Workplace happiness and stress
by Michele Majul-Ibarra
Winter is daunting and difficult for most of us. Particularly in Winnipeg, the combination of extreme drops in temperature and shorter days, no doubt, has caused a lot of folks to feel stressed and anxious for spring to arrive.
We all have heard of winter blues and how cold weather can cause seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder. Increased stress levels can unfortunately be a symptom of that. The Mayo Clinic describes Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as “a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer.” According to the Mayo Clinic, treatment for SAD may include light therapy (phototherapy), medications and psychotherapy. So, it is no surprise that we all long for bright, sunny days after the long winter months.
Regardless, no matter which season we are in, stress is a fact of life. We have all experienced stress and anxiety at one point or another. However, because we spend the majority of our time at work, the most common source of stress comes from our workplace and certainly, cold weather may contribute to that stress.
New research has actually found that workplace happiness comes least to millennials. A company called Cygnet Jobs did the study in the UK and their findings revealed that 73 per cent of 25 to 35 year olds have recently taken their workplace stresses home and 62 per cent of individuals in this age bracket reported feelings of sleep deprivation due to career stress in the past. Also, 22 per cent reported weight loss as a result of stress.
On the other hand, nine per cent in the age bracket of 55+ stated that they have recently taken their work-related stress home. This is indicative that workplace happiness becomes more important as a person matures. In relation to the study, Rowan Marriott, the Head of Resourcing at Cygnet stated that people aged 25 to 55 in the UK appear to be overworked and stressed. He also stated that the long-term effects of being unhappy or stressed in the workplace can have a negative impact on someone’s mental and physical health.
In Canada, the statistics is no different. One in four Canadians mention stress as the reason for leaving their job while 73 per cent of aged 20 to 64 reported some level of stress. Based on Statistics Canada’s data, 23 per cent of people aged 15 say that most days are “quite a bit” or “extremely” stressful and the figure appears to be higher among 35 to 54 age group at 30 per cent.
Further research also suggests that stress is contagious. The University of Calgary published a study in the journal Nature Neuroscience regarding an examination of pairs of sibling mice – one exposed to stress and one relaxing in a cage. The experiment revealed that when the pair was reunited, the chemical stress signal transferred to the non-stressed mouse. Despite of this observation, the experiment also found that stressed female mice were able to reverse the negative effects of stress by hanging out with non-stressed partners. This finding was exclusive to the females according to the study.
Whatever the cause may be, work appears to be the leading cause of stress among our population and of course with other contributing factors such as the weather, our finances, our personal life, our environment and other demands on our time, the stress that we already experience at work can worsen. The good news is that stress can be managed. Building our defences will not only reduce stress but also improve our overall health. Some ways to reduce stress, as an example, is getting enough sleep, doing relaxation exercises, regular physical activity and engaging in hobbies such as music, reading, and dancing, to name a few. It is also important to remember that while there are ways to manage work-related stress, it is also very important to recognize symptoms that could signal more than just stress. Seasonal affective disorder or depression, for example, may show the same symptoms as stress, however they require more attention and may require specific treatment from a health professional.
This article is intended for information purposes only and not to be considered as professional advice.
Michele Majul-Ibarra, IPMA-ACP is an Advanced Certified HR Professional with the International Personnel Management Association. She graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and a Certificate in Human Resource Management. She also holds the C.I.M. professional designation (Certified in Management). E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.