Work is a very important area in our lives due to its economic, physical, psychological and social impact due to the time and energy that we invest in this task every day. The work environmentthe coworkers, the tasks and the professional development itself have an impact on our health in such a way that there is a specific type of stress related to work. It is about work stress, as explained to CuídatePlus Elisa Sanchezpsychologist at the Madrid Official College of Psychology (COP): “Stress can usually be defined as a medium-long-term process with phases of alarm, resistance and exhaustion. and, above all, it has more physiological indicators (than anxiety) and damage to physical health”.
Therefore, when talking about anxiety Y stress labor, this expert suggests the need to differentiate between them, although both concepts are related to the emotion of fear (when a threat or damage is perceived and one has the perception of not having the necessary tools to face the situation).
“Anxiety continues to be a more intense and anticipatory emotion of the situation, fear is usually more real, and anxiety is something that we anticipate that can happen to us because it has happened to us at other times or to other people and we think that it can also happen to us. to us”, clarifies Sánchez.
Once the concepts have been clarified, this expert indicates that anxiety can be understood as a symptom of stress and, if we focus on the workplace, this psychologist reiterates that the work stress it is a more long-term process while anxiety is something more intense and does not have to be prolonged in time. “There is no anxiety as such linked to work, but you can have general anxiety or phobias,” he adds.
Then, When do anxiety and work stress become a problem? “When they are maintained over time and have a negative impact on our day to day”answer back Martha Guerra Corrala General Health Psychologist at the Claritas Psychological Institute, who acknowledges that “it is normal that at some point in our working life we feel stressed or overloaded.”
This perception is shared by Sánchez, who considers that fear in its proper measure is healthy to be cautious, alert and not make hasty decisions. “The problem is when it is very intense, very prolonged and very frequent: this causes your immune system to suffer and start to affect your performancephysical and emotional well-being and your personal relationships, that is the moment to ask for help from specialist professionals”, advises Sánchez
This expert points out that health is a state of physical, psychological and social well-being and when we are not in that state of well-being is when it affects our health (you don’t eat well, you have trouble sleeping, you have inadequate responses towards others and, in the workplace, productivity and performance decline).
Change jobs yes or no?
Regarding the situations in which a job change can be healthy, the General Health psychologist from the Claritas Psychological Institute suggests that “At the moment in which this work stress results in the development of a psychological disorder like anxiety, depression or substance abuse, it’s time to stop.”
However, this expert warns that stopping does not mean in all cases changing jobs: “It is important that we accept and recognize as quickly as possible that under these conditions we cannot continue to work effectively. Once we have stopped, we must try to reduce the symptoms of work stress. If after a lot of effort we do not manage to feel better, perhaps it is time to consider whether we want to continue in the current job”.
Along the same lines, Sánchez comments that leaving work is not always the only solution. In his opinion, Before making this decision, it may be convenient to ask for help, develop our professional skills and emotional regulation skills. “If the person, faced with a neutral situation how to speak in public or having a meeting, perceives it as a very threatening situation, even if you change jobs, the problem is not solved; you have to learn to assess situations in a more equitable way, ”says Sánchez.
Thus, when mechanisms such as the development of competencies or the request for help before a work overload do not change the situation, it would be then when it would be advisable to consider leaving the job. “Changing the job will be more or less convenient depending on the personal situation of each one. It is essential to learn to listen to what our body is asking of us at all times. and know how to answer it”, adds Guerra.
How to identify anxiety and work stress
According to Sánchez, there are work stressors such as work overload and the perception of lack of resources that produce an imbalance between those who demand us in our job and how to deal with it, which is linked to fear (emotion associated with anxiety and stress ). “Regarding the indicators, they can be similar, normally we differentiate four response systems: the cognitive, emotional, physiological and behavioral part. In everything there is a hyperactivation because our thinking is accelerated and we may get blocked, our memory fails, we make wrong decisions; emotionally we feel discomfort due to cortisol and adrenaline, insecurity, and physiologically accelerated breathing, stuttering, increased heart rate and sudden and accelerated gestures appear, and changes in behavior that others perceive of us are perceived themselves”, explains Sánchez.
For his part, Guerra indicates that the indicators of anxiety and work stress are diverse and vary depending on the person. In his experience, some symptoms that can help us identify if this is our case are: lack of energy, when our levels of performance at work are low, we have a feeling of failure and impotence, it is difficult for us to disconnect, we feel more nervous and have difficulty concentrating, we are more irritable or we sleep worse. “We notice that our physical health worsens, for example, we head hurts or we have intestinal problems more often,” he concludes.