Stressed out!

by Carlla E. Jones, Health Educator
U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine

Smart strategies for handling stress on the job

***image1***Job stress is a common problem in the work environment today. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that 25 percent of employees view their jobs as the No. 1 stressor in their lives.

In a military workplace, the increased operations tempo and other current mission requirements add additional job stressors for both military and civilian employees.
There are many job conditions that may lead to stress.

Tight budgets and time lines, long work hours, heavy workloads, inadequate staffing and job demands that cannot be met can all contribute to the stress that workers experience. Additional conditions that may cause stress on the job include:

• Infrequent rest breaks
• Isolation (feeling “tied” to your desk)
• Lack of support or help from co-workers and supervisors
• Conflicting or uncertain job expectations
• Too much responsibility
• Too many roles to fill at once (wearing more than one “hat” at a time)

Job stress often results in a variety of health complaints and symptoms.
A study by the St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company reported that problems at work are more strongly associated with health complaints than are any other life stressor, including financial or family problems.

People feeling stressed at work may experience aching muscles, loss of appetite and a complete sense of exhaustion. Additional warning signs of job stress can include headaches (including migraines), sleep and mood disturbances, loss of appetite, high blood pressure, difficulty in concentrating, a short temper, upset stomach, job dissatisfaction and low morale.

It is important that people experiencing these symptoms do not assume that job stress is the underlying cause. Instead, ask a healthcare provider to assess possible underlying physical causes for these symptoms.

Job stress can also play a role in many chronic diseases. However, the effect of job stress may be more difficult to recognize because chronic diseases can take a long time to develop. But, there is more evidence that stress is a risk factor for several types of chronic health problems like cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders and psychological disorders.

What can a person do about job stress? Try to keep a positive attitude. Refocus the negative to be positive. Take small breaks throughout the day (even if it is just enough time to walk around the parking lot). Make sure to get enough physical activity. Eat foods that improve health and well-being.

Make an effort to interact with people at work. Learn about and try using one or more of the many relaxation techniques like listening to music or practicing yoga or meditation. Take time for your personal interests and hobbies. Bring about a balance between work and family or personal life by unplugging from work-related technology (like work cell phones and work e-mail) while not at work.

For more information about stress at work and effective stress management go to: or