That statement might seem overly dramatic, but it isn’t! That’s the honest truth. Today we are working longer hours, with less support. Taking time off is a luxury many can’t afford if they are not entitled to vacation or paid time off. Something that’s becoming more common.
Even those with great benefits aren’t immune to the stress of a potentially health-harming workplace. Toxic work environments are often tolerated (when we normally wouldn’t put up with it) because it’s our livelihood. Add to that the stress of taking care of kids and managing home life and it adds up to serious health risks.
It can start with sleeplessness and what I call “Sunday night dread.” We all have weeks that are stressful, but when it becomes an every weekend thing, or if you are tossing and turning 2 or 3 nights a week it’s time to pay attention.
When our body senses high stress levels it thinks we’re in physical danger. If your workplace is harmful, you’re going to be in fight of flight mode physiologically. This means elevated blood pressure, a faster heart rate, and muscle tension. Because our brain is wired to respond quickly, you might even notice it’s harder to think or focus just when you need to the most.
If this becomes an every day cycle, you may notice headaches or muscle aches and pains start showing up. It’s a response to tense muscles. If you find yourself pounding the keyboard as you type or hunched over your laptop during a meeting, stress is likely the culprit.
Any other physical or mental issues you have can be exacerbated. For example, if you suffer from seasonal depression, stress will make it worse and harder to combat. People who’ve suffered trauma or abuse may have similar feelings when a boss takes out their temper on you or a co-worker violates your trust.
Real life comes with challenges. When you notice it’s more than the every-now-and-then bad day, you likely need to find a way to combat the stress and/or find a new job.
The best first step is paying attention. Are you already nervous as you drive in? Do you feel your guard go up an hour before your meeting? Your body is trying to help you recognize when stress is zooming. Mindfulness can help your temper the stress before it races out of control.
The next best step is getting help. Most of us can’t quit work, and many of us need to feel safe before we can come up with a plan to improve our situation. I’m here to help.