We’ve all had those situations come up at work — when it feels like you’re given more than you can handle, so your responsibility and anxiety mental start playing off each other. You get a new boss who’s a nightmare, you’ve made a mistake that has had enormous consequences or you’re having too many expectations put on you at work. Whatever the reason, this amount of pressure often increases stress.
Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain caused by adverse circumstances. When we take on too much stress, it begins to negatively affect our mental and physical health. It’s vital to recognize when you’re under pressure so you can do your best to address it before you get to a tipping point.
Responsibility and Anxiety: The Dangers of Long-Term Stress
If you’re always overwhelmed by responsibility, you can reach an unhealthy point where you become almost complacent with significant stress levels. You might forget what it’s like not to feel constantly anxious and stressed and you accept this as your new normal.
Unfortunately, maintaining high stress on a long-term basis can have severe mental and physical health consequences.
Some of the potential physical side effects of stress include low energy, headaches, upset stomach, aches and pains, tense muscles, chest pain and rapid heartbeat, insomnia, frequent colds, loss of sexual desire, nervousness, shaking, dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, clenched jaw, grinding teeth and more.
If left to progress, the long-term impact of these physical side effects can include cardiovascular disease (heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks and stroke), obesity or eating disorders and menstrual problems.
Stress and mental health are also closely intertwined. Long-term stress can lead to various mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and personality disorders.
Your responsibilities may never go away, but you can and should recognize when you’re at your breaking point. When you reach a point where the stress becomes toxic and unbearable, it’s best to address it rather than allow yourself to unravel.
Here are five signs of toxic stress you should watch out for:
1. Lack of Motivation or Focus
Ironically, the burden of too much responsibility stress can lead to you experiencing a severe lack of motivation or focus. At a time when too much work or responsibilities land on your plate, instead of thriving, your brain shuts down and stops being able to complete even the smallest task. It’s like your body and mind are telling you it’s all too much, so there’s no point in even trying.
Unfortunately, your inability to focus or find motivation will likely only add to your stress as you watch your pile of tasks climb higher and higher. After all, responsibility and anxiety seem to go hand in hand.
How to Address It:
When you notice your inability to focus or see motivation draining out of you, stop and recognize what’s happening. You’re likely feeling this way because it seems you can’t possibly do everything that’s expected of you. So stop focusing on everything at once. Make a list of all your tasks and priorities. Promise yourself you’ll tackle the plan one step at a time. Know that if you can’t complete your entire list, it’s okay. You did all you could, and you’ll get around to the next items on the list when you can.
If someone tries to ask you why you didn’t accomplish everything, try to shift the conversation. Point out all that you have done, admit there’s still more to do and provide an updated timeline when you think the remaining tasks will be handled.
2. Emotional Outbursts
A strong sign that you’re dealing with toxic stress is if you’re experiencing frequent emotional or angry outbursts that aren’t typical of your personality type. Emotional outbursts likely occur because you feel so overwhelmed by the constant stress that you don’t know how to respond anymore.
How to Address It:
When you recognize that you’re starting to have emotional outbursts at work or with other people in your life, try to acknowledge this as problematic. Learn to walk away from conversations when you feel overwhelmed. If you owe anyone an apology, make sure you give it to them quickly and sincerely.
It’s important to understand that emotional outbursts at work aren’t appropriate and can put your job security at risk. Consider seeing a professional for additional help. You might need to talk out your feelings and learn coping mechanisms from a mental health professional.
3. Constant Fatigue
If you’re feeling constantly tired, it could be that your high levels of stress are draining all the energy out of you. You need energy to lead a fulfilling life, accomplish goals and thrive at work. Don’t ignore signs of constant fatigue — your body is screaming at you to slow down!
How to Address It:
Constant fatigue is a sign that you need a break. If possible, use up some of your vacation days or personal days and take some time to rest. If that isn’t an option, consider adding some relaxing activities at night that can help you feel refreshed and energized. This includes taking up meditation, exercising more or even taking the time to unwind and read.
Stress can significantly impact our sleep. If you’re constantly stressed about work, you might find yourself going through endless loops of work thoughts at night that prevent you from having a restful sleep. Unfortunately, when we don’t get enough sleep, we see several adverse side effects such as mood swings, difficulty concentrating, overeating and more. If stress is triggering insomnia for you, it’s essential to make a plan to fix it.
How to Address It:
Make a sleeping schedule and stick to it. Try to go to bed at the same time every night, including weekends. Eliminate all technology and distractions from your bedroom and invest in some blackout curtains. Do everything you can to make your bedroom a peaceful sanctuary.
Stress can put anyone in a bad mood or cause spurts of anger. However, left unaddressed, stress can lead to depression. If your feelings of sadness feel constant or encompassing, you might be transitioning into (or already in) a state of depression. In fact, a 2018 study on stress reported that 51% of adults who felt stressed also felt depressed.
Some common other symptoms of depression include changes in appetite, social isolation, sleep problems, anger, lack of concentration and reckless behavior such as substance abuse.
How to Address It:
Depression isn’t something to be ignored. Whether it’s impacting your work or personal life, depression is a serious condition that needs diagnosis and treatment. If you suspect you might be suffering from depression, contact a mental health professional for help.
Tips for Resolution Management
Work can be stressful at any given time, but that stress shouldn’t be constant, long-term, or causing problems to your health. If you think your work is causing so much stress it’s impacting your physical, emotional or mental well-being, take the following steps:
- Make a measured plan to reduce the amount of stress at work.
- Have a backup plan if you don’t experience a reduction in stress. For example, consider finding a new job.
- Start seeing a mental health professional to address any side effects that might be occurring because of the elevated stress.
FHE Can Help
Stress often can and does lead to the need for mental health care. FHE Health offers a wide variety of outpatient and residential programs for mental health disorders. Let one of our compassionate team members help you get the help you need. Contact us today by calling (833) 596-3502.