Stress doesn’t just come from work—it can affect your work, too. If you're taking more sick days, forgetting to-do list details, and feeling irritated with coworkers on a regular basis, it could be a sign that your work-life balance needs some love.

By Dan Nosowitz
May 08, 2019
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For many of us, work is a source of stress. But work doesn’t only cause stress: some of the symptoms of stress can actually show up at the workplace, affecting your ability to do your job—which can, in turn, result in more stress. Call it a stress cycle.

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We gathered up some classic stress signs that you might experience while working. Some of these are subtle, or might not normally be associated with stress. But if you’re experiencing these symptoms consistently, you may be having an elevated level of stress. Here are five signs to watch out for.

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1. You’ve Been Forgetting Tasks

Forgetfulness actually can include a number of possible symptoms: difficulty concentrating, poor organization, apathy. Stress isn’t the only possible reason for an abnormal amount of forgetfulness at work, but as Harvard Health notes, it can absolutely be related to stress and anxiety. Stress can make it difficult to both store new information and to retrieve old information—in other words, you might forget things. Physically jotting down your to-do list can help (try Jot & Mark To Do List, $9.99 for 100 on Amazon).

2. Small Things Really Get Under Your Skin

Whether it’s someone taking your coffee cup, a coworker tapping his foot, or your boss not responding to emails fast enough, we all have a fairly consistent idea of how upset small irritations should make us. If you’ve been noticing that little things have been really throwing you off, sending you into fits of anger and grumbling, the reason might be stress. Stress and anxiety, says the Calm Clinic, put your emotions right on a knife’s edge of control. Small things wouldn’t normally send you reeling, but stress can exacerbate irritability.

3. You’ve Been Taking More Sick Days

This one might seem obvious. If you’re experiencing high levels of stress, you may find it difficult to go into work, and thus take a sick day. But you might actually be sick—and just not realize that your physical and mental well-being are tied together. Tonic has a great explainer on how stress can affect your body, from gastrointestinal problems to high blood pressure to susceptibility to viruses and bacteria.

4. You’re Having Trouble Communicating with Coworkers

Communication is a multifaceted thing, and there are many ways to muck up what would normally be a smooth interaction. Stress can reduce your sleep, which can increase your irritability level and amount of patience; it can cause feelings of isolation; it can reduce your ability to sense social cues. If you’ve felt like you’re harming your interpersonal relationships at work, this might be why.

5. Making Decisions is More Difficult

Difficulty making decisions is linked with depression, anxiety, and stress. Even small decisions can feel overwhelming, adding to what already feels like a tenuous mental place. You also may not really feel capable of making decisions, due to other stress symptoms, like forgetfulness and apathy.

What’s important about these five symptoms is recognizing them for what they are: symptoms, not causes. Simply trying to deal with these symptoms won’t solve an underlying problem of stress; symptoms will just emerge in other forms. If you’re looking for help managing stress, there are many options, including talking to a mental health professional.


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