Any occupation can be stressful, but some jobs are more likely to take a greater toll on mental health. For a top-five list of most stressful jobs, as well as a discussion of why they’re associated with anxiety, depression, and other disorders, read on…
The Connection Between Jobs and Mental Health
Everyone who has ever held a job is likely familiar with workplace stress. Any job can have stressful elements, even for those who are working in their dream field.
In some cases, work-related stress is short-term—deadlines, difficult clients, and fulfilling challenging obligations may create temporary strain and pressure that will resolve within days or weeks. In other cases, job-related stress builds over time or is related to the nature of the job itself. It goes beyond a difficult supervisor or a demanding project and becomes chronic and overwhelming.
Unfortunately, this long-term stress can have a serious impact on mental health. While it may be impossible to avoid tension in the workplace entirely, there are steps that workers can take to cope with it in a healthy, productive way.
The Toll That Some Industries Have on Mental Health
While the following industries are vastly different from one another, many of them (as well as other high-stress fields) share common elements that contribute to the high level of stress workers face. Some of the most common workplace stressors include:
- Unclear performance expectations
- Conflicting demands
- Lack of support from management or administrators
- Limited opportunities for growth or career advancement
- Excessive workloads and too many responsibilities
- Low pay
For many people, a significant portion of their waking hours is spent at work or handling work-related issues at home. Particularly in the absence of a sensible work/life balance, workplace stress can have a big impact on mental health. In some cases, a stressful work environment can contribute to physical ailments such as sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating, stomach aches, and headaches.
The 5 Worst Jobs for Mental Health
Multiple studies have been conducted to pinpoint the industries that are most likely to take a toll on mental health. While different researchers identify different high-stress jobs, there are some fields that consistently pop up.
Social work consistently ranks among the most stressful jobs. While this career can be very rewarding, it also takes a huge toll on mental health. Social workers regularly deal with people who are in the midst of major crises, and working with disadvantaged families and abused children on a regular basis is extremely emotionally challenging. This is often coupled with inadequate pay, long hours, and a high turnover rate, creating a high-stress environment.
While doctors, nurses and healthcare technicians make relatively high salaries, they generally work in a very fast-paced, high-stress environment where their split-second decisions may have a lasting negative impact on someone’s life. Combined with the long hours that many healthcare professionals work, this industry is widely known for its role in causing anxiety and depression in workers’ lives. According to one study, 20 percent of medical residents met the criteria for depression and 74 percent met the criteria for burnout. The suicide rate among male doctors is 40 percent higher than the general population. Among female doctors, it’s 130 percent higher.
Teachers wear a lot of hats—they plan multiple lessons in a day, tutor and inspire struggling students, coordinate field trips, connect with lonely or at-risk students, respond to complaints of pain or sickness, remind students to practice good hygiene, and tackle dozens of other tasks as they pop up during the course of the day.
While this career is undoubtedly rewarding, it also comes with more than its fair share of stress and mental exhaustion. Despite their endless responsibilities, teachers deal with low starting pay, frazzled parents, ill-behaved children and demanding administrators, all of which threaten mental health.
Low pay, insensitive bosses, lack of advancement opportunities, and rude customers are among the factors that make food services so stressful for workers. According to one source, one in 10 people working in food services report an episode of major depression in the year prior to being surveyed. Among women, one in seven experienced depression.
For self-motivated people who enjoy working with people, a career in sales may be an attractive option. The income potential and opportunities for advancement are high, which appeals to many professionals. However, a career in sales has its challenges. Revenue and profit quotas, customer problems, and product or delivery issues can create a highly charged environment. Especially in a slow economy, workers whose income and career prospects are dependent on getting people to spend money are more likely to experience a high level of stress.
Recognizing Job Stress
Factors contributing to job stress differ from one worker to another. Someone working in a high-stress field may not notice a significant impact on their mental health, while someone working in a job that isn’t recognized as being stressful may live with job-related anxiety and depression. Ultimately, workers should be aware that regardless of their field, mental healthcare professionals can help them learn coping strategies for handling stress.
Steps for Reducing On-the-Job Stress
While it may be impossible to completely avoid job-related steps, there are some steps that workers can take to improve their overall mental health, even when tensions are high.
For those whose work is affecting their quality of life, tracking situations that create stress is an important first step for learning to handle it. Many individuals benefit from keeping a journal for a week or two to track stressors and how they responded to them. Journal entries should include information such as the time of day, the circumstances surrounding the feelings of depression, anxiety or stress and how the individual handled them, such as whether they ate a snack, went for a walk or expressed their feelings to a co-worker. Taking these notes is an effective way to recognize patterns.
Learn Healthy Coping Mechanisms
When the body experiences stress, it sends out cortisol. This hormone is often the culprit behind cravings for sugary, salty foods, as these are the foods that activate the brain’s reward center. It’s not surprising, then, that stress often goes hand-in-hand with poor food choices and other habits that provide short-term happiness but negative long-term consequences. Instead of attempting to fight stress with fast food or alcohol, workers should do their best to develop healthy coping mechanisms. Yoga, cardiovascular exercise, making time for hobbies and getting sufficient rest and nutrition are proven ways to help cope with stress.
In today’s digital world, many workers feel pressure to be available to their employers around the clock. However, it’s more important than ever to establish work-life boundaries. This may mean only checking work-related emails, voicemails and text messages at certain times of the day and only answering calls during normal business hours. While everyone has different preferences when it comes to establishing boundaries between time on and off the clock, creating separation between these two realms is vital for mental health, particularly for those working in demanding fields.
Learn Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness exercises and meditation can help reduce feelings of stress. In our fast-paced world, taking time to slow down and focus on breathing, enjoying a meal or walking may feel unnatural, but with practice, these skills can be applied to other areas of life and help the body change how it responds to stressors.
Many employers provide stress management resources such as hotlines, online information and referrals to mental health professionals. For those living with work-related stress, getting professional support is important for developing healthy coping strategies.
Getting Help with FHE Health
For those whose jobs are affecting their overall quality of life, talking to a mental health professional can help with recognizing stressors and developing healthy ways to handle work-related stress and anxiety. At FHE Health, we’re experts in providing support for clients dealing with mental health problems related to their jobs. If your job triggers mental health conditions like anxiety or depression and is negatively impacting your day-to-day functioning, contact us today at (855) 944-7282.