Working is prevalent amongst almost all populations. High school students, university students, and adults will encounter work at some point in their lives as it is an economic means of survival. Working at a job is almost inevitable in life- unless you come from a billionaire family – then there will be a time in your life where you work. The often heard phrases “you live to work” or “work to live” are indeed unfortunate yet true. To sustain our survival, we must work for the money, money provides us with the necessities that we need in life such as food, water, a home, and etc. Since work is an integral aspect of human life, there will be moments of exhaustion and mental fatigue. Work can be challenging, demanding, exhausting, and even miserable at times. These negative associations are in no doubt a concern. Hence, when feeling stressed from work, it is crucial to understand your limits and boundaries so that your workplace stress does not manifest into larger concerns.
Workplace stress has been reported to cause 120 000 deaths and it costs $190 billion in health care a year. The prevalence of workplace stress is damaging and is as much a concern as school stress. Workplace stress affects in numerous ways. Some common consequences of workplace stress include difficulty sleeping, stressed-out eyes, pain and sores, and headaches. Workplace stress can contribute to damaging the key parts of your brain, mitigate your ability to cope with stress, reduce your immune system functioning, and even cause depression. It will be likely that you will end up facing a job you don’t like. Maybe it’s retail and you will face angry customers where they are demanding that they want a refund without a receipt, a major construction project that you lead and it is set to start within a week, or you work at a daycare centre but your boss is absolutely terrible. Workplace stress affects us in different ways and it is key to set limits between your personal life and work so that it does not become a long-term problem.
I had a unique experience with workplace stress. I used to work in a small business where I was the order picker, or a more professional title, “fulfillment associate.” My tasks involved picking out items to be shipped out whenever a customer would order something. It was a very unique part-time job because no other high school student worked a job like this. I would usually see my friends work retail, fast food, or labour jobs, but nothing like an order picker. You may be wondering, how can a job like this provide workplace stress? Well, as the main employee at the company who is responsible for the majority of orders, I had to become my own manager. I would have to thoroughly plan when I need to come in. And no, I can’t just come in whenever, I have to plan my own schedule and it would often be difficult when I already had school and extracurriculars to worry about. It was nice to have the flexibility though, but when orders were due, there was no flexibility. In addition, I often thought of work when I was out of work. Once I arrive home from school, I would start thinking about the number of orders I’d have to do, what were those orders, when they need to be shipped, and when I should go in. It was an ongoing cycle of thinking about work in my head and I was often overwhelmed while also having to think of school and extracurriculars. So what did I do to eliminate this stress? I quit.
So your situation might not be the same as mine or you might be too afraid to quit. But in retrospect, I realized there were better strategies than quitting:
1. Communicating with your boss and supervisors
If you are having a tough time with work, it is best to let your bosses know. Sometimes it might be harder with having difficult higher-ups, but it is worth trying to let them know how you’re feeling so you’re either not overworked or feeling overwhelmed with work. Of course, if this doesn’t work out, you can always contact the HR department (if you have one) and let them know how you’re feeling.
2. Practice saying no
Yes, it is so tempting whenever your boss messages you to come in for a shift or if you are scheduled for multiple shifts because we all need and love money but, saying no will alleviate that workplace stress that will arise later on. Practice saying no so you can get used to letting your boss know that you can’t pick up that shift because you need a day off or you’re simply feeling overworked.
3. Take time off
You may need just a day off to rejuvenate yourself and brace yourself again for the next workday. It is okay, to just take some time off for your health. Maybe you can take a day off, a couple of days or even a week to hang out with your friends, start a movie marathon, go to the spa, whatever you need to fulfill your self-care needs. Getting your head off of work will be so integral in supporting your wellbeing.
4. Seek the help you need
Workplace stress is just as important of a topic as dealing with a break-up. If you have a friend, family member, therapist, or anyone that will listen to you, reach out and let them know how you’re feeling. It is extremely damaging to be internalizing all these emotions inside, so seek help when you need it. In many cases, seeking professional help will be valuable to your mental wellbeing. Seeking help could also be asking coworkers to cover your shift if you feel overwhelmed. Don’t be afraid to prioritize your health.
I hope this small story is something you can relate to and I also hope that these tips will be applicable to your experience with workplace stress. Prioritize your health.
Note: The Free Your Mind Mental Health Society is an independent youth-led organization. The contents of this blog are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. In the event of a medical emergency, please call your doctor or 911 or other local emergency numbers immediately.
Castrillon, C. (2020, July 3). 10 Ways To Set Healthy Boundaries At Work. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinecastrillon/2019/07/18/10-ways-to-set-healthy-boundaries-at-work/?sh=508037e57497.
Workplace stress. (2021, February 9). https://www.stress.org/workplace-stress#:~:text=Highlighted%20statistics%20from%20the%20report,or%20extremely%20stressed%20at%20work.
Workplace Stress. Partnership for Workplace Mental Health. (n.d.). http://workplacementalhealth.org/Mental-Health-Topics/Workplace-Stress.