It's been proven that stress can, without a doubt, have an impact physically. Stress related health problems occur when the body is in a frequent and prolonged state of mental or emotional stress. During stress the fight or flight reaction is triggered within the body causing physiological changes.
This is especially significant for those who suffer from autoimmune diseases such as Ulcerative Colitis, because the fight or flight mechanism specifically affects two parts of the Ulcerative Colitis equation: the digestive system and the immune system. When you are stressed it takes a toll on your physical health. If you have Ulcerative Colitis this means that symptoms of flares can intensify due to stress or that a flare can be triggered by stress if you were currently in remission. Stress is especially dangerous because it isn't nearly as tangible as other factors that can be problematic in managing disease such as diet, medication, physical fitness etc.
For this reason it is important to take steps to manage stress. In today's fast paced, high pressure world it seems almost impossible that stress could be altogether eliminated. It is important, however to recognize stressors and then take steps to manage stress to keep it at bay. One major source of stress is the workplace. In this article I will outline some suggestions for managing/avoiding workplace stress specifically.
1. Shut up and work
As if work isn't stressful on it's own. Add office drama to the mix and it becomes even worse. For some it is very difficult to keep work and personal life separate, but from experience let me tell you it's a good idea. It is all too easy for stress to creep in especially when you consider office gossip, negativity towards employer and coworkers discussed among employees, and the all time greatest source of unnecessary stress - office relationships. Most office and workplace environments generate plenty of stress naturally. Workloads, scheduling, deadlines, labor all of these are challenging enough. By keeping personal interactions to a professional standard while in the workplace you can go a long way towards eliminating a source of stress that really isn't even necessary to begin with.
2. Work with your employer to facilitate an understanding of your condition
Ulcerative Colitis will inevitably interrupt your professional endeavors. Unfortunately this comes with the territory. In order to be able to function with as much normalcy as possible its a good idea to make a plan of action while at work. In some cases you may have to suddenly leave a meeting or your workstation without warning. When things are at their worst you may be forced to call in or take off early. It's embarrassing to talk about Ulcerative Colitis, but it may be difficult to explain such situations otherwise. By sitting down with those who will be affected by these occurrences you can help them to know exactly why your behavior is as such. This will aid in helping make you and them more comfortable when the sudden emergencies are unavoidable. Not to mention this will protect you from possible disciplinary consequences that may result if your employer doesn't realize that your behavior is not your fault. By overcoming your fear of discussing an embarrassing topic, you'll be surprised at the stress and worry that will be lifted as a result.
3. Allot yourself extra time
No matter what it is you're doing Ulcerative Colitis will interrupt. For example, when you are trying to get ready for work or on your commute. For this reason it's a good idea to plan for extra time. Wake up early, leave a few minutes before you need to. If you find yourself constantly running behind because your symptoms are causing interruptions, you will become stressed and feel overwhelmed. By giving yourself a little extra time to cover an interruption that may occur, you can keep your day running more smoothly and ultimately with a little less stress. Also, being early is a simple and powerful example of professionalism and will gain you respect from your colleagues. If you plan for extra time and aren't bothered by an interruption your effort has not been wasted by any means.
4. Familiarize yourself with your organization's leave structure
Time off often becomes a problem for those with Ulcerative Colitis. Many in the past have been punished at work for attendance when Ulcerative Colitis was the reason. This is unfair because symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis can be debilitating and those who have been diagnosed also need more time off for medical appointments, surgeries etc. There is good news though. Since 2008 Ulcerative Colitis has been included in the Americans With Disabilities Act. Also known as the ADA. This means that employees with Ulcerative Colitis are afforded certain protections when it comes to work attendance. These include programs such as FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act), STD (short term disability), and LTD (long term disability). There are strict guidelines, however, to protect the system from abuse. Study and know your options and resources for these programs. Knowing that your job is protected at times when you cannot work due to illness will be a huge stress reliever in every case.
5. Remind yourself that stress, to some extent, is a state of mind
It's important to know when stress is coming on and to make a conscience effort to stop it in it's tracks. In most occupations stress will be a factor. By recognizing and confronting those things that stress you at work you can begin to try to release that stress in attempt to manage it. If you have a particular task that stresses you each time it is presented learn ways to be your own comfort when you feel the stress working itself up. Tell yourself you've done it before, remind yourself that you were successful last time and you've "got it" this time as well. This is just one example, but the idea is that instead of just letting stress run it's course make it a priority to identify it before it takes hold. By doing this you can devise ways to turn the stressful thought patterns around. You may still have to take those stressful responsibilities on but by denying stress it's power over you, you may find that it is more manageable than you realized.
6. Identify those tasks that stress you most and determine if you can eliminate some of them altogether
It may be that you are taking on tasks that you really don't have to. Talk to your employer. Tell them the situation and see if the task can be given to other employees, divided, or even outsourced. Some tasks are more stressful for some than others and it may not be nearly as stress inducing for someone else to do if possible. This may not always be an option but every effort to eliminate stressors is a step towards less stress in your work life.
7. Consider a transfer of positions or even a career change
This isn't always very easy to do, but it should be examined as a consideration. Also, this is an option within the ADA protections. Another reason to become as familiar as possible with how the ADA and your employers leave structure is set up.
Work is a reality for the majority of us. It isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Don't make the mistake of just going in and telling yourself that there is nothing you can do to improve the amount of stress that you experience. Take a direct, informed, systematic approach to defeating stress. the outcome can be very liberating and beneficial to your health and well being.