Workplace stress: A silent killer?

High Five Health Promotion is based on the notion that a healthy lifestyle gives people a more balanced life, both mentally and physically. Of course, High Five pays a lot of attention already on the physical part of working healthily, but a balanced state of mind has become more and more important within Human Resources also.

A recent study[1] found that stress might be even worse for us than we initially thought. The factors influencing this tension within us go from a toxic work environment to harassment and from role ambiguity and isolation.

According to Colligan & Higgins (2006) here are actually two types of stress: eustress and distress. The first is also known as positive or good stress. This occurs when something happens that makes you excited or when you run into something you find challenging, for example, winning a game, making new friends, or reaching milestones. Distress is a reaction to stressors thought of as being negative. This could be unpleasable pressure to perform, when a catastrophic event occurs or when you have to deal with something that leaves you frustrated. This means that not all stress is bad and some stress can actually help us achieve our goals. But sometimes, the bad kind can have some nasty consequences.

Everyone experiences stress differently and in larger or lesser gradients. This is caused by the fact that everyone perceives situations differently. When you perceive stress regularly stress can become chronic. This can lead to your body becoming unable to adapt to the stress. This, in turn, can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks, chronic fatigue, hyperinsulinism, psychosis and symptoms of depression.

For work-related stress, managers play an important role in identifying (chronic) stress and intervening when necessary. To keep the employees well, Colligan & Higgins (2006) give three steps a manager can take to keep stress levels balanced.

  1. Remove obstacles such as work overload, environmental annoyances, isolation and a lack of autonomy. This will leave an employee able to flourish instead of wilt under pressure.
  2. You can also try to help an employee adapt to a stressful situation. Mindfulness is one of the techniques used to accomplish this.
  3. Help an employee in identifying stress within themselves, to at least reduce the chance of stress reoccurring, and to give them helplines to hold on to when they notice they are getting more and more stressed.

You can give yourself and your employees the chance to work better by reducing (negative) stress levels. Keep yourself healthy by keeping negative stress at bay. You can do this by yourself, or if you wish to have some more guidance, contact High Five for more information on how to live a more balanced and happy life.


Nicole Louise de Groot


[1] Colligan, T. W., & Higgins, E. M. (2006). Workplace stress: Etiology and consequences. Journal of workplace behavioral health21(2), 89-97.