How Stress Can Kill A Career And What You Can Do About It

By Jori Hamilton

Nobody wants to be stressed out, but like it or not, you will face stress at some point in your life. Stress can be physical, mental, and emotional, and it can be caused by everything from major life events to daily occurrences. An article on U.S. News cites a survey from the American Psychological Association that found work to be the second most common source of stress among American adults, behind only money. 

No one can avoid stress completely. The truth is that everyone is affected by stress in some way or another. The level of impact simply depends on how effectively you can cope with any stress that comes your way. 

What Causes Workplace Stress? 

Happiness experts Annie McKee and Emma Seppälä have done a lot of research in regards to the causes of workplace stress. Today, a chronic state of stress is now considered normal for a lot of adults, but this is not a sustainable way to live. According to the pair, a lot of workplace stress is the result of society’s way of thinking. We live in a world where work addiction is actually rewarded, even though it negatively impacts our health. “Overly competitive colleagues, too little time for what needs to get done and poor leadership are just three of the many problems that can cause constant stress at work, which in turn causes physical, mental and emotional problems,” McKee writes. 

Additionally, lifestyle changes as a result of technological advances contribute to the heightened level of stress in most working individuals. Behaviors like smartphone and internet addiction are serious anxiety-causing problems that have, over time, been normalized at the workplace with little regard for their consequences. 

To quote an article by Bradley University, “Individuals with internet addiction and problem usage have high levels of anxiety, stress, depression and insomnia, and have lower self-esteem levels.” All these factors combined perpetuate a high level of stress and anxiety, and they can severely hamper your chances of success, gravely impacting your level of productivity. It goes without saying, but bringing a stressed-out mind to work can destroy your career prospects.

The Impacts of Stress

Not only can stress ruin your career, it can also affect your physical health. An article on The Balance Careers that talks about understanding stress and its effects details the many physical reactions the human body has to stress. Stress results in increases in heart rate, metabolism, and blood flow to muscles. Physically, this response is meant to aid the body to react quickly to a stressful situation. Considering this, some forms of stress can be “good” by helping in fight-or-flight situations. 

However, as argued by McKee and Seppälä, “slow-burning stress, anger, and other negative emotions can literally kill us.” For women, this outlook is far from ideal, considering that studies show women experience higher levels of stress than men. McKee and Seppälä state that, among other things, chronic stress can lead to heart problems, susceptibility to chronic health conditions, stomach and gastrointestinal issues, muscular problems, restlessness, and substance abuse. Additionally, it can cause high blood pressure due to a major spike in cortisol. When cortisol is constantly high as a result of long-term stress, your blood pressure remains high, leading to a whole slew of health issues.  

How to Cope With Stress

Getting to a less stressful place in life is not as complicated as people sometimes make it out to be. One of the most important things to remember when tackling stress is that you can’t simply distract yourself from it. You need to acknowledge the stress and face it head-on. Discover how you can improve your resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from everyday negative situations and better manage pressure you might be facing. 

Secondly, as opposed to complaining about your problems and being pessimistic, find ways to be constructive. One way to do so, as suggested by Seppälä, is to take deep breaths. Breathing is, in fact, a “pathway into your nervous system,” and deep breaths can significantly calm you down while normalizing the level of cortisol in your body at a given moment. Seppälä also recommends engaging in calming activities like yoga, walks out in nature, and meditation practices. Taking frequent breaks and spending a little time away from the internet or smartphones can help reduce the amount of stress you feel at work.

Outside of work, there are plenty of ways to manage anxiety and make you more resilient to stress. These include eating well, getting a good night’s sleep, regularly exercising, practicing mindfulness, and talking to friends, family, or a mental health professional about your problems. All these methods can help cultivate a positive attitude, and better deal with any type of stress. 

Ultimately, a healthy mind and body is key to succeeding in your career. Reducing the amount of stress you experience is essential to stay motivated, productive and satisfied at your job. Rather than being a victim, learn to deal with stress in a healthy manner so that you can succeed in all aspects of your life. 

Jori Hamilton is a writer from the Pacific Northwest who covers social justice, politics, education, healthcare, technology, and more. You can follow her work on twitter @hamiltonjori or https://writerjorihamilton.contently.com

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