The increase in bogus sick days may be linked to burnout and stress caused by the weak economy.
On "The Early Show," contributor Dr. Jennifer Hartstein, a psychologist, shared insight into what can happen if you're stressing out over work, and what to do about it. She shared tips on handling the pressure, whether you're looking for a job or are just concerned about keeping one.
Hartstein says simple things can be the first tell-tale signs. "There's gonna be a mood change," she told co-anchor Harry Smith. "You might start to feel more irritable, more anxious, more depressed. You want to take note of that. You want to start to notice -- are you feeling more tense in your muscles? Are you feeling, in your body, are you getting headaches, are you clenching your teeth -- those are things to take notice of. How about sleep problems, when you start to really have a hard time sleeping when that's never been a problem before -- leading into a sense of apathy: You start to just not care, you don't care about your job. You don't care about anything. It could really end into that bigger problem of using drugs and alcohol excessively, potentially leading to a violent episode either at home with your kids or at the job."
Hartstein likened it to a thermometer whose mercury keeps rising until you get into "the red zone" of job concern.
If you feel you';re there or getting there, Hartstein advises,
"You want to start to notice (the signs early. If you notice your mood's off, if you notice that you're getting stressed in your body, you want to reach out for help. You want to start to talk to people. You want to check in and do things that will be relaxing to you and that you enjoy to help balance out. The more positive stuff you can do, it does balance out the negative, even though it's really hard to put that into your schedule.
"It is always easier said than done. That doesn't make it any less important. It makes it even more of a priority to make happen."
What are the biggest mistakes people can make?
"Some of the things they do is that they totally dwell on only focusing on their job or their lack of job, and get stuck in that little bit of focus and don't see anything outside of that. They don't check in with themselves or their partner or friends on how they're doing, how they're feeling. They don't kind of have open communication, lastly as we just mentioned, they avoid kind of non-job activities. They feel they don't have the time to do anything that's enjoyable or fun.
So, Hartstein says, in the final analysis, the best thing someone can do to alleviate job stress is to "find things that bring you some enjoyment and relaxation to balance out the stress. As small as it is, it is so important."