Coping with Stress and Anxiety in High-Risk Jobs: Practical Strategies for Employee

Katie Brenneman

If you work as an oil rig operator, construction employee, maritime professional, or in any other high-risk job, you likely love what you do. However, while rewarding, many of these professions require intense concentration and long hours, so stress and anxiety are often part of the equation.

While it’s good to be on your toes occasionally, constant stress can be hard on your mind and make a tough job even harder, so consider the following practical strategies.

What Makes These Jobs So Stressful

The high-risk jobs that countless people work every day can create stress in several ways. In many cases, the anxiety is about the possibility of getting hurt on the job.

Each profession brings its own set of risks.

Maritime employees, oil rig operators, and miners constantly work around huge machinery in tight spaces, and the wrong step could lead to injury. Many warehouse and manufacturing employees must deal with toxic chemicals that could cause burns, breathing issues, and cancer when stored or misused. Some chemicals can also lead to explosions, injuries, and even death. Even the folks who work behind the scenes in movies often work on large cranes and participate in high-risk action sequences.

Then there are the long hours that many of these jobs require that can keep the employees away from their families and personal lives. Working too long without necessary breaks and rest can lead to burnout.

If you’re so exhausted that you can’t concentrate, there’s an even greater risk of injury.

Properly Handling Stress

You need to tackle your stress at the source.

If faulty machinery or a lack of safety precautions is the issue, talk to the manager. It may be necessary to speak with your coworkers and develop a list of concerns so you can go to management as a group. There is strength in numbers, and they may be more inclined to take your demands seriously. At the very least, your employer must have a risk maturity model in place to keep you and your fellow employees safe.

When the problem comes down to being overworked, you need to take a stand. In high-risk jobs such as construction, you must have a work-life balance and set boundaries.

If the manager asks you to work overtime day after day, put your foot down and advocate for yourself. Create a strict working schedule and start and leave work at the same time every day so you can go home, relax, and mentally unwind for the next day.  

Sometimes, you need to find help from an external source.

Many employees who need to discuss their mental health issues will seek a therapist, trusted friend, or family member. You could also seek out a support group for workplace stress or the issue the stress is causing, be it substance abuse or something else. If you work on an oil rig or somewhere far away, use telehealth to talk to a professional from wherever you are.

Getting The Protections You Deserve

It’s essential that you remember that you have federal protections to lean on if you report a stressful issue at work and it falls on deaf ears. Since each job has its own dangers, there are different protections to consider, so do some research for the best chance of success.

For instance, injured maritime employees may be covered by the Jones Act, which provides compensation and benefits if you’re injured, including a return of lost wages. Folks in the trucking industry are protected by the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration), which requires you to only work a certain number of hours. Hence, you aren’t fatigued and stressed while on the road. 

You have the right to be protected, and if you aren’t, don’t be afraid to speak up because federal protections also cover whistleblowers. Your job can’t retaliate if you do what’s right for yourself and your team.

Initiate the steps necessary to mitigate your stress and anxiety. Take the danger out of work so you can continue to make a difference at work.

This blog was contributed to Workplace Fairness. Published with permission.

About the Author: Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in lifestyle, mental health, and education When she isn’t writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Katie, you can follow her on X (formerly Twitter).

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.