Ask The Doctor

Ways to Cope with Workplace Stress

Dear Dr. Garner,

My job is literally a headache. Not a day that goes by that I don’t go home and have to take Tylenol. And I feel tired all the time.

My husband wants me to quit, but unfortunately, we need the money. My mother says she is afraid that living under this constant stress is going to add up and cause me some real health problems.

I am not the only one at work who feels this way. A lot of the problem stems from my boss, who is just not a nice person.

Do you have any suggestions?

Stressed Saleswoman in Sunnyside


Dear Stressed,

I am sorry your work is so unbearable. Unfortunately, you are not alone in this problem. In today’s economy, many people are forced to stay in jobs that are not satisfying and sometimes unpleasant.

Your mother has a real  concern, which is backed up by recent studies.

The topic of health-related issues in the workplace is extremely important as the stress we face on a daily basis lays the path for current and future health problems.

Studies have demonstrated that women who report having high levels of job stress are at an increased risk of having a heart attack, compared with women who have low levels of stress at work.

Job stress is often associated with a demanding position that offers little or no decision-making authority or opportunities to use one’s skills or creativity. Being a waitress is at the top of the list for job stress.

Studies have also found that job insecurity contributes to high blood pressure, increased cholesterol and obesity levels.

As a result of workplace stress, one may also experience chronic fatigue, stomach problems, frequent colds, loss of  libido, lack of sleep and generalized irritability.

As reality does not allow you to leave your job, there are things you can do to help reduce the unpleasant situation you’re facing.

  1. Control the things you can. Eat right, exercise, drink alcohol in moderation and try to get enough sleep each night.
  2. Don’t over commit yourself. Leave for work 10-15 minutes early each  morning to avoid the stress of running late. Plan regular breaks during the day, and leave when your shift ends, if possible.
  3. Develop relationships with supportive co-workers and those with positive attitudes. Try to find humor in your collective situation.
  4. Know your limits. You are only human, not superwoman.
  5. Look at the big picture: Will the stress you are experiencing at this moment have  much significance  in the long run? Is it worth causing your health to deteriorate?

Refocusing Energy

Here is a short list of things everyone can do to refocus negative energy and start feeling better:

  • Start a stress journal. Talk about the stress you face and how you deal with it. Just writing about stress helps to reduce it.
  • Engage in deep breathing exercises. Inhale a full breath for three to four seconds, and then exhale slowly. This works quickly.
  • Try progressive relaxation. Alternate tensing and relaxing muscles, starting with the feet and going to the head.
  • Use guided imagery. Take a moment to think of a beautiful beach scene or other environment that brings you peace.
  • Take pleasure in small things.
  • Laugh – a lot. It’s a great anti-depressant.
  • Massage can ease the tension in your muscles.

You may not be able to avoid the stress of a negative work environment, but you can learn to deal with it and remember to focus on all of the good things in your life.

I hope you’ll follow these suggestions and find some relief until your situation improves or you can find a new job.

Dr. Garner is a Fidelis Care provider who is affiliated with New York Methodist Hospital, Park Slope. He also hosts “Ask the Doctor” on NET-TV, Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Time Warner Channel 97 and Cablevision Channel 30.

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