HAMPTON – Stress has been taking a toll on the workforce, especially recently. One nationwide survey showed burnout has risen more than 80 percent since the start of the covid- 19 pandemic more than three years ago. People are retiring, changing careers, and “quiet quitting,” which is dubbed as doing the bare minimum of one’s job requirements.
Glory Mbong-Ngwa is a nurse practitioner in adult psychiatry and behavioral health at Riverside Behavioral Health Center in Hampton. She has noticed an increase in workplace stress since the pandemic began and said it’s important first to understand the dynamics of workforce stress, which includes pain and physical exhaustion caused by job demands.
“It typically occurs when an individual feels overwhelmed, emotionally drained and unable to meet the demands of their work environment,” she said.
This can lead to irritability, restlessness and difficulty concentrating, and can affect other aspects of one’s life.
“Workplace stress can also make individuals lose interest in activities they usually enjoy,” she said, adding consistent low moods are another byproduct.
There are several steps people can take to ensure workplace stress doesn’t bleed over into their personal life, the first of which should be setting boundaries between work life and personal life, Mbong-Ngwa said.
“People can define specific work hours and avoid excessive overtime,” she said.
Other coping mechanisms are to prioritize time away from work, engage in self-care and hobbies, and spend quality time with loved ones. Participating in activities that promote relaxation, stress reduction, and overall well-being also are beneficial.
Feeling overworked or drained, and working long hours are warning signs of stress, so be aware if these feelings start to occur.
No workplace is stress-free, but Mbong-Ngwa’s tips for handling that start with breaking down your workload into manageable chunks and setting realistic goals while prioritizing their responsibilities. Communicating with supervisors and co-workers when feeling overwhelmed also is helpful.
“People can also seek support or reach out to colleagues and friends, share their feelings and experiences, which can help provide emotional relief and can also help gain different perspectives,” she said.
What may be the most important, Mbong-Ngwa stressed, is setting realistic expectations.
“People can accept that they cannot do everything perfectly, that it’s okay to delegate tasks or ask for help when needed,” she said. “People should understand it’s always okay to ask for help, avoid the urge to constantly strive for perfection.”
With May being National Mental Health Awareness Month, that’s important.
Regularly reassessing goals to make sure they are aligned with values might result in big changes, which also is okay.
“Sometimes it’s helpful to seek a different career path,” she said. “If your career is stressful, seek something else and pay attention to your well-being to recognize early signs of stress.”
She hasn’t noticed any one profession or industry that has been particularly hard hit.
“Everywhere, work is work, she said. “The stress is all over.”
It has led to a decrease in job satisfaction as people have become more disengaged from their work.
“They lose interest in their responsibilities, kind of a sense of disillusion,’ Mbong-Ngwa said.
Seeing the problem from a mental health aspect, she is optimistic.
“People are trying to normalize life,” she said, “but the fact that people are getting a little bit closer to what work life used to be, it’s sort of encouraging.”
When people are happy with their work life, the rest often falls into place.