Emotional Labor and How it Affects Your Health

Not all jobs are created equal. Some jobs demand more physical labor. Other jobs take a greater emotional toll. For example, social workers, psychiatrists, and family therapists see and hear the struggles of others every day. Other jobs, such as surgeons and air traffic controllers, can create high levels of stress. In truth, any job can be emotionally stressful, depending on the environment.

Path to improved wellness

Your job’s emotional labor can impact your physical health. Job stress can cause high blood pressure (hypertension), headache, stomach upset, and high cholesterol, if your stress is causing you to eat poorly. If you have other, existing medical conditions, job stress could make it hard for you to control them. For example, stress may cause you to ignore medicine and lifestyle changes necessary to control diabetes.

If you have a job with a lot of emotional labor, there are things you can do to minimize the impact to your physical health. First, acknowledge the stress. The only way you can care for your physical health is to realize your job may put you at a higher risk of stress. Below are tips to use to take care of yourself physically and emotionally.

  • Change your attitude. Remind yourself that this is a job. While your job may involve dealing with other people’s problems, anger, and resentment, don’t allow their problems to become yours. Remember the good in your own life.
  • Eat right. People tend to ignore healthy eating when they are stressed. If you feel like it will be tough to remember to eat healthy, write down a menu or a plan for each day. Take it day by day so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
  • Get moving. Exercise is good for both your physical and mental health. Make a plan to exercise 30 minutes every day. If possible, exercise as soon as you leave work. This will help you relieve stress immediately. If you need to relieve stress earlier in the day, take time to exercise during your lunch hour. Or, look for reasons to get out of your chair and move. This will help clear your mind during times of stress.
  • Meditate. Find somewhere quiet to go. Take 30 minutes to think and reflect on something relaxing. Don’t let your mind wonder or race back to your stress. Learn deep breathing exercises to make the experience even more relaxing. Effective meditation can lower your blood pressure.
  • Get fresh air and sun. It may seem simple, but fresh air and sun can do wonders for your health. Both are helpful in improving your mood. Additionally, sun is a natural source of vitamin D. Vitamin D is good for your physical health.
  • Unplug. This is the single, best thing you can do if you have a job with a lot of emotional labor. Turn off your phone, close your laptop, and put them in another room. This way, you won’t be tempted to check them through the night and on weekends.
  • Reduce your alcohol consumption. You may be tempted to drink alcohol after a stressful day at work. In fact, you may give yourself permission because it was a rough day. However, drinking too much alcohol can cause physical health problems and lead to addiction.
  • Manage your existing health conditions. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, migraine headaches, or another type of chronic medical condition, follow your doctor’s orders. This may include lifestyle changes, as well as taking your medicine. Keep your appointments with your doctor.
  • Talk to someone. There is no shame in seeing a therapist. Everyone needs to talk to relieve stress.
  • Consider a job change. If the emotional labor of your job is too much, consider a new job or career. It could be a job in the same field, but with less stress. It could be a part-time position, or it could be something entirely different.

Things to consider

Emotional job labor can impact your mental health too. Employees with this type of job stress can be at a higher risk of depression and anxiety if they are not controlled.

Emotional job labor can also affect relationships. It may take its toll on your spouse, partner, or family. You may not come home from work feeling refreshed and relaxed. Therefore, you may not be at your best when it’s important to have emotional discussions with your family.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Can medicine treat stress from emotional job labor?
  • Do people who are working in jobs involving emotional labor have a shorter life span?
  • Can emotional job stress cause a heart attack?
  • Can this type of stress make you a distracted driver?