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How much stress do you have to deal with at work?
While we all have to face a certain amount of stress in most jobs, the physical and psychological costs of too much workplace stress can be enormous. Stress can occur for many reasons, whether it involves fear of layoffs due to a poor economy, increased workload due to staff cutbacks, or facing greater pressure to perform by employers, people who are overworked or facing greater uncertainty on the job can find themselves developing health problems that can only get worse without relief.
According to the allostatic load model of workplace stress, chronic stress can lead to greater "wear and tear" due to frequent activation of the body's natural defenses against acute dangers. Whenever we are facing a new threat, stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine are released into our systems to prepare us for dealing with the threat. Ordinarily, our system returns to normal afterward following a period of rest. But when there is no opportunity for rest or if we are faced with repeated threats with minimal rest periods in between, the body can become overwhelmed as the allostatic load reaches a critical point. This is when the strain begins to cause significant damage to many of the body's organs, including the heart. Too much stress in the workplace can result in a significant rise in medical problems, increased absenteeism, increased risk of substance abuse or emotional problems, and can even be life-threatening. In Japan, there is even a term used for it: karoshi which literally means "death from overwork." But there are other factors that come into play with the stress people experience in the workplace.
To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.
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