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Stress at Work - What are the Danger Signs ?

Aug 17, 2007
Stress is a well documented source of medical problems, and there are specialist medical practitioners who can assist sufferers. Most people feel under stress at some time during their working day, or even during time spent with family and friends. Indeed, many experts argue that a small amount of stress is a useful source of stimulation.

So, the question is, am I suffering from excessive stress at work ?

This is a difficult question as stress is very much a personal experience. Some people are noticeably busy all day at work, yet they seem to handle it well. On the other hand, if some workers are faced with a deadline, they will become short tempered, argumentative, abusive and red faced.

Rather than go to the extreme of consulting a doctor, there are several factors we can consider in an attempt to measure our own stress levels.

Firstly, let us consider the following statements-

1 'Some days, I just don't want to go to work'.
Although most of us go to work in order to earn a wage, work can be interesting, and assist personal development. For some fortunate people, it can also be fun. If work is consistently an unpleasant experience whilst others seem to enjoy what they are doing in the workplace, this is a danger signal.

2 'Deadlines in work are on the increase, and many are simply unrealistic'.
Most work tasks need to take place within a time framework. A productive worker will perform tasks as and when they become apparent and, at the end of each day, they will clear their desk, and possibly their workload. The very fact that management feel the need to give a task a deadline often indicates that the worker has a reputation for dragging his/her feet.

3 'I used to be able to make decisions quickly and be able to justify them to colleagues with confidence'.
As one ascends the ladder at work, then decisions do become more complex and the people who question decisions are better informed and more articulate. However, if decision making suddenly becomes more difficult, this is likely to be a sign of stress. Mental paralysis is a sign of acute stress, and at its worst, the patient is unable to make even the most mundane decisions.

4 'Many jobs I have to do are boring and repetitive, yet I must get the details right'.
Whatever one's level of seniority at work, most of the daily tasks are repetitive. This is due to the intrinsic nature of work. Repetitive tasks are often a blessing in disguise as they do not demand high levels of imagination. If a worker was subjected to a series of unconnected and novel tasks, this could be a serious challenge. The desire for constant challenge and stimulus, and contempt for the commonplace and mundane, can be a symptom of stress.

5 'I frequently take work home at night, but struggle to focus on it after dinner'.
Taking work home at night, is common in many occupations. However, taking work home every night is definitely unhealthy and it will inevitably upset a sensible work / life balance. Many people think about work problems when they are away from work. Being absent from work often provides an opportunity to consider problems from a more detached and objective viewpoint. Taking work home, but failing to make progress on work taken home is counterproductive.

6 'Although I try to listen to other people's conversations, I am often preoccupied with my own thoughts'.
Failure to listen to others and to respond appropriately will often lead to disharmony within a workgroup. If you are a manager of a team, it is essential for you to listen attentively and sympathetically to what your colleagues are saying, even if you have heard it several times before. If the problem is due to an inability to concentrate and focus, then this is a sign of stress.

Although, there is no objective measurement of stress, a consideration of the above factors should assist to clarify whether a person is experiencing undue levels of stress at work. If so, the first thing to do is to discuss this with the Human Resources Manager, if there is one, failing that it useful to air matters with one's family and friends. If the symptoms persist or worsen, it is advisable to see a medical practitioner.
About the Author
Leslie Hardy is a writer on North Cyprus Property
and the UK Chairman of Wellington Estates Ltd, a North Cyprus Property company.
He is also interested in Stress in the Workplace
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