Only around half of workers in the U.S. are satisfied with their jobs, according to 2017 data from research group The Conference Board (though that percentage is growing). But while job dissatisfaction is common, being dissatisfied with your job because the stress it's causing is negatively impacting you is not. There are plenty of signs you're too stressed out by your job, but thankfully there are little changes you can make to help improve your work environment and lessen the stress you're carrying home with you.
The first — and most important — thing you should do if you realize your workplace is negatively affecting you is figure out whether it's genuinely the stress of your job, or whether your workplace is just plain toxic. Because while there are some things you can do to lessen your work-related stress, if your workplace is toxic, you're not responsible for fixing that, and trying to do so will only add to your stress, likely with little or no positive results.
Career resource site Monster says hallmarks of a toxic workplace include sexual harassment or threats of physical violence, employees doing the workload of two or three people without appreciation, some employees being able to get away with things others don't, bosses deflecting responsibility or blame onto their subordinates, and coworkers engaging in "gossip, office politics, or spying." In the case of any of these, it's entirely possible you'll be better off leaving the company — "plan your exit," Monster suggests, because "you can't change a corporate culture on your own," Marie McIntyre, author, columnist and creator of YourOfficeCoach.com, told Monster.
But if you feel like your situation is not caused by workplace toxicity, there are signs your workplace is affecting you negatively and making your stress level skyrocket. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), common reasons for work stress include low salaries, excessive workloads, few opportunities for advancement in your company, work that isn't engaging, a lack of social support within your workplace, and conflicting demands or unclear performance expectations. So, how will these effects of a stressful working environment actually make their mark on your non-working life?
According to therapist Beth Burgess writing for Lifehack, you've probably already experienced one of the top signs of a consistently overly stressful work environment: Unexplained aches and pains. "Unexplained pain can be a signal from the body to alert you to the fact that you’re over-taxing yourself," Burgess explains.
You may also notice a decreased appetite because when you're too stressed, "your priorities change and eating may feel less important to your body than dealing with current work stressors," Burgess says. So if you find yourself routinely forgetting to eat lunch, that could be a strong indication stress is piling up — especially if you skip lunch to stay at your desk. Set a daily reminder on your phone to step away from your desk and eat an actual lunch — chances are good you'll be less stressed out if you're not hangry.
Another sign is Fridays. It's safe to say the good majority of people are stoked when Fridays roll around. But if you feel "liberated" when the weekend hits, according to Business Insider, that could be an indication that you're burning out from the stress at work. To figure out whether or not your TGIF levels are the uzh, keep an eye on when you start to think about work. If you start dreading Monday on Saturday morning, that's a good sign your workplace is so stressful, you're having problems letting go of it to enjoy your time off. Combat this by having your support system — whether that's your roommate, significant other, or BFF — make sure you're busy doing non-work things on the weekends, and preferably things that keep you away from your phone and work email. If your workplace culture demands that you be on email or Slack over the weekends (which is less than ideal, but not uncommon), set aside dedicated time to respond to messages so you have set windows to decompress — and make sure to communicate that shift to your team.
Steven Benna writing for Business Insider also says forgetting your accomplishments at work is a sign you're not doing so hot. If you're continually grinding forward and can't remember the last time a work accomplishment felt meaningful or made you happy — and especially if your boss doesn't recognize your accomplishments — then you should reevaluate your work life. Keeping a dedicated list of your accomplishments on your phone or at your desk can be one way to remain more mindful of what you are doing well (even if your boss' feedback seems to indicate otherwise).
Recognizing stressors in your work life can seem simple. But knowing what to do about those stressors is difficult, because in this case, practicing some at-home self-care isn't going to be enough. You're going to have to work on drawing firmer work-life boundaries.
The APA suggests getting support not just from family and friends, but at your workplace, since "your employer may also have stress management resources available through an employee assistance program (EAP), including online information, available counseling and referral to mental health professionals, if needed." Remember that these resources are there for you to use, and that it's not shameful to use them.
Ultimately, though, if you're finding your workplace is stressful because of factors outside of your control, you're probably going to end up needing to chat with your manager. The APA says to start by "having an open conversation with your supervisor," where you talk to them about the stressors you've noticed. You should come into this meeting with some suggestions for formulating a plan to help you be less stressed and happier (and consequently, more productive) on the job.
Feeling a certain amount of pressure to do well at work is normal, but when that pressure becomes overwhelming, you should investigate whether you can help mitigate any factors that are contributing to your stress. Remember, though, that in the end, if your company isn't supporting you and it's corporate culture that's causing your stress, an exit plan may be your best bet for lessening your stress and improving your life.