadian community health survey (2014), 22.3% males (2.8 million) and 23.7% females (3.2 million) reported most days were a bit or extremely stressful. The main reasons associated with the stress were career and family responsibilities. The stress can especially build up for expatriates and people that have to travel often overseas for work, and those that face discrimination in the workplace for various reasons, including their gender or sexual orientation (the LGBT community reportedly is more likely to face discrimination in the workplace).
“When two elephants fight, the grass suffers indeed.” Your valuable relationships and finding balance as well as juggling multiple aspects of life in terms of 'needs' may pull you in two opposing directions. In this case, family members or relationship stakeholders become the grass underneath the fighting elephants. As a resulting factor, one may feel overwhelmed with family and work demands increasing; resulting in difficulties expressing one's internal emotions. At such a crucial moment, being able to express one's needs or seeking support and reaching out is essential. If no action is taken, the effects of prolonged stress overtime may pose a threat to either the relationships that you've nurtured for years or miscommunication getting in the way, or even cause depression. Not addressing your emotional needs can also cause you to lose productivity at work and lead to physical issues, including headaches and body pain.
We all have personal needs, but so do our families.
For couples, vulnerability is where both partners slowdown and look in each other's eyes but mostly, be reminded that they have each other's love and back. Be reminded of the gift of life and shared memories during the morning rush to drop the kids at school and hit the office as expected.
Reach out to your colleagues for help
Speaking of workplace stress, reaching out for support or help from either a colleague, supervisor and management isn't a sign of performance and productivity weakness, but rather strength and care in what you do. This is what I call being truly human and vulnerable enough. When one stretches out a hand, seeking support and connection rather than isolation and self-destruction as a coping strategy in times of need, transitions and professional expectation trials, can even strengthen relationships. There is an ever rapidly growing field in workplace therapy and increasing the emotional intelligence of teams, including Acceptance Behavioral Therapy (ACT).
When we don't have a safe space to express our needs accordingly, our health, relationships and professions are put at risk.
And I haven't mentioned how the stress impacts your job performance and productivity negatively, as well as puts a damper socially and on national economic growth or the cost to our healthcare systems in the long run. A sense of community and belonging & speaking out about mental health in the workplace
Despite the demands of life and work, transitions and change will continue to be presenting factors in how we live but also, calling each and everyone one of us to adopt, respond and act. Research has shown links between social connection and health outcomes, and there is a broad range of definitions on what defines wellness and mental well-being.
As we look at ways in mitigating the impacts of stress on the self, families and communities; we must rethink the basics of who we are meant to be as human beings.
A sense of connection and community belonging embodies the social attachment of individuals, and reflects both social engagement and participation within communities (Statistics Canada by Ross Nancy, 2002). It’s a no-brainer, for we are social beings. And according to attachment studies and understanding; from our infancy to the adult attachment needs, we all continue to reach for connection and need the support of loved ones—especially in vulnerable situations. Thank goodness, what a vibrant and multicultural city I live in—Toronto! Every year in Toronto, and I must add, in the beaches and east end of Toronto; we celebrate life and community but more so; a great sense of belonging. Be it at Woodbine Beach or in the small neighborhoods such as my Orchard Park Blvd annual street party.
Every day, you and me should be on a lookout for the "shooting star moments" in our lives and those around; in order to stay rejuvenated.
This is when one slows down and pays attention to the neighbor; other than the iPhone but above all; listens and feels. Pausing to kiss goodbye your loved one at the airport or your son before the school bell rings goes beyond 'rushing'. I truly mean, looking in the eyes of your child before and giving them your undivided attention can go a long way. Instead of the "drop-off and rush", chasing your own tail—the never-ending mystery.
"Never enough" as we strive in a rush to "making it", as we call it, in order to secure the future; despite not being rest-assured in the moment. Yet the everlasting 'shooting star moments' are irreplaceable. Because, these are the times when we really connect, feel and express our deep emotions beyond the vulnerability or fear—being truly human within and around others, which is craved the most by any human being—love. Holding the hand or extending a touch of comfort to another, reassures them of your presence amid your anticipated absence.
Words of empowerment & encouragement
Be it at home, at school, on the bus or with a workmate; look for those 'shooting star moments'—for we are created for connection and a sense of Ubuntu resides in us. Remember to eat, sleep, connect and laugh; for it's important to work from a place of rest than taking rest from work for being stressed or tired.
Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any question, for any move starts with that first step!
More on work life balance
If you would like to learn more about how to approach and establish a healthy work life balance, see this article. As a mental health & clinical psychotherapist, Noah Mugenyi's experience includes working at the Michael Garron Hospital (formerly Toronto East General Hospital WMS), The Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work (CCRW), TDSB, Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, The Royal Canadian Yacht Club before serving as current clinical director at Toronto East Psychotherapy. Find out more about him on his RingMD profile (here) where you can also contact him directly.
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