Having a job goes a long way in reinforcing one’s sense of being a fully contributing member of society. It can even be said that employment has a healing and restorative effect on low self-confidence and negative self-perception, especially for young people with mental health problems. However, this positive impact of employment depends on the work environment and the requirements of the job position. If the stress reaches too high levels, the duties can become a burden for the youth, which in turn can adversely affect their mental health. Therefore, awareness of workplace stress and its consequences is very important.

What is workplace stress: common causes and consequences

Work-related stress generally occurs when employees are faced with demands that do not match their knowledge and skills and that question their ability to cope. These demands may be in the form of the amount of work or the deadlines for completing tasks, they may also refer to the difficulty of the work or the necessary abilities to regulate one’s own emotions and behavior. The causes of stress in the workplace are both related to the job itself and to the characteristics of the employee who has specific individual needs.

Some other factors besides the work demands mentioned above that can lead to high levels of stress if not adequately controlled include:

  • Lack of social support

The employee does not receive adequate information and support from their colleagues and superiors. This factor is of particular significance to young people with mental health problems and is discussed in more detail below.

  • Interpersonal mistreatment

The employee is subjected to unacceptable behaviors, e.g., workplace harassment.

  • Misunderstanding one’s role and responsibilities

The instructions received were not clear enough and, especially in the case of a mentally challenged person, were not repeated enough.

  • Lack of a sense of control and belonging

The employee has no say in how to perform one’s job and does not feel like а recognized member of the team.

Stress and excessive physical and mental strain lead to a number of serious consequences for the employees and the organizations. Among them are sleep problems, migraines, high blood pressure; anxiety, irritability, melancholy; loss of concentration, memory and motivation; abuse of psychoactive substances (including alcohol), impulsive decision-making, isolation; frequent absences, turnover, low morale. It becomes abundantly clear here that both employees and employers stand to gain a lot from minimizing the level of stress in the workplace. You can check out some tips for dealing with stress in the next column.

Some tips for dealing with stress at work for every employee

  1. Track what’s stressing you out

Keep a journal for a week or two to determine which situations create the most stress and how you react to them. Record your thoughts, feelings and information about the environment, including the people involved and the circumstances, the setting.

  1. Develop healthy habits against stress

Instead of trying to combat stress with fast food or alcohol, do your best to make healthy choices when you feel the tension building. Exercise is a great stress reliever. Make time for hobbies and favourite activities. Whether it’s reading a novel, going to concerts, or playing games with your family, make sure to have time for the things that bring you joy. Getting enough quality sleep is also important for effective stress regulation.

  1. Establish boundaries

In today’s digital world, it’s easy to feel pressured to be available 24 hours a day. Establish some work-life boundaries for yourself. This might mean making it a rule not to check e-mail from home in the evening or to not answer the phone during dinner.

  1. Learn how to relax

Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and mindfulness (a state in which you actively observe your current experiences and thoughts without judging them) can help melt away stress.

  1. Talk to your supervisor

Start with an open conversation. However, the goal is not to lay out a list of grievances but rather to make an effective plan for managing the stressors you’ve noticed so that you can work in the most productive way.

These are just some of the ways to reduce work-related stress. In the next section, you can read about social support, which is an essential condition for a constructive work environment.

Social support as a way to prevent stress and its adverse consequences

Social support can be defined as the acceptance of and care for someone, the help that is provided by other people, in this case by the people at work, who should create a cohesive and supportive social network (group), in which anyone willing can realize one’s potential regardless of one’s personal characteristics. Social support at work has various sources, such as supervisors, colleagues, community members and in some cases family members. What is more, social support varies in terms of its type (depending on its content). There is emotional support (including showing patience, understanding, empathy), instrumental support (including providing all material resources needed to complete tasks), informational support (including providing all general and important information about duties and organizational culture), and support in the process of self-appraisal (including regular provision of comprehensive feedback on the employee’s progress).

Social support is actually one of the main basic criteria for a healthy work environment. On the one hand, the feeling of stress increases if the employees do not feel supported and if they are not offered the help they need. In other words, social isolation and lack of cooperation increase the risk of prolonged stress at work. On the other hand, having the support of any kind (and preferably of all kinds) lessens employee stress and the risk of emotional burnout, plays a direct role in meeting the basic needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness/belongingness, thereby increasing the intrinsic motivation and improving individual and group functioning at work.

Therefore, be interested in your colleagues, in their well-being, regardless of their position and regardless of their personal attributes and background! Tolerating differences is essential!