The Hidden Costs of Stress in the Workplace

stress at the officeThe signs and effects of stress present differently in everyone. While some express stress with more physical signs, such as inability to focus, high blood pressure, digestive issues, or headaches, others express with more emotional or psychological signs, such as irritability, feelings of hopelessness, or change in mood (feeling sad).

Stress affects every system of the body, partly through poor oxygen levels and partly through stress hormones that infiltrate the body and cause damage if left unchecked and uncontrolled for too long. In severe cases, a person may get frequent viruses and find vaccines to be less effective. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, 70% to 90% of doctor visits are attributable to conditions caused or greatly heightened by stress. When we are stressed, our bodies don’t get the oxygen they need for organs to function properly, and well-being suffers. Stress can be directly linked to some of the leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and even suicide, as stated by the American Psychological Association (APA).

The American Institute of Stress (AIS) reports that the leading cause of stress in people is related to their jobs, saying that “80% of workers feel stress on the job, nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress, and 42% say their coworkers need such help.” In a survey conducted online on behalf of the APA by Harris Interactive between January 31 and February 8, 2011, 36% of workers reported experiencing work stress on a regular basis, and nearly half stated low salary has a significant impact on their stress level related to work.

In addition, during times of high demands on employees or significant transitions in the workplace, the amount of stress employees experience is aggravated many times over. When employees struggle to effectively manage their negative responses to stress, it can impact their interactions with fellow employees and others around them and become “contagious” in the work environment and at home.

In fact, employee illnesses due to stress result in lost work time, decreased productivity, and staff turnover, as well as increased medical, legal, and insurance costs for companies. According to the AIS, job stress costs U.S. industries approximately $300 billion a year. Wow! And to think: you can participate in a stress management routine for nothing.

So what is a stress management routine? Well, it is different for everyone. Here is one example that can be done in about three minutes:

  1. Take a deep breath (inhale completely), hold it for two, three, or four seconds, and then release (exhale completely). While releasing, repeat to yourself, “Relax, relax, relax.” This can be out loud or with your inner voice.
  2. Repeat the first step while thinking positive, happy thoughts.
  3. Repeat the second step until your stress is reduced or gone.

Common ways to deal with stress include counseling, mindfulness yoga, exercise, nutrition, and speaking positive mantras (“today is going to be a great, stress-free day”). Other ways to reduce or monitor stress are:

Hypnosis

Hypnosis is a safe, altered mental state of deep relaxation, focused attention, and openness to suggestion. We experience a form of hypnosis on a daily basis—for example, when waking up and falling asleep.

Meditation

Meditation often consists of an internal, conscious effort to self-regulate the mind. The word “meditation” can refer to the meditative state itself, as well as to practices or techniques employed to cultivate that particular state. Meditation is similar to hypnosis but is less clinical in nature. Meditation can be done alone or with the assistance of a CD, MP3, or live instructor, individually or in a group setting.

No matter the cause of the stress, is it is important to deal with it properly to lead a happy, productive life.

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Ann Marie Sochia, MS, LPCA, CHT, NLP, therapist in Cary, North Carolina

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 17 comments
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  • Jeremiah

    Jeremiah

    April 24th, 2014 at 1:52 PM

    Wouldn’t it be nice if corporations and companies who knew that they had stressful jobs would offer some sort of counseling and care for their employees on site? I think that many more people would take advantage of this if it was offered right there at the office and it didn’t take any additional time away from the job, like sick leave or something. And think of the benefits for the companies. Far fewer people would most likely be calling in sick and they would probably become more productive overall. That sounds like a win/win solution to me. But hey, I don’t sign the checks.

  • Geneva

    Geneva

    April 25th, 2014 at 3:42 AM

    I love where I work! Yeah we have some stressful situations that we have to manage from time to time, but our employers really go all out to make sure that we know how to deal with those things. We have guest speakers, a membership to the gym, and just basically little perks here and there that help to keep all of us happy and to let us know that our work is valued and appreciated. I think that when you have an employer who reconizes that we are all human and who does for you the things that I think that he would want done for him, then you have gotten pretty lucky.

  • pauly

    pauly

    April 25th, 2014 at 10:21 AM

    I must be weird but I don’t let work stress me out like that, I just don’t. To me it is all about the 9-5 and then I’m through.
    Maybe if I had a little more invested in it then I would care a little more, but to me this is just doing my time to pay the bills.
    If I have to have a job that causes me that much stress then I don’t want it I would rather be happy when I am home than I would working harder to just be stressed out all the time.

