Understanding Stress in the Workplace

Owning a small business can be stressful, and running one during a pandemic makes it more challenging than ever before. As small business owners across the country face more pressure to adapt their business plans to a world in lockdown, they also face the challenge of coping with stress. 

Since 1992, the month of April has been dedicated to recognizing and increasing stress awareness. In a time full of unpredictable events, it’s important to understand how to deal with stress in a healthy way. 

In this article, we’ll dive into what stress is, why it’s important to understand, and where it comes from.

What is Stress?

The first step to coping with stress is to understand what it is. The Mental Health Foundation defines stress as “the feeling of being overwhelmed or unable to cope with mental or emotional pressure.” These feelings can be triggered when you’re in a situation that’s unexpected or uncontrollable.

Keep in mind that stress doesn’t look the same for everyone. The signs of stress can be physical, emotional, cognitive, or behavioral. Too much stress can cause minor problems to your health and well-being, and if that stress continues for a prolonged period of time, these problems can become much more serious. 

In the workplace, it's important to recognize and understand when someone has gone through a stressful situation. Employees will not be able to return to their normal productivity levels right away, and might need some guidance on how to cope. That's why understanding and managing life’s stressors is essential for you and the people around you.

For more information, refer to The World Health Organization or speak with a licensed professional.

How does stress affect small business owners?

According to The VeryWell Mind, work is one of the leading causes of stress in the US. Being stressed every day and fighting to cope with it makes it more difficult for employees to be productive. A few signs of this may include zoning out, difficulty concentrating and not doing their work to the best of their ability. Lyra Health has found that:

  • 30% of employees are so stressed that it interferes with work

  • 40% are dealing with burnout 

  • 62% are worried about their future 

According to The American Institute of Stress (AIS), not only is work one of the primary sources of stress, but job-related stress has actually increased over the last few decades. That in mind, stress is also very personal, so two people in identical situations could feel complete opposite degrees of stress. 

Additionally, the AIS found: 

  • 40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful 

  • 75% of employees believe that workers have more on-the-job stress than a generation ago

  • 80% of workers reported feeling stressed on the job, with nearly half saying they need help in learning how to manage stress 

  • Job stress is more commonly associated with health complaints than financial or family problems

How to cope with stress

The effects of stress can be overwhelming, but it’s important to remember that it can be managed properly. You just need to find out which tools and coping mechanisms work best for your situation.

Manage your own stress

A few ways for you to manage your stress include, getting outside and in the sun. Try going for a walk around the block or just find a quiet place to sit and relax. If you want something more lowkey, you can try journaling or listening to your favorite music. 

Exercise is another great way to take your mind off of work for a little and get your body moving. You can even add short, simple relaxation exercises into your daily routine like yoga or meditation or even a quick stretch.

You know yourself better than anyone else. From the suggestions listed above, you might find one works better than the rest, or you might take a liking to a few. 

Look after your employees

If you manage a team of people, not only check in on your employees often, but also acknowledge the time and effort that they’re putting in. When an employee feels support and recognition, they’ll also feel more control over their work.

Additionally, there are many tools available online to make managing stress in the workplace easier for everyone. Benefits of different online mental health care tools can include guided self-care, mental health coaching, mental wellness tools, workplace checkups, support for addressing team burnout, and more. 

With stress being so common, and work taking up more and more of our time, it’s an incredibly vital time to educate ourselves on this topic. That way, we’re able to recognize the signs of stress not only in ourselves, but the people around us too. In the world we live in today, we all need to make our mental health a top priority and having the necessary tools to make that happen can help benefit you in the long run.  

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Alexis Thoutt