employee holding his head and closing his eyes from headache due to work stress

Work Stress: How It Affects Filipino Workers During the Pandemic (and the Ways We Can Manage It)

Have you been feeling anxious and overwhelmed with work? Maybe you are also feeling unmotivated, sad, and having difficulty concentrating and making decisions. Perhaps you might be experiencing work stress. Don’t worry; you are not alone. After all, it is human to feel stressed. In fact, stress is normal. It can be beneficial when it helps you achieve a tight deadline or avoid an accident. Excessive stress or chronic stress, on the other hand, is a different story.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), work stress “can be defined as the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker. Job stress can lead to poor health and even injury.” And now that COVID-19 is continuously spreading, workers’ health is affected and work stress has thus intensified.

Here in the Philippines, a significant number of workers have fallen ill from mental health issues. This is caused by the stress the pandemic has brought the Filipino workers. They are in constant fear for their health and the uncertainty of the future in their careers.

If you’re one of those people experiencing work stress, keep reading and let’s find out how it affects our well-being and how to bounce back from it.

man having headaches from hard work while working

How Does Work Stress Affect Us Amid the Pandemic?

Whether you are working from home or in an office, the pandemic has most likely altered the way you work. Workloads, trying to meet and beat deadlines, interacting with your coworkers and superiors on top of feeling anxious and scared about the pandemic—all these can definitely feel exhausting and stressful.

The CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) says that the early warning signs of work stress include headache, sleep disturbance, difficulty in concentrating, short temper, upset stomach, job dissatisfaction, and low morale. But, now that the labor market is changing because of the current circumstances, CDC has listed additional effects of work stress.

Common Effects Employees Experience Due to Work Stress

1. Feelings of Fear, Anger, Sadness, Worry, Numbness, or Frustration

These are normal effects of stress. The said emotional symptoms are manifestations of the overwhelming changes internally and externally. Having that said, it’s bad when these feelings become excessive.

2. Changes in Appetite, Energy, Desires, and Interests

Work stress can change our appetite. It either decreases or increases our cravings for food. For some, they lack the urge to eat and others resolve into stress eating. This causes one to feel depleted, and it impacts the desires and interests of an individual. Because of stress, they are somewhat paralyzed into doing their usual routines.

3. Difficulty Sleeping or Recurring Nightmares

Having sleep disorder is also an effect of stress. When a person is having persistent difficulty sleeping, he or she might have insomnia. Insomnia is a common sleep disorder. If you’re having difficulty sleeping or having recurring nightmares, it is best to visit a professional to help diagnose the symptoms you’re encountering and help you cope with it.

tired woman having trouble with sleeping because of work stress

4. Physical Reactions, such as Headaches, Body Pains, Stomach Problems, and Skin Rashes

Tension after tension at work can lead you to experience body and headaches. Too much work stress can trigger these problems in your body. This can also worsen chronic health issues.

5. Worsening of Mental Health Conditions

When chronic stress is not taken care of, mental health is at risk. Nowadays, Filipino workers are suffering from mental, neurological and substance use disorders; mainly due to increased psychological stress from the pandemic. Anxiety and depression are the common disorders employees are undergoing today.

These work stress signs and symptoms may be what you are currently experiencing, and this is your reminder to take it easy and take good care of yourself when you start to feel these symptoms are setting in again.

Managing Work Stress [in a Stressful World]

In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, people are being affected by stress in different ways.It has the potential to influence our emotions, actions, cognitive abilities, and physical health. We also handle work stress in ways. With that said, here are some ways we can try to manage stress.

1. Meditate.

Practicing mindfulness and gratitude helps your body and mind. Being still for a minute or an hour can bring great benefits into your overall well-being. To cope with anxiety caused by work stress, Dr. Bal Pawa, one of Canada’s leading integrative physicians, created a technique to utilize mindful meditation. It is called the “BMW meditation,” which stands for Breathe, focus on your Mind, and choose a Word to repeat in your mind.

You can try this or other meditation techniques when you wake up in the morning or during work breaks or before going to sleep.

young woman sitting and meditating

2. Get moving.

Exercising, doing yoga or going to the gym is very helpful in coping with stress. It is not only good for the body but it also helps in boosting your mood. Exercise is a natural antidepressant as it helps in releasing endorphins, “feel-good” chemicals naturally produced in the brain to cope with pain or stress.

3. Set limits around news in COVID-19 and social media intake.

Being informed about the current news and affairs is good. But too much doomscrolling can stress you out. Therefore, setting limits around news and your social media intake is a sound decision.

4. Spend time in nature.

Take time off to rest and go out on an adventure. Spending time in nature relaxes you and gives you fresh perspective and ideas. So, when it’s finally your day off from work, plan a trip somewhere you can have a good time and make sure to stay safe.

5. Reach out to others.

Having a great support system you can reach out to at any time provides you with the practical and emotional lift you need. It can be your family, friends, or colleagues.

6. Maintain a work-life balance.

Following a daily routine with your personal life and work assists you in sticking to a habit. That can help you battle the work stress signs and symptoms we have mentioned above. It is important to have a work-life balance as it can fight off persistent stress and burnout.

7. Seek professional support.

When you’ve done all the things listed above and it is still not helping, don’t lose hope. We can always seek professional help from professionals like psychiatrists or your family doctor. They will help you treat whatever underlying condition you may have.

If you’ve been enduring mental health issues and the stress at work just doesn’t seem to go away, keep holding on and help yourself to reach out to others. The Department of Health has a National Mental Health Crisis Hotline you can call whenever you need a lifeline. For their Luzon-wide landline toll-free, the number is 1553.

coworkers working together while wearing masks

Remaining Optimistic in the New Normal

We handle and cope with stress in different ways. Even so, we try to go on with our lives and live through this new normal.

As we try to cope with work stress, let us help others get through it as well. Doing the responsible thing such as getting vaccinated and practicing safety measures in the time where COVID-19 is spreading and mutating, we need to be kind and take care of one another.