  • Ann Marie Sochia

    Ann Marie Sochia

    April 25th, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    Thanks for your response.
    I agree it would be nice if all employers would offer onsite-counseling as part of their benefits package. It would also be nice if employers that offered it promoted it without a negative stigma associated with it. I have seen in my office clients that don’t want anyone to know they are here because of that very stigma. In fact, I had a client recently that would only pay cash because he was worried about the stigma if he used his credit card or Heath Care Savings Account (HAS) and someone found out.

  • Ann Marie Sochia

    Ann Marie Sochia

    April 25th, 2014 at 10:40 AM

    Geneva,

    Thanks for your response.
    I think it’s wonderful you love where you work. Based on your description it sounds like you work for a great place. In an ideal world all employers would show as much appreciation for their employers as yours does. I know from past experience and research work place appreciation goes a long ways towards reducing stress, decreasing employee turnover, and employee morale and productivity.

  • Marjorie

    Marjorie

    April 26th, 2014 at 9:48 AM

    while not everyone can love who they work for it would at least be ideal and likely beneficial to at least work in a job field that you enjoyed, that would likely take away some of that natural stress that work can cause

  • CCole

    CCole

    April 27th, 2014 at 4:47 AM

    Work can be hard and stressful but it can also be a place to make new connections and friendships. These can be used as the things that will carry you through when the work is otherwiise bringing you down.

  • bud

    bud

    April 28th, 2014 at 3:26 AM

    Work is work ya know? That’s why it has that name. I don’t think of it as somewhere where I go to have fun, I think of it as a means to an end, a paycheck at the end of the week to help make ends meet. I guess that could say something about me, I have a job and not a career, so maybe it’s all the people with the high pressure careers feeling the kind of stress at their jobs we are talking about here.

  • Larry c

    Larry c

    April 29th, 2014 at 3:35 AM

    It would slmost seem worth it in certain work settings to have anti stress coaches come out occasionally and lead workshops or something like that to help those who are experiencing this kind of stress at work.

    I would think that this would only be beneficial to everyone and that the return on what you get as a result would far outweight the cost of offering a program like this every now and then.

  • Massage therapist

    Massage therapist

    April 29th, 2014 at 4:30 AM

    Workplace is very hard and stressful place. But other thing workplace is good because we get many new things there.

  • Ann Marie Sochia

    Ann Marie Sochia

    April 29th, 2014 at 9:47 AM

    Pauly,
    I think it is great you can do the 9-5 thing and not get stressed out. Unfortunately for many people the 9-5 thing is not an option and long hours and overtime is a must. As a therapist, I often work with people that are not able to have regular work hours or leave work at the “office”.
    I am curious…do you like what you do for a job? Do you have a different idea of what a dream job is?

    Thanks for the response and enjoy your day!

  • Ann Marie Sochia

    Ann Marie Sochia

    April 29th, 2014 at 10:04 AM

    Marjorie,
    I agree completely with you. My mother had this statement she loved to preach I was growing up “love what you do and do what you love”. I took her advice and I am as happy and love being a therapist.
    Thanks for your response.

  • Ann Marie Sochia

    Ann Marie Sochia

    April 29th, 2014 at 10:07 AM

    CCole,
    I agree. I find having peopled around at work when I am stressed to talk to helpful. It is also nice to have people around to talk to when I am in a great mood and want to share.
    Thanks for your response.

  • Ann Marie Sochia

    Ann Marie Sochia

    April 29th, 2014 at 10:10 AM

    Bud,
    I think what I said to Marjorie applies to your comments. My mother had this statement she loved to preach I was growing up “love what you do and do what you love”. I took her advice and I am as happy and love being a therapist. I also understand that for many people work is work and a means to pay the bills and nothing more. I wish more people were able to do what they love!
    Thanks for your response.

  • Ann Marie Sochia

    Ann Marie Sochia

    April 29th, 2014 at 10:13 AM

    Larry C,
    I agree an anti-stress workshop or activities are a great idea for all companies. A great example is during Christmas and Hanukah many retailers offer their cashiers and other employees 15 minute messages during the work day. I think as you mentioned the cost of this is outweighed by the value in having more productive employees.
    Thanks for your response.

  • Ann Marie Sochia

    Ann Marie Sochia

    April 29th, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    Massage therapist,

    For some work is stressful and for others it is not. I agree works is a place to experience, learn new things, and get new things.

    Thanks for the response.

  • Julia K

    Julia K

    December 9th, 2014 at 9:56 PM

    This is a GREAT article. I really appreciate you spelling out how stress changes our breathing which impacts the amount of oxygen getting through our bodies, which impacts our health.

    I know that deep, belly breathing, is a great exercise for stress reduction and wellness, and now I understand why!!

    Thanks again,

    Julia K

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