Q. My son, who is in his 40’s, complains all the time about job stress. I’m tired of hearing it. I’m 75, and I worked all my life with stress. I don’t understand why he can’t just buckle up. Do people now really have more job stress?
A. According to a survey by Princeton Research Associates, 75 percent of employees believe that there is more workplace stress today than there was a generation ago. The technology that supposedly made life easier has created problems that were neither anticipated nor addressed. Today, some employers expect workers to be available 24/7 which is not possible.
In the past few decades, workers have been downsized, had production quotas increased, and felt less job security. Gone are the days when an employee stays with a company for 30 or 40 years and retires with a sizeable pension. Today, people between the ages of 18 and 36 have already held an average of 10 jobs. While older parents may believe that their children are “job hoppers,” younger workers know that there is little loyalty from most companies and that individuals need to manage their own career paths.
Instead of becoming annoyed with your son, talk to him. Ask him why he is feeling so much stress. He may need to change jobs, find other outlets or train for a new career. The college where I teach has many older students who have been downsized or simply want to make a career change. I have witnessed burly guys who lost blue-collar jobs become extremely successful nurses or radiology technicians.
Since you may have been out of the work force for several years, check out websites on workplace stress such as those of The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The American Institute of Stress. These websites may help you understand more about the plight your son is experiencing.
Q. I’ve been sick so much this past year that I’ve missed lots of work. My doctor tells me I am suffering from job stress. I really dislike my job because I have no say in any decision making, but I can’t afford to quit. I don’t want to discuss this with my gossiping co-workers. Is my experience unusual?
A. Over the past 20 years, there have been numerous studies examining the effects of workplace stress on health. According to research, early physical warning signs of job stress are headaches, sleep disturbances and frequent stomach problems. Emotional warning signs are loss of concentration, anger, feelings of dissatisfaction and low morale.
Short-lived stress poses little risk to one’s health; however, when the situation remains unresolved, the body is in a constant state of activation. This state will cause wear and tear to your biological and psychological systems. Eventually, the body becomes so worn that the ability to repair itself can become deactivated. This may be happening to you.
If you do not face your stress related issues, your problems will continue to escalate. Many studies suggest that having little control over a job raises the risks of cardiovascular disease and for many musculoskeletal disorders including debilitating upper and lower back pain. Additionally, research suggests that workplace issues are adding to mental health problems such as depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Before you make a rash decision to quit your job or stay there and be miserable, consult a career counselor or a therapist who specializes in work-related issues. There may be changes you can make in your current workplace. If not, give yourself time to look for new opportunities. You will most likely begin to feel better once you become less passive and begin making changes that move you forward.
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Nancy Ryburn holds a doctorate degree in psychology from Yeshiva University in New York City where she maintained a private practice. She now teaches psychology at Southeast Arkansas College. E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. The questions will not be answered personally, but could appear in a future column. There will be no identifying information and all e-mails remain confidential.