Addressing Occupational Stress to Heal Whole Mind and Body

Addiction Recovery Publishing Addiction Recovery April 6, 2024

Addressing Occupational Stress to Heal Whole Mind and Body

It has been estimated that most Americans will spend a minimum of one-third of their lives at work. That being the case, it only makes sense that there will be some trials and tribulations within those working hours. This includes the reality of occupational stress, which can be particularly pronounced for people working in elite fields like celebrities, CEOs, and athletes. However, the good news is that occupational stress does not have to rule our lives. Many effective tools and therapies can help us manage these stress levels to get back to living the lives we both desire and deserve.

Better Understanding Occupational Stress

Occupational stress is much what it sounds like. It is the stress, anxiety, and depression that we accrue both at work and while thinking about work. 

Occupational stress (also commonly referred to as “work stress”) has also seemed to increase in recent years and has had significant impacts. According to the peer-reviewed BJPsych Bulletin, “The recent increase in work stress has been linked with the global and national recession, job insecurity, and work intensity, all leading to greater workloads and more interpersonal conflicts, and can have an impact on children’s mental health through disrupted parenting. Essentially, stress in the workplace may result from exposure to a range of work stressors and appears to arise when people attempt to manage their responsibilities, tasks, or other forms of pressure related to their jobs and encounter difficulty, strain, anxiety or worry in this attempt.”

Also, occupational stress tends not to discriminate. It can affect anyone in any industry. However, it does appear to be more prominent among more demanding career-based fields. There are also many other negative effects and dangers that occupational stress can cause.

The Dangers of Occupational Stress

According to the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “While there are many things in life that induce stress, work can be one of those factors. Workplace stress and poor mental health can negatively affect workers through their job performance and productivity, as well as with their engagement with others at work. It can also impact worker physical health, given that stress can be a risk factor for various cardiovascular diseases.” Occupational stress can also go both unnoticed or disregarded at many workplaces.

Ultimately, occupational stress can often butt up against a company’s bottom line. Unfortunately, many workplaces do not prioritize their associates’ mental health. According to the Indian Journal of Medical Research, “Another risk factor is that besides depression or anxiety being an outcome of stress, physical disorders such as hypertension and diabetes can also be caused due to stress. While research has established the two-way link between stress and these physical disorders, organizations need to realize this and encourage staff to maintain a good work-life balance. This by itself can be a difficult task to implement given deadlines, having a competitive edge, sustaining growth, and one’s personal need to earn more by doing overtime.” 

Now, this realistic understanding of the workplace also exemplifies why being able to spot the signs and symptoms of occupational stress is so important. This includes recognizing it both in ourselves and others.

The Signs and Symptoms of Occupational Stress

While the signs and symptoms of occupational stress can run the spectrum from mild to severe, some symptoms are more easily recognizable. The following are just a few of those signs and symptoms:

  • Becoming increasingly irritable and exhibiting excessive mood swings
  • Having trouble communicating with both supervisors and associates
  • A marked drop in work performance
  • Having trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Stress-related changes in appetite
  • Not being able to “turn off” from work while at home
  • Taking on too much work at a time without expressing concern
  • Feeling overly anxious and/or depressed
  • Not wanting to go to work or overly excited to leave
  • Having trouble with clients
  • Using alcohol and or substances as coping mechanisms for issues at work

If any, many, or all of these symptoms are present, there is a good chance that occupational stress exists. It is also highly recommended that some type of professional intervention be sought sooner than later. This is especially true if the last sign of “self-medicating” is present. Without help, this issue could easily lead to more serious issues of addiction.

The Link Between Occupational Stress, Addiction, and Issues of Mental Health

Many people try to manage stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues with alcohol or substances. While this may feel like a “solution” at the time, ultimately, it is only a “temporary fix” to what is really going on.

Also, the link between occupational stress and addiction can arise both externally from the work environment and internally. According to the peer-reviewed journal Alcohol Research & Health, “[A]n employee may have a family history of alcohol abuse that leaves him or her vulnerable to developing drinking problems, have personality traits reflecting low behavioral self-control that make it difficult to avoid alcohol, or experience social norms and social networks outside work – such as friends who drink heavily – that affect drinking behavior. Although external factors clearly influence employee drinking habits, a second perspective views the causes of employee alcohol use as arising, at least in part, from the work environment itself.”

