10 Types of Job Stress and How to Deal With Them

A still from the Walt Disney and Pixar film production Inside Out

Inside Out | Disney/Pixar

Are you under too much job stress? If so, you’re not alone. According to the American Psychological Association’s 2012 “Stress in America” survey, roughly 40% of adults say that stress keeps them up at night. Stress on the job is hard to avoid, especially since almost no one has a completely stress-free job. And the ones that do, they often have challenging aspects to their job.

If you’re under a tremendous amount of stress at work, there are some steps you can take to feel better and become more productive. Once you identify the type of stress you’re under, as well as its source, you can take steps to lighten your mental load and be more productive at work. Here are 10 types of work-related stress, and our advice on how you can take matters into your own hands.

1. Burnout

Papers fly behind a businessman who is stressed and angry in his office

An increased stress level at work can lead to burnout (and vice versa) | iStock.com

You know you’re experiencing burnout when you’re physically and emotionally exhausted from work, and you constantly feel like your performance is not up to par. One source of burnout is when a boss pushes you harder but heaps on the criticism, regardless of your performance or effort. No matter what you do, it’s never good enough. You can also become burnt out when you’re not given the resources you need to perform your job duties. Lack of appreciation, resources, or both, can cause employees to become stressed out and overwhelmed. According to the Mayo Clinic, some signs of burnout include becoming cynical or critical at work, lacking the energy to be consistently productive, and becoming irritable or impatient with co-workers and clients.

So what can you do to alleviate this type of stress? You can reduce burnout by having a discussion with your supervisor. Talk about why you feel that you’re being unfairly criticized, or express your need for additional resources to get your work done. Whatever the case may be, things won’t change unless you speak up. You can also talk with your human resources representative to see if your job offers an employee assistance program that can help you manage stress more effectively.

2. Acute stress

A stressed man sits at his work computer

Acute stress can wreak havoc on an individual until it passes | iStock.com

Many workers experience acute stress from time to time. This is fleeting stress that arises as a result of different upsetting situations. Once the stressful situation has passed, the accompanying stress usually dissipates. For example, you may experience acute stress during the days or hours right before a big deadline at work, but once your assignment has been turned in, you feel more relaxed.

According to the American Psychological Association, if you experience muscle tension, stomach upset, and rapid heartbeat, you may be experiencing acute stress. Don’t despair, though. You can manage symptoms of acute stress by practicing relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing and meditation, going for a walk, listening to music, or taking an early lunch break. Our advice? Get out and get moving so that you can temporarily focus on something other than the stressor.

3. Fear-based stress

A shocked man sits in an empty airplane

Don’t let fear get the best of you at work | iStock.com/g-stockstudio

You may also experience stress at work because of a toxic boss, or even from the fear of losing your job. When your boss doesn’t like you, work can become very unpleasant. Eliminate your work-based fears by having a one-on-one with your supervisor. You can take this time to discuss work expectations and go over your past performance. Communication is key. If job loss is a concern, do what you can to brush up on your skills so that you can be prepared for your job search if you’re let go unexpectedly.

Some symptoms of fear-related stress consist of feeling anxiety or agitation. This can be directly linked to the threat or possibility of danger, nervousness, or a feeling of dread or apprehension, according to the experts at Anxiety Centre. The more fearful you are of something happening, the greater your stress will be.

Being proactive by talking to your boss about your work concerns, as well as taking steps to prepare for a job search, can help reduce some of your fears. Tackle your stressors head-on, so that you can regain control of the situation.

4. Overwork

A man sleeps on his office desk

Being overworked at work can result in stress | iStock.com

Being overworked could be self-imposed, due to a tendency to be a workaholic, or it could originate from an employer who continues to pile on work assignments with unrealistic expectations and/or deadlines. If you are the source of your tendency in feeling overworked, it’s important to know when to take breaks and refresh.

Also, when was the last time you had a vacation? If you’ve been hesitant to use your vacation time, you’ve got lots of company. Only 25% of American workers take all their vacation time, according to a poll by Harris Interactive and Glassdoor. Unfortunately, among those who decide to go on vacation, 61% said they still work while they’re away. So do yourself and your body a favor by taking a few days off. Studies have shown that those who take vacations have a lower heart disease risk.

You can also help alleviate the stress of being overworked by having a discussion with your supervisor. Ask if there are adjustments that can be made to your daily duties. Perhaps another staff member could help with your workload. By exploring different types of work arrangements, you’ll soon be on your way to a healthier lifestyle.

5. Job search stress

A stressed businessman at his desk looks at his laptop

The process of looking for a job can be just as stressful as having one | iStock.com/MishaBeliy

One of the most stressful events is looking for a new job. The most nerve-wracking part of the process is when you get called in for an interview. Even if you rarely have trouble with stress and anxiety, this situation is sure to make you sweat a little more and worry about the outcome.

Some symptoms of job search stress and anxiety are a sense of panic, rapid heartbeat, and sweating, Psychologist James Penn reports on his blog. Overcome the stress related to your job search by doing your research and getting a list of job interview questions that you can practice with a friend or loved one ahead of time. You’ll be more confident and relaxed.

6. New job stress

A man sits in his cubicle

Being a bit stressed on your first day of work is pretty common | iStock

Being the newbie in the office can make just about anyone come down with a case of the nerves. You have to watch what you say, what you do, and even how you dress. You can help alleviate this stress by making an effort to get to know your supervisor and your teammates. Also, do your best to help out whenever you can. Research has shown that being liked by your co-workers can contribute to career success.   

7. Workplace conflict stress

Angry co-workers

Another cause of work stress is related to tension and conflict at work | iStock.com

Bullying and gossip are some of the workplace conflicts you’ll encounter on the job. If you’re stressed out because of a troublesome co-worker, address the issue with him or her first. However, after failed attempts to handle things one-on-one, it’s best to take things to your boss, your human resources manager, or both. There’s no need to suffer in silence.

8. Time stress

A woman suffers from a headache while working at home

If you’re not good at prioritizing your time and tasks, you might suffer from work stress and its related physical ailments | iStock.com/gpointstudio

Management consultant and conference speaker Dr. Karl Albrecht outlined common stressors in the workplace in his book Stress and the Manager. Among the stressors mentioned is time stress, which is often faced when it seems as if time is not on your side. If you work in an environment where it seems like you never have enough time to do the things you need to accomplish, and you’re afraid that you won’t be able to meet expectations, you can get a handle on this type of stress by working on your time management skills. Also, see if you can delegate some of your work responsibilities to your co-workers.

9. Anticipatory stress

A stressed young woman bites her nails

Don’t send yourself into a spiral of anxiety by overthinking things | iStock.com/SIphotography

This type of stress, also mentioned in Albrecht’s book, is related to worrying about the future. It could be caused by a certain event, such as a performance review or a company presentation. Master this type of stress by preparing for your review or presentation well ahead of time. Gather your documents, practice what you’re going to say, and visualize yourself succeeding. You may even want to create a career vision board to help you focus on your success and to alleviate the stress.

10. Encounter stress

Angela and Phyllis in The Office

The Office | Chris Haston/NBC

Albrecht also talks about encounter stress, which is experienced when you are anxious about interacting with a certain person or a group of people. For example, you may be stressed about meeting with your company’s CEO because you want to make a good impression. Or you may be stressed about bumping into a certain co-worker because he or she tends to be mean. Manage this stress by exposing yourself to the situations that tend to make you uncomfortable. The more you practice navigating these situations, the more relaxed and confident you will become.

Follow Sheiresa on Twitter @SheiresaNgo.

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