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Stress reactions at work

Don Norum, MSW

Stress reactions | Stress assessments | Benefits of healthy stress management | Learning healthy stress management | Healthy stress management home

Unhealthy stress reactions

You object to your supervisor's request on the completion date of a project, emphasizing why you need more time to get it done. Your supervisor counters with reasons why it must get done by his deadline.

Physical reactions
As you object to the time line you feel your body tighten in anger and intensity.

Verbal reactions
The tone and intensity of your voice shows irritation. You walk away obviously upset.

Mental reactions
It is difficult to concentrate on your job as you waver between being angry about the unrealistic expectations and the fear that you came on too strong affecting the relationship with your supervisor. You feel overwhelmed and fed up.

Effects over time
Without a solution, you feel drained going home. You have trouble sleeping that night worried about how to deal with your supervisor the next day. You dread going to work.

The example of work stress is physically and mentally draining. If the stress continues long enough it will affect your physical and mental health. Mentally it can lead to excessive anger, anxiety, depression, etc. High stress levels can result in severe upper respiratory problems, colds, heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, etc.

Healthy stress reactions

You object to your supervisor's request for the completion of a project. You emphasize why you could not get it done that soon. You supervisor counters with reasons why it must get done by his deadline.

Physical reactions
As you object to the time line you feel your body tighten in anger and intensity.

Verbal reactions
As you feel the intensity you quickly remind yourself to calm down and accept your supervisor's deadline so it doesn't escalate into an argument as you walk away.

Mental reactions
Initially you waver between being angry about the unrealistic expectations and the fear that you came on too strong affecting the relationship with your supervisor. You remind yourself to physically calm down so you can think through some alternative ways to discuss how to address his time issue and your work load. When you feel yourself tense up you remind yourself to dismiss the negative reactions in order to look for alternative ideas to approach the situation tomorrow.

Effects over time
Going home you continue to think of alternatives ideas for tomorrow. Your ability to come up with some ideas to revisit the issue helps you to diffuse your anger and fear as you focus working out some kind of understanding with your supervisor.

Calming yourself and minimizing your negative reactions reduces the physical strain on your body. Less strain on the body literally frees up the mind to focus on healthy ways to deal with the situation.