How has competition and performance pressure at work impacted mental health? How to manage workplace pressure?

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Our workplace is the place where we spend most of our productive hours. Work is at the very core of modern life for most people, providing financial security, personal identity, and an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to community life. There is a continual recognition of work-life of the role of work in promoting or hindering mental wellness and its corollary – mental illness. Although it is a challenge to quantify the impact of work alone on personal identity, self-esteem, and social recognition, it is agreed upon that the workplace environment can have a significant effect on an individual’s mental well-being. There are several factors related to the workplace which are very significantly related to mental health.
They are:

  • Structured Environment
  • Connect to society
  • Shared effort and Goals
  • Social identity (employment is an important element in defining oneself);
  • Regular activity (organizing one’s daily life)

Workplace has immense importance in a person’s life. In workplace, we all want to perform well as it is directly related to salary increment and promotions. It is always good to have healthy competition as it encourages and motivates one to perform better. But global competitive processes have altered work organization, work dealings, and occupation patterns. It has increased work-related stress and associated disorders. The pace of work has increased as instant communication has become the need of the hour. The lines separating work from life are becoming more and more challenging to identify. An appropriate balance between work and private life is difficult to achieve.

Sometimes in work, people need to compete against their co-workers to achieve some position or find some situations which can help them. Also, workers have specific targets which can be stressful. Few regular stressors in workplace which can affect mental health are:

  1. Rat race for targets
  2. Competition among co-workers to outperform each other
  3. Regular lay-offs based upon performance
  4. Co-workers competing for the same promotion
  5. Role ambiguity and role conflict
  6. Non-supportive team members
  7. Lack of power in decision-making
  8. Inflexible work schedule
  9. Unpredictable working hours
  10. Long or unsociable working hours
  11. Lack of proper communication within the team
  12. Work overload or underload
  13. Low salaries
  14. Lack of social support
  15. Conflicting demands or unclear performance expectations
Work-related stress doesn’t just disappear when you leave for home for the day. When stress continues to exist, it can take a toll on your health and well-being. A stressful work environment can contribute to issues such as headache, stomach-ache, sleep disturbances, short temper, and difficulty concentrating. Chronic stress can cause anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system. It can also result in health conditions such as depression, obesity, and heart disease. Compounding the problem, people who experience excessive stress usually deal with it in unhealthy ways, such as overeating, eating unhealthy foods, smoking cigarettes, or abusing drugs and alcohol.

Few techniques to deal with work-related stress are:

  • Identifying the stressors: If individuals note down, list the factors which are bothering them, it will be easier to deal with those stressors. One can note down the situation which bothers them, the thoughts they had about it, their action, feelings associated with it. The situations and thoughts bringing negative emotions like anxiety, fear, anger need to be dealt with.
  • Replacing unhealthy coping mechanisms with healthy coping:Instead of attempting to fight stress with fast food or alcohol, one can make healthy choices when they feel the tension rise. Exercise is a great stress-buster. Yoga can be a great choice, but any form of physical activity is beneficial. Also, make time for hobbies and favourite activities.
  • Establishing Boundaries:In this digital world, the pressure is there to remain present 24X7. Sometimes people check email, work from their homes to finish work. Establishing some work-life boundaries is needed. That might mean making a rule not to check work email from home in the evening, or not answering the phone during dinner. Creating some clear boundaries between work and home life can make the situation better.
  • Time-Out from Work:To avoid the negative effects of chronic stress and burnout, we need time to replenish and return to our pre-stress level of functioning. This recovery process requires “time off” from work by having periods of time when you are neither engaging in work-related activities nor thinking about work. Taking vacations is important.
  • Being Mindful:Focusing on the present and not past and future.
  • Take professional help with stress and anxiety if needed:Please consult a psychologist /Psychiatrist if you feel you are not being able to deal with stress and you need additional external help to deal with it.

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