What is Work Related Stress and what Causes it?

Did you know that in the year 2010/2011, approximately 400,000 people in the UK reported that their work related stress was at such a high level that it was making them ill. In fact, one in five visits to a GP in the UK were due to stress, anxiety, depression and other psychological issues. Every job has a certain amount of stress and pressure, but when this pressure becomes excessive it can eventually lead to serious physical and mental health problems.


When too much stress is placed upon a person, it becomes difficult to handle. An overstressed person can suffer from headaches, insomnia, high blood pressure, odd aches and pains, heart palpitations, dry mouth and a loss of appetite for sex and food. This is a natural response to stress and it is our body’s way of telling us to slow down, relax and recharge. People who are under stress at work will often deal with this stress in unhealthy ways, such as drinking too much and smoking – which also can cause other health problems.

Stress Related Sick Days

More than 13.4 million sick days are taken throughout the UK for work-related-stress every year. This costs employers a cumulative amount of £3.7 billion in lost productivity, as well as costing the overall economy a total of £7 billion. Workplace stress is a serious health and safety concern, which can be addressed in the managing stress course.

What Causes Stress in the Workplace?

A stressful workplace can be a result of many factors. Sometimes workers find themselves stressed because they are experiencing bullying at work or victimisation. Also, they might find themselves under very unrealistic deadlines and feel forced to work overtime to the detriment of their health.

Also, management changes and conflicts within the workplace can contribute to stress. When workers are being intimidated by the boss, they feel like they can’t speak up and have their needs met – so the stress continues and the person suffers in silence.

Working within a profession that demands high adrenaline and a quick response can be very stressful over time. For example, a firefighter or a paramedic who is dealing with intense emergency situations all day can be under a lot of work-related stress. These situations are physical, mentally and emotionally exhausting and it important to manage the effects of this stress.

Stress in the workplace can also be caused by an unrealistic workload and deadlines that are unmanageable. You can feel under pressure to meet unattainable targets and this creates the feeling like you are a hamster on a wheel, running at full speed but never getting ahead.

How to Tell If You Are Experiencing Work-Related Stress

If any of the following symptoms apply to you, you might be experiencing work related stress.

You Are Having Trouble Sleeping

Do you find yourself lying awake in bed every night and mulling over everything that has happened at work that day? Do you find yourself awake with nervousness on a Sunday night because you are dreading Monday morning. Do you have nightmares about work, or wake up feeling anxious on a workday? Sleep deprivation can be one of the symptoms of work related stress. When you are sleep deprived, you will become depressed, irritable, tired and slow. It will be difficult for you to perform well at work, which will make the problem even worse.

Your Eating Habits Have Changed

If your eating habits have changed dramatically, you might be under a lot of stress. Some people eat much more when they are feeling stressed, reaching for junk food, sweets, baked goods and other comforting foods. Other people experience the opposite and find that their appetite disappears when they are stressed out. They will avoid food, often forgetting to eat because they are so preoccupied. If you have noticed a change in your appetite either way, it could be down to stress. Pay close attention to what you are eating so you can make sure you are maintaining a healthy weight and getting the nutrients you need.

You are Smoking or Drinking More

Many people, when they are stressed out, will seek a distraction from the stress in the form of drinking alcohol, smoking or even doing drugs. These substances can help you to feel relaxed and happy in the short term, but when they are used in the excess they can cause health problems. If you start to smoke, drink or use drugs for emotional reasons – you are putting yourself at a much greater risk for addiction. If this continues, you might find yourself unable to cope without these substances – which can lead to serious problems including organ failure or cancer.

You Are Experiencing Mood Swings

Ask your friends and family – have they noticed you going through mood swings lately? You might be feeling fine one minute and then getting really angry or hopelessly sad the next minute. Perhaps you are very sensitive to criticism and get tearful easily, or get unreasonably frustrated when something small goes wrong. You might even experience the feeling that you have lost all of your enthusiasm, passion and motivation for your work. This is a sign that you are struggling to cope with the amount of stress that you are under.

Mood swings can be very bad, especially within a professional environment, so make sure that you treat them before they get out of hand. When the emotional response to stress becomes very severe, it can result in serious depression and suicidal thoughts – so make sure you are getting treatment as soon as possible.

You Are Experiencing These Physical Symptoms

If you find yourself experiencing any of the following physical symptoms, you might be suffering from work-related stress:
  • A feeling of dizziness or sickness
  • Pains in your chest
  • A loss of sex drive
  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • Frequent colds and coughs

Workplace stress can be a serious health and safety concern, so make sure that you are monitoring your own stress levels and that you know when to take time out and recharge – your mental and physical health depends on it!

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