Low salaries, lack of opportunity for advancement and heavy workloads have more than one-third of Americans reporting feeling chronic work stress.
And women are feeling it more acutely than ever. After decades of making progress in the work force, many women are feeling less valued than men, according to a recent APA survey on Stress in the Workplace. They’re feeling they don’t receive adequate monetary compensation for their work and feel that employers offer them fewer opportunities for internal career advancement than men.
Why are women feeling less appreciated than men, when it comes to compensation and why are they stressed by lack of opportunity?
Possibly because they are.
Take a look at the healthcare industry as one example. Healthcare as a whole is still an overwhelmingly female occupation: 80 percent of all workers in this field are female, according to a report on the healthcare industry by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
But men are still earning more in many healthcare careers. For example, female doctors earn less than their male counterparts and male nurses earn more than female nurses at every level of education, according to the Georgetown report.
And healthcare isn’t alone. According to the results of the annual VIDA Women in the Literary Arts survey, male authors were featured 3 to 4 times more often than female authors in many major literary publications, such as The New York Review of Books and Harpers Magazine.
The reality is, in down economic times a wide range of people have good reason to feel stress at work. Both men and women are often working during paid time off, typically checking email, but sometimes participating in conference calls or using days off to catch up on work.
And exacerbating the realities of the stressors in the job market, women may be more likely to internalize stress, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. They may hesitate to speak up for themselves or to challenge behavior that they see as unfair. And, according to the APA survey, men are more likely than women to use flexible work arrangements, although both men and women report that job demands interfere with their ability to fulfill family or home responsibilities.
In the short term, stress isn’t always a bad thing. It can motivate us to deal with a situation that poses some level of threat. And the burst of adrenaline and other hormonal changes that occur during a stress response can heighten our senses and give us extra amounts of energy.
But chronically stressful situations that go unaddressed can lead to serious health problems. Constant job stress can impact eating and exercise habits, which can contribute to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and weight gain. Stress on the job can also accelerate the onset of heart disease and can lead to burnout, which is often associated with depression.
What can you do?
There are a number of strategies for dealing with workplace stress. What will work for you may be entirely different than what will work for others. Some interventions include:
- Learning relaxation and meditation techniques
- Assertiveness training
- Nutrition and exercise counseling
- Time management training
- Structuring breaks into your workday
- Emotion regulation training
- Identifying and setting reasonable standards
Your options for decreasing your stress levels include: making changes to yourself, how take care of yourself and how you think about and respond to stress, and making changing to your work environment by doing things such as asserting your needs and managing your time.
It’s important to remember that sometimes, despite our best efforts, we are powerless to make changes to our environment. Some work demands won’t change and sometimes we’re unable to change a hostile work environment. When that is the case, to reduce your stress, you may have to evaluate your career options.