American Psychological Association

Stressed at work? How to move up or out

March 22, 2011: 10:32 AM ET

More than a third of American workers suffer from chronic work stress, a recent survey says. Here's how to cope and make a plan to either move up the ranks or head for the exit.

By Stephenie Overman, contributor

FORTUNE -- If you are burnt out by your job and looking elsewhere, you've got plenty of company.

In fact, more than a third of U.S. employees (36%) say they're experiencing chronic work stress, according to this year's American Psychological Association survey. And 32% of the survey's 1,546 respondents say they plan to seek employment elsewhere within the next year.

Those who responded to the survey cited salary concerns, lack of opportunities for advancement, heavy workloads and long hours as sources of their stress, according to David W. Ballard, who is head of the APA's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program.

Some stress is positive, according to the APA, releasing adrenaline that can enhance a person's performance and problem-solving ability. But chronic stress, defined as constant and persisting over an extended period of time, can cause anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. Such stress puts people at risk for developing illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and depression.

"It's easy to get isolated, trudging to work every day," Ballard says. He recommends building new skills and maintaining connections with friends and colleagues who can be sources of brighter career opportunities. More

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