Reducing Workplace Stress Is Serious Business

WARREN, Ohio — There’s stress and then there’s extreme stress.

The severe and prolonged type can be a silent killer. One in five Americans reports suffering from extreme stress, one of many aspects of stress that Sue Trimacco and Natasha Cramer of Meridian Healthcare presented Wednesday at a Mahoning Valley Safety Council workshop, “Stress in the Workplace,” held at the Avalon Inn.

Stress is an “emotional or mental strain or tension due to a difficult or stressful situation,” Trimacco, an LPN and wellness coach, said. “A lot of stress bleeds from one part of our life into another.”

Whether from the demands in our personal lives, financial worries, or especially worries at work, stress cannot be escaped.

“We are turned on all the time,” said Cramer, a professional counselor. Workers are attached to their cell phones, emails and other technological tools that make it harder to avoid workplace stress.

And many are working more intensely or longer, adding to the stress felt.

“We ask employees now to work longer hours than we ever have in recent history,” Cramer said.

Stress can result in subtle symptoms such as stomach problems and tension headaches, but the long-term effects can be deadly.

“Seventy-five to 95% of all of our doctor visits are stress-related,” Trimacco emphasized. “Stress is linked to almost every domain of illness.”

Heart disease, cancer, fatal accidents and suicide are among the most deadly results of stress.

Not all stress is bad, however. Stress can also encourage people to complete tasks and goals that they might otherwise leave undone or delay.

“Stress is, to a certain point, helpful,” Trimacco said. “And then when it passes the point of helpfulness, it becomes very detrimental. It leads to a downward spiral.”

Coping mechanisms took center stage of the workshop as Cramer and Trimacco offered tens of examples of how to reduce anxiety and ally tension, even for people who believe they run on tight schedules.

Identifying sources of stress is key, Cramer said. “A good place to begin is to [review] your day and assess throughout where your tension comes from,” she said. “Find some support for that: Is there a co-worker you can talk to or laugh with? Listen to some music at your desk, or just making any kind of small change, something that makes the tasks that stress you out the most bearable.”

Planning something as simple as nap on the weekend or a trip to the movies can create “something to look forward to,” Cramer said, can help alleviate stress.

Lifestyle changes are critically, Trimacco and Cramer said, as they emphasized getting enough sleep, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and drinking sufficient water, not soda and alcohol.

“If you are walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week, you are simply preventing chronic disease, which will prevent a lot of stress,” Trimacco said.

Karen Wright of Compco Industries of Columbiana shared her own workplace methods to deal with stress: “I try to get out [on the floor] and talk to the guys in the shop, get to know them, see what they’re feeling. It helps me de-stress.

Pictured: Meridian HealthCare employees Natasha Cramer, counselor, and Sue Trimacco, LPN and wellness coach.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.