This can make it particularly difficult to get the help that we need because occupational stress and addiction are simply part of the work culture. So, when the “window of opportunity” presents itself to get help for work stress (and potential addiction and mental illness), it is important to take advantage as soon as possible. It is also important to make the right choice when it comes to the type of recovery center we choose to heal.

Healing From Occupational Stress at the Cellular Level

Now, healing from occupational stress at the cellular level means that we must heal our entire mind, body, soul, and spirit. To do this, we must first get to the underlying root/core causes of our issues. Yes, our primary issue may be occupational stress, but there may be other reasons why we have become so susceptible to those stressors (some underlying trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder, for example).

Healing at the cellular level means that we must also heal on an individualized basis with the use of comprehensive addiction and mental health recovery plans. We must be seen as unique individuals and not just as our diagnosis. Also, we must be treated with means, methods, and modalities from all areas of recovery. Overarching “one-note” recovery plans rarely work. Comprehensive plans that utilize modalities from the world of psychotherapy, the realm of experiential therapy, and the Eastern options of holistic healing are often what it takes to heal at the cellular level. This includes utilizing more cutting-edge therapies like ketamine-assisted psychotherapy.

Healing Occupational Stress With Ketamine-Assisted-Psychotherapy

The use of ketamine (now, more commonly, esketamine) is becoming more and more accepted within the recovery realm. However, it is still only offered by a unique number of recovery centers (Exclusive Hawaii Rehab being one of them). 

The research that has been coming in about ketamine-assisted psychotherapy has been very positive. According to the Journal of Pain Research, “There has been growing interest in using the drug ketamine to treat pain, psychological, addictive disorders in recent years. Along with the development of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, there has been a tremendous widening of the definition of depression and an impressive decrease in the difference in efficacy between placebo and drug and controlled studies.”

The benefits of ketamine-assisted psychotherapy can be vast and varied. Now, the following are just a few of those benefits:

  • Can work to treat “treatment-resistant depression”
  • Helps open up creative pathways
  • Can help with therapeutic communication 
  • Reduces alcohol and substance cravings
  • Helps with physical pain related to addiction and mental illness
  • Increases mood and self-confidence
  • Can help to remove “blocks” to past traumatic events
  • May help with cognitive functioning
  • Reduces feelings of stress and anxiety

Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy can also open people up to trying new things. For example, it may open us up to trying new experiential therapies like nature immersion therapy.

Healing Occupational Stress With Nature Immersion Therapy

Nature can be an essential tool to help manage issues like occupational stress. Simply being outdoors in the sun has been shown to have significant benefits. This is because many people struggling with issues of stress, addiction, and mental illness are deficient in Vitamin D. According to the peer-reviewed journal Issues in Mental Health Nursing, “Recently, vitamin D has been reported in the scientific and lay press as an important factor that may have significant health benefits in the prevention and the treatment of many chronic illnesses. Most individuals in this country have insufficient levels of vitamin D. This is also true for persons with depression as well as other mental disorders.”

Many other benefits to nature immersion can be particularly helpful for issues of occupational stress. According to the National Park Service, “5 minutes walking in nature improves mood, self-esteem, and relaxation. Frequent exposure to nature reduces anxiety and depression while promoting a sense of well-being and fulfillment. Physical activity in a green space can reduce stress and lower cortisol levels by 15%.”

Also, there may be no better place to engage with nature immersion therapy than on the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. At Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, our luxury recovery center is in close proximity to some of the most amazing waterfalls, overlooks, botanical gardens, and white sand beaches the Island has to offer. We are even near a live volcano (the Kilauea Volcano). Also, we are a mere 15-minute journey from one of the Island’s premier surf breaks (Honoli’i) to engage in surf therapy.

Healing Occupational Stress With Surf Therapy

Surf therapy can be an ideal way to recover from issues of addiction and mental illness. It is also an exceptional way to recover from issues related to occupational stress.

