Over the last decade, stress and burnout have become more prevalent in today’s workforce. Common sources of stress include financial concerns, changes in schedules, and changes in policies.
Workplace stress is defined as adverse emotional and physical responses which happen when job duties do not match the needs, capabilities, and resources available to the employee. Although a certain amount of job-related stress is normal, excessive and persistent stress can result in poor health and perhaps injury.
Oklahoma employees who suffer debilitating stress while working often ask if this type of condition is covered by workers’ compensation benefits. Unfortunately, the answer is always “no.”
According to the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Act, workers who suffer from nonphysical injuries such as excessive stress, depression, intense anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are restricted from obtaining benefits.
However, the following are several ways a psychological or emotional injury can still qualify for workers’ compensation benefits:
- The psychological injury is associated with an accompanying physical injury – For example, a construction worker sustained a serious crushing injury which resulted in the loss of his leg. Losing a leg then leads to depression. In this case, his depression will be covered by workers’ compensation.
- The psychological injury is caused by a traumatic event while performing on-the-job duties – For instance, a firefighter responds to a burning building and attempts to rescue the occupants, but instead, he witnesses them perish in the flames. Although the firefighter didn’t suffer any physical injuries, watching the horrific scene unfold resulted in PTSD, which hinders his ability to perform his work duties. Since PTSD caused physical changes in the firefighter’s brain and body, workers’ compensation considers this type of injury as a “physical injury to the brain,” thus covered by benefits.
If you are suffering from work-related stress, there are effective ways you can cope which can benefit your professional and personal life, such as the following:
- Identify your stressors – In order to effectively cope with stress, you must identify your stress triggers. Using a journal, keep track of people, events, and situations which result in a negative emotional, mental, or physical response. Do not forget to include where the stressor occurred, who was involved, how you reacted, and how you felt during that incident. Finding patterns among your stressors and your reactions to them can help you better handle these situations in the future.
- Develop healthy responses – Rather than fighting stress with alcohol consumption, eating fast food, or releasing all your anger on your loved ones, try to make healthy choices when you feel stressed out. One of the most effective methods is exercise or any form of physical activity such as sports. You could also enjoy your favorite hobbies, whether it’s going to concerts or reading. Another important healthy habit is getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night.
- Speak to your manager – You can ask your manager to promote a less-stressful work environment. Rather than give him/her a list of complaints, develop a plan to manage your stressors you’ve identified in order to improve your productivity at work.