Just over one in four Canadian workers say they are highly stressed in their daily lives, according to a recent study released by Statistics Canada.
In the 2010 survey, 27 percent of workers, or almost 3.7 million working adults in Canada, described their lives on most days as “quite a bit” or “extremely” stressful. Another 6.3 million (46 percent) reported being “a bit” stressed.
The one-in-four ratio is about the same as reported in two earlier surveys from 2002 and 2005. It represents a worrisome persistence of high workplace stress levels that over time can lead to absenteeism, reduced productivity, and rising disability claims, the Statistics Canada study said.
About 62 percent of the nearly 3.7 million workers experiencing high stress identified their job or workplace as their main source of stress, the study found.
Among the remaining 38 percent of highly stressed workers, 12 percent said financial concerns were their main stressor, 12 percent pointed to not having enough time, and 8 percent indicated family matters.
Overall, the highly stressed workers who said their job or workplace was their main stressor were well-educated (nearly 75 percent had college or university education) and had white-collar jobs (over 50 percent).
Workers whose high stress level was mainly due to finances tended to have less skilled jobs and lower incomes, and those concerned about not having enough time were much more likely to have children at home.
Another key finding was that women accounted for two-thirds of highly stressed workers who said family issues were their main stressor.
Stress and Mental Health Linked
The study noted that “mental health is highly correlated to chronic stress.”
The Mental Health Commission of Canada in June launched the development of a national voluntary standard to help improve psychological health and safety in the workplace.
The initiative is part of Canada’s response to the high degree of depression and anxiety being reported by workers across the country.
The commission, funded by Health Canada, estimates that mental disorders cost the Canadian economy $51 billion annually, with nearly $20 billion coming from workplace losses.
Coping with Stress
What can stressed individuals do to help themselves?
“The first step is to take their own well-being just a bit more seriously,” Richard Earle, managing director of the Canadian Institute of Stress, told The Epoch Times in a previous interview.
The next step is to sketch a simple self-portrait that answers the question: “During this difficult time I’m going through, who do I want to be, what do I want to be doing, what’s the essence of me?”
It’s about “setting targets so you don’t always feel ‘I’m not doing enough,’” and then “backing up the self-portrait with action,” he said.
An important reminder is not to “lose track of what our strengths are, the good things that we bring to bear in juggling all these responsibilities.”
He suggested people jot down their top three strengths, such as having a good sense of humour, being well-organized, or being reliable. This is an exercise that can be very powerful emotionally in dealing with challenging situations, he said.
Earle recommended asking three questions to reduce worry.
First, “Can I change the situation, and will I change it?” For example, if you decide to make a commitment about changing a habit or routine, then mark it down in your planner to make it concrete.
Next, ask yourself, “If the situation turns out badly, what’s the worst realistic effect on me?”
People tend to over-emphasize the negative, especially when they’re feeling a bit depressed, Earle said. So it’s important to be realistic, and remember that “it’s probably not as bad as you think.”
A final suggestion was to make a simple plan of action for the future by asking, “What’s my plan? How am I going to handle that better, in very specific just one or two steps I could take?” said Earle.