Stress at Work

Stress. One of those life-things that we all have to deal with at some point. It wasn’t until I hit the recovery and insight phase of having mental health issues that I realised just how badly it can affect people. Affect me.

I’ve talked about mania – when I was in my first episode of manic psychosis I was under huge amounts of pressure and stress at work. The customer service team I managed at the time was too small for the growing business, and I somehow got into a habit of not taking lunch breaks so that I could handle the excess workload. When I hit the truly manic phase I expanded upon my no-lunch philosophy and added an extra 2.5 hours to the start of my day. A typical workweek at that point looked something like 55 hours in the office, plus late nights on the laptop at home. In every sense of the word it was totally manic, and so was I.

What I lacked the insight to see at the time was that the stress of the job (lots of answering phone calls to complaining customers, fending off keyboard warriors and trying to manage national key accounts) was feeding my mania. I felt good when I was felt I was over-achieving, but the more I worked the less well I became. I got such a rush from working at a break-neck pace, and that pseudo-adrenaline feeling cycled back into the elevated, elated moods.

That’s the version of stress that most people will be able to identify with; the kind where deadlines are looming and the emails are stacking up in your mailbox. What isn’t talked about very much is the stress that comes with too-little stimulation in one’s life.

It wasn’t till I started with a different employer and watched a HR video about managing stress at work that I heard of the stressfulness of doing too little. I’d experienced it, but never equated it with the feeling of being under pressure. It’s the stress we feel when the job is monotonous and unchallenging. The stress of repetitive tasks that require little brain power. And that particular stress of having little impact on the working environment.

If the high-energy stress fed my mania, the monotonous version fed my depression. I needed more stimuli in my working life. Worst of all was the feeling that work was utterly pointless, that I wasn’t making a difference.

Stress is common – a 2000 study suggested that 65% of respondents reported stress-related difficulties. And 19% said that stress had been the driving cause of quitting their job. And it’s not just a mental impact; stress can cause neck and shoulder pain, headaches, tired eyes and difficulties sleeping.

UK government guidelines state that a healthy working environment is not simply one with an absence of stressful situations. Their advice states that employers should actively promote work-health in the office environment.

How have you been effected by workplace stress? Connect with me on twitter @dontsayimcrazy or in the comments below.

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Stress at Work

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