We all experience issues in the workplace that make us miserable—some life-changing. Getting laid off, losing out on a promotion and raise or being ordered to return to the office after relocating to another city mentally and emotionally beats you down. Many mundane annoyances build up over time, making you feel disengaged from your job and company.
Even if you work remotely, microstressors in the work environment take their toll. For many people, the daily annoyances of nitpicking bosses, micromanagers, Zoom calls that drone on too long, being stuck in commuting traffic, co-workers gossiping about you behind your back and being given dead-end assignments slowly drains you.
It can feel like a lovely summer afternoon, but then you suddenly find yourself swatting pestering gnats away. At first, it’s just a mild irritant. As the sun beats down, each little bite or buzzing in your ear puts you in a bad mood. It’s not the worst thing in the world to happen. However, over time, it starts driving you crazy. There’s a constant unrelenting buzzing with the gnats flying around, landing on your food and crawling all over your skin. It leaves you angry, annoyed, stressed and irritated. This is what work is like for most people—unabating microstressors that make you exhausted and feel like giving up.
Unrelenting Stress Is Harmful To Your Health
The American Psychological Association says that a stressful workplace leads to a multitude of health problems, including headaches, stomachaches, trouble sleeping, losing your temper and lashing out and trouble concentrating. Unrelenting stress can also cause anxiety, insomnia, and high blood pressure, weakening your immune system. When you’re burned out, there’s a risk of depression, obesity and heart disease. People in this situation sometimes turn to drugs and alcohol, which worsens the situation.
Michael E. Frisina, Ph.D., says in his book Influential Leadership: Change Your Behavior, Change Your Organization, Change Health Care, “It’s rarely the big stressors that get to us; it’s the cumulative effect of all the microstressors we face.” He summed it up by stating, “It’s like death by a thousand paper cuts.”
Identify Your Stress Triggers, Set Boundaries And Take Action
The Mayo Clinic points out that everyone responds differently to unpleasant situations. To start figuring out how to improve your work-life with coping mechanisms, try to identify your stress triggers. Over the course of a few weeks, pay close attention to the people, events, actions and other stimuli that set you off.
Once you’ve determined what causes your stress, start finding ways to resolve them. You can begin by speaking with your boss and someone in human resources. Politely and diplomatically, let them know how you feel and what’s provoking you. You want to be careful not to get involved with finger-pointing and feuding with your manager and colleagues.
The supervisor, HR, company, and yourself have one common interest. All parties want to be productive and make money for the organization and the employees. Everyone has a financial incentive to find ways to fix the situation. The company will want to avoid potential litigation if it ignores the matter and something terrible happens to the stressed worker.
Most midsize and large organizations have health benefits that include helping with mental, emotional and physical health. It may be awkward, but speak with your co-workers that are the primary cause of your anxiety.
Start establishing boundaries to protect yourself from stressors. In the current economic climate with record levels of inflation, high interest rates, escalating costs and hundreds of thousands of white-collar professionals getting laid off, many people are putting in longer hours to ensure they hold onto their job. Balance the need to be overly productive with having a quality of life outside of work. Some easy things to do are holding off on checking emails late at night and on weekends, taking breaks throughout the day, unplugging and walking away from the computer and putting down your smartphone. Negotiate with your co-workers, manager and people you collaborate with to establish reasonable expectations.
To ensure that the problem isn’t you, seek opinions from people at work that you respect. Share what you are feeling and going through, and probe if the person feels your analysis is correct or maybe there are things you need to work on to improve yourself. Getting things off your chest and out in the open is helpful and cathartic. Lean into your mentor, sponsor or coach, who can offer their perspectives.
Do things that make you happy. Use your paid time off. Take a vacation. Go away for an extended weekend. If you’re in an office, get out of your seat, go outside for a walk and take in the sunshine and fresh air. Go to the gym, out for a jog, do Yoga, meditate, practice deep-breathing exercises to destress, restart hobbies you’ve put aside and focus on family and friends.
Practice gratitude by continually reminding yourself of all the good things you have in your life. Protect yourself and walk away from a toxic person. Pause before you react. Instead of assuming the worst in people, put yourself in their shoes and think about what burdens they are dealing with.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health, suicide or substance use crisis or emotional distress, reach out 24/7 to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) by dialing or texting 988 or using chat services at suicidepreventionlifeline.org to connect to a trained crisis counselor. You can also get crisis text support via the Crisis Text Line by texting NAMI to 741741.