Stress Management – Lesson 3

3.1. Stress at Work

Costs of stress on the job can include:
  • Errors
  • Absenteeism
  • Conflict
  • Low morale
  • High staff turnover
  • Poor decisions/no decisions
  • Accidents

What are the symptoms of stress overload, when our bodies have responded too many times to the “fight or flight” call?

We all pay a stress tax, whether we know it or not. What is the price you pay for your stress? What do you need to change? Not sure yet whether you need to make any changes? Try the Stress Inventory to see if you are in danger of burning out.

Stress Inventory

Rate each statement as it applies to you on a scale of 1 to 5 with a 1 meaning never, 2 rarely, 3 sometimes, 4 often, and 5 always.

Score Statement
I am unclear about what is expected of me.
My co-workers seem unclear what my job is.
I have differences of opinion with my superiors.
The demands of others for my time are in conflict.
I lack confidence in management.
Management expects me to interrupt my work for new priorities.
Conflict exists between my unit and others it must work with.
I get feedback only when my performance is unsatisfactory.
Decisions or changes that affect me are made without my knowledge or involvement.
I am expected to accept the decisions of others without being told
I have too much to do and too little time in which to do it.
I do not have enough work to do.
I feel overqualified for the work I actually do.
I feel under-qualified for the work I actually do.
I have unsettled conflicts with my co-workers.
I get no support from my co-workers.
I spend my time fighting fires rather than working according to a plan.
I do not have enough supervision (too much or too little).
I do not have the opportunity to use my knowledge and skills.
I do not receive meaningful work assignments.
I feel that it is hopeless to change the system.
My pay is too low.
My department or agency lacks enough funds to accomplish its goals.
I have too much paperwork for me to do an effective job.
It seems like I have to make all the decisions around the office.
I feel exhausted even when I get enough sleep.
I get angry or irritated easily.
I worry at night and have trouble sleeping.
I have recurring headaches, stomachaches, or lower back pain.
I find it difficult to unwind at the end of the day.
I find it difficult to empathise with clients about their problems.
I tend to categorise clients rather than listen to their individual needs.
I generally seem to express negative attitudes.
I have been increasing my use of tobacco, drugs, or alcohol.
I find that I am always watching the clock.
TOTAL Scoring

 

If you scored:

  • Below 35: You are in good shape and show almost no job stress.
  • 36-70: You show a low amount of job-related stress and are not likely to burn out.
  • 71-105: You are under a moderate amount of job-related stress and have a fair chance of burning out.
  • 106-140: You express a high amount of job-related stress and may have begun to burn out.
  • Over 140: You show an excessive amount of job-related stress and probably are in an advanced phase of burnout.

3.2. Stress Logging

If you find that you are very stressed at work, and you’re not sure why, it can be useful to keep a stress log for a week to see what’s going on.

Include the follow items:

  • Write the date at the top of each day.
  • Write the time and what happened.
  • Rate the event on a scale of one to 10, where one is a minimum of stress, five is, “I feel like I need a break,” and 10 is, “I’m going to blow a gasket.”
  • Leave room for any comments or thoughts.
Monday, 15 June
Time Event Rating Comments
8:15a.m. Stuck in traffic 3 Why did I get so upset and let this ruin my morning?
10:30a.m. Bob messed up his report, so my report will be delayed 8
12:05p.m. Pizza shop messed up my order 8 I really overreacted at the cook.
3:30p.m. My manager complained about my late report 6
5:15p.m. Was late leaving the office and picking my son up 5 Luckily his babysitter is nice!

 

Once you have logged your stressful events, you can do something about them using the triple A approach we discussed earlier. For example, if you got stuck in traffic four out of five days and that caused you stress, perhaps you can find a different route to work or leave at a different time. Note that you can use this for almost any situation in your life.