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Stress at Work

Workplace Bullying is One of the Primary Causes of Dangerous Levels of Stress at Work

The Cause of Job Stress Revealed

Fatigue Due to Workplace Stress Debilitating

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What are the health effects of bullying?

The list of negative health effects related to bullying is long. Many of the the consequences are related to the effect of prolonged exposure to high levels of stress at work.

Stress can be good for keeping us alert and out of danger as it allows the body to rev-up our heart rate and breathing to deal with physical threats to life and limb.

However in our modern work world we are more likely to face threats of a psychological nature, something our fight or flight mechanism (stress response) was not designed for.

The stress response can also be triggered by anticipation of non-life-threatening events such as financial problems, job security, maritial problems, etc. These stressors besiege not only mobbing targets but their families and friends as well, compounding and exacerbating an already debilitating situation.

The Cause of Stress at Work Revealed

The truth about stress at work, stress management, stress relief, stress on the job, workplace stress, job stress etc.

Stress. It's on everyone's mind. Or rather their body. But what causes stress? If you've been sent on a stress management course, or its cheaper alternative, a stress awareness course, the chances are you'll have not learned much about the causes of stress. The only way of dealing with stress is to identify the cause and then work to reduce or eliminate the cause.

Despite the need for risk assessment and stress audits, many employers are coy about the causes of stress. Encouraging employees to endure prolonged negative stress - such as by forcing them to attend a stress management seminar - could be setting them up to sustain further injury to health and stress-related illness.

It's often not recognised that there are two types of stress: positive stress results from a well-managed workplace and can be harnessed to enhance performance, whilst negative stress - which results in stress-related illnesses and causes injury to health - results from a badly-managed workplace in which inadequate employees bully to hide their inadequacy. When people use the word "stress" on its own, they usually mean "negative stress".

Stress at work is not the employee's inability to cope with excessive workload or the unwelcome attentions of bullying co-workers and managers; stress is a consequence of the employer's failure to provide a safe workplace.

Different people respond with different degrees of stress to different stressors. However, there are at least four factors which determine the degree to which one will feel stressed:

Control: a person feels stressed to the extent to which they perceive they are not in control of the stressor; at work, employees have no control over their management.

Predictability: a person feels stressed to the extent to which they are unable to predict the behaviour or occurrence of the stressor (bullies are notoriously unpredictable in their behaviour)

Expectation: a person feels stressed to the extent to which they perceive their circumstances are not improving and will not improve. (A bullying situation almost always gets worse, especially as one gains insight into the cause.)

Support: a person feels stressed to the extent to which they lack support systems, including work colleagues, management, personnel, union, partner, family, friends, persons in authority, official bodies, professionals, and the law.

Once the stress response is activated, the body's energy is diverted to where it is needed, thus heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate increase. All non-essential body functions are temporarily shut down or operate at reduced level; these include digestion, growth, sexual systems (menstrual cycle, libido, testosterone production), immune system, storage of energy as fat, etc.

In response to threat, glucose, proteins and fats are rapidly released from storage (in muscles, fat cells and liver) and energy becomes abundantly available to those muscles which will help you fight the danger or run away from it. In extreme cases bowels and bladder will spontaneously evacuate to lighten the load; the smell may also help to deter the attacker.

There is no point in digestion, reproduction and immune system etc continuing to operate if you're likely to be the sabre-toothed tiger's dinner in the next ten minutes - better divert that energy into avoiding being on the menu.

Therefore, the prospect of going to work, or the thought or sound of the bully approaching immediately activates the stress response, but fighting or flight are both inappropriate. In repeated bullying, the stress response prepares the body to respond physically when what is required is an employer-wide anti-bullying policy, knowledge of bullying motivations and tactics, assertive responses to defend ourselves against unwarranted verbal and physical harassment, and effective laws against bullying as an ultimate deterrent or arbiter when all else fails.


Fatigue Due to Stress at Work Debilitating

The fatigue caused by bullying is understandable when you realise that the body's fight or flight mechanism ultimately becomes activated for long periods, sometimes semi-permanently. For a person with a regular daytime job, the activation can last from Sunday evening - at the prospect of having to go to work the following day - through to the following Saturday morning - at the prospect of two days relief.

The fight or flight mechanism is designed to operate briefly and intermittently, but when activated for abnormally long periods, causes the body's physical, mental and emotional batteries to drain dry. Energy stored in the body as protein, glycogen and triglycerides is rapidly converted back to amino acids, glucose and fatty acids etc to help the body deal with the perceived threat.

The process of conversion, achieved via the release of stress hormones such as glucocorticoids, glucagon, epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline), itself consumes energy. The stress hormones also trigger the conversion of protein in those muscles not required for fight or flight into amino acids.

Whilst the human body is capable of withstanding considerable levels and periods of stress, when the stress response is turned on for long periods, the body inevitably sustains damage through prolonged raised levels of glucocorticoids (which are toxic to brain cells), excessive depletion of energy reserves, resulting in fatigue, loss of strength and stamina, muscle wastage (as in steroid myopathy when patients receive large doses of glucocorticoids to treat various illnesses), and adult-onset diabetes.

At the weekend and days off, the weakened immune system cannot fight off viruses (eg colds, flu, glandular fever etc) and the person suffers constant illnesses during which the batteries do not recharge. Even without viral infection, the obsessiveness and disturbed sleeping patterns prevent the body from replenishing stored energy. Reactivation of the fight or flight mechanism prior to returning to work produces a flow of stress hormones which appear to temporarily suppress the effects of illness.

Bullying Cartoon - Stress at Work - Job Stress
Courtesy Carol Simpson DesignWorks  

This information was compiled and used with permission.
Special thanks to Tim Field - Bully OnLine and to No Bully For Me.

See Also:

Relaxation at Home - Stress Relief Techniques
Discover traditional and alternative relaxation techniques you can use at home to reduce stress and insomnia as well as improve your quality of life.

Exercise and Stress: Is Stress Ruining Your Health?

Hypnosis for Stress and Anxiety: Can Hypnosis Help You Cope?

How to Stop Panic and Anxiety Attacks


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