Controlling Job Stress

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According to a 2015 study conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), 75%  of Americans report experiencing at least one symptom of stress in the past month. “Many adults say that money (31 percent) and work (22 percent) are a very significant source of stress in their life” (APA, 2015). In fact, Forbes Magazine recently reported that workplace stress is responsible for up to $190 billion in annual U.S. healthcare costs.The current state of the nation’s economy has led to subsequent decreases in job availabilities and increases in job stress. It is becoming more important that the research and helping professions community investigate job stress and its’ psychological and physical impacts so that more methods of prevention can be implemented.

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Authors Sabine Sonnentag and Charlotte Fritz explored the topic of job stress in the article Recovery from Job Stress: The stressor-detachment model as an integrative framework (2014). Through the lens of the stressor-detachment model, Sonnentag and Fritz (2014) introduce 3 core concepts: (1) job stressors, (2) strain reactions and well-being and (3) psychological detachment from work during non-work time.

The authors define job stressors as “factors in the work environment that may lead to strain reactions such as negative arousal, physical symptoms, or psychological impairments (Kahn & Byosiere, 1992). Are there elements within your work environment or thoughts related to your job that have negative psychological, physiological or behavioral effects on your overall well-being? If so, understanding psychological detachment may be very helpful for you.

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Sonnentag and Bayer (2005) define psychological detachment from work during non-work time as “disengaging oneself psychologically from work when being away from the workplace.” Failure to psychologically detach from work stressors can have negative physical, psychological and behavioral consequences such as anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, insomnia and avoidance. But how exactly can you successfully detach from job stress when you feel like it follows you wherever you go?

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For starters, try out a few methods of psychological detachment before work, on lunch break, and after work (evenings and weekends). Here are my top 5 favorite methods that have helped me to manage my job stress:

1. Leisure activities and hobbies: After work and on the weekends I would normally rush to lay down on the couch. I had the idea that after a long day or work week, I deserved to cuddle up on the couch with the covers, a coffee, and my recorded shows. As great as this was, it seemed to form a cycle after time. I became more physically and mentally fatigued and the work week seemed to return quicker and quicker. I began to believe that Friday night was synonymous with Sunday night. Last week, I decided to stop running home to rest and, instead, involve myself in leisure activities. I went to the bookstore after work. I took bus rides downtown and wrote about what I saw. I walked around and was actually present with my surroundings. I had never felt so alive. I was able to relieve myself of a lot of stress by moving my body, keeping my mind occupied with what was in front of me, and breathing in fresh air.

I’m  2. Breathing Exercises: Speaking of breathing in fresh air, I also utilized breathing exercises throughout the day whenever I felt like I needed to increase my sense of calmness and self-awareness. There are proper techniques when it comes to optimizing the benefits of deep breathing such as guided visualization, progressive relaxation and the abdominal breathing techniques. You can read up on more breathing techniques and the “how to’s” or you can discuss this method with your therapist. And the best part of this method is it can be done at anytime.

3. Music and Podcasts: I realized that whenever I listened to music or podcasts commuting to and from work, I had a more positive outlook and a higher tolerance for stressors during the day. In particular, listening to funny podcasts allowed me to psychologically detach from work and get an extra boost of relief from the laughter.

4. Thought-Reframing: Stress has a lot to do with perception. If you think of a situation as being stressful, then your actions and feelings will coincide with that thought. We can not eliminate stress completely from our lives, but we can exercise our power by controlling how we interpret and internalize these stressors. I really love the Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) model and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) model. Understanding the relationship between your thoughts, actions and feelings is a very powerful gift that takes a lot of practice. When you begin to recognize your irrational or unhelpful thoughts, challenge them! Acknowledge these thoughts so that you can replace them with more rational thoughts and, as a result, more helpful behaviors and emotions. If you would like to know more about these models and how it can benefit you, speak with your therapist or go to the contact section and send me an email.

5. Positive Journaling: Similar to thought-reframing, positive journaling helped me to train my mind to pay more attention to what is positive and what is actually working in my life. The more I habitually wrote in my positive journal, the less time I spent thinking about stress. I was able to take my journal everywhere with me and I especially found it helpful to use on my lunch break. I would return to the second half of the workday with more focus and energy. I also stopped internalizing and personalizing work stress. Work stress was work stress and no longer a life stress.
Those are five techniques I used and found helpful to psychologically detach from job stress. Comment below or send me an email at thementalcouchpotato@gmail.com and tell me what techniques you have tried that were helpful!

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