The benefits of surf therapy range from the physical to the mental to the emotional to the spiritual. According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Carefully planned water activities tailored to the needs of the individual can contribute to correct psychosocial and cognitive development. The International Surf Therapy Organization summarizes the benefits of adequately indicated surf therapy as follows: improved physical health and mobility; improved mental health, including reduction of specific symptoms, such as posttraumatic stress and depression; improved well-being (strengthening of trust and confidence, encouragement of independence, resilience and protective coping strategies) and improved social skills.”

Surf therapy allows those of us struggling with issues of occupational stress an opportunity to slow down and relax our minds. This is similar to what can happen with horticulture therapy.

Healing Occupational Stress With Horticulture Therapy

Another way to experience the benefits of nature is with horticulture therapy. Horticulture has been lauded for its calming effects for thousands of years. However, it has only been relatively recently that it has shown to be so beneficial for issues of addiction and mental health (such as occupational stress).

According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Horticulture has been long used as a therapeutic activity for people with mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and depression. People’s interactions with plants, through goal-orientated horticultural activities in the form of active gardening, as well as the passive appreciation of nature, could be therapeutic to people with mental disorders in many ways. [H]orticulture could have emotional benefits, such as reducing stress, reducing psychiatric symptoms, stabilizing mood, and increasing the sense of tranquility, spirituality, and enjoyment.” One can see how these benefits can be essential for healing from occupational stress at the cellular level. The same can be true with a therapeutic yoga practice and meditation.

Healing Occupational Stress With Yoga and Meditation

Yoga has been practiced for over 3,000 years. It originated solely as a religious/spiritual practice but has since made its way into many different areas of life. This includes the realm of mental health and addiction recovery.

The benefits of yoga can be hard to quantify because they are so expansive and can be so personal. However, there is little doubt that there are many benefits.

According to the International Journal of Yoga (IJOY), “Therapeutic yoga is defined as the application of yoga postures and practice to the treatment of health conditions. Yoga therapy involves instruction in yogic practices and teachings to prevent reduce or alleviate structural, physiological, emotional, and spiritual pain, suffering, or limitations. Yogic practices enhance muscular strength and body flexibility, promote and improve respiratory and cardiovascular function, promote recovery from and treatment of addiction, reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, improve sleep patterns, and enhance overall well-being and quality of life.” Meditation offers many of the same benefits and is often paired directly with yoga.

A combination of meditation and yoga can be a win-win for issues of occupational stress. According to the International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda (AYU), “During the process of meditation, accumulated stresses are removed, energy is increased, and health is positively affected overall. Research has confirmed a myriad of health benefits associated with the practice of meditation. These include stress reduction, decreased anxiety, decreased depression, reduction in pain (both physical and psychological), improved memory, and increased efficiency. Physiological benefits include reduced blood pressure, heart rate, lactate, cortisol, and epinephrine; decreased metabolism, and breathing pattern,” and the list goes on and on.

With a combination of psychotherapy, experiential therapy, and holistic healing, occupational stress can not only become manageable but it can become nonexistent. The key is to embrace the comprehensive healing process head-on.

Healing at the Cellular Level With Exclusive Hawaii Rehab

There is a traditional saying here on Hawaii’s Big Island that goes, “Noho me ka hau’oli.” It translates simply to “Be happy.” Happiness is what we all deserve, yet occupational stress can put a pause on that happiness.

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we can restore that happiness at the cellular level. Life is too short to live with occupational stress, especially when the solution is right within our grasp under the healing Hawaiian sun.

There is little doubt that stress may negatively affect our lives and lead to or exacerbate our mental health and/or addiction issues. This is especially true with how we can be negatively affected by occupational stress. If you feel like you or a loved one is struggling with issues of addiction, mental illness, or co-occurring disorders, we can help get you on the positive path toward long-term recovery right away. We can help you heal at the cellular level. For more information about all the means, methods, and modalities that can help relieve occupational stress so you can go back to your life with a new, healthy, and successful perspective, please reach out to Exclusive Hawaii Rehab at (808) 775-0200.