Thanks to Alison for this fab guest post on tackling stress in the workplace
Tackling Stress in the workplace
Stress is becoming more and more commonplace in the workplace these days but other than resign or rebel, what are the best ways of tackling this problem? The most common symptoms of stress are fatigue, anxiety, high blood pressure, depression, sleep disturbances, reduced performance and finally ‘burnout’. Deadlines, lack of expertise, or worrying about criticism or unkind remarks from colleagues can all affect levels of stress.
Stress can also be the result of external factors such as over-commitment to work on the part of the individual, heavy-handed management styles or simply down to dissatisfaction with working conditions or salary. These factors are more difficult to resolve. Internal causes of stress, however, can be more easily controlled.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy involves the subject working on their cognitions, thoughts, attitudes and beliefs. These can have an effect on emotional balance and in turn lead to a feeling of stress.
Let us take the example of two employees who are both asked to take on more responsibility and a resulting increase in workload. The first employee states quite categorically that she is not willing to do this whilst the second states that she is ready to take on the extra responsibility but only on the understanding that she receives more training in order to cope with the new conditions. This illustrates that it is not always external factors that determine the levels of stress in a situation but also the attitude of the individuals. People react to stress in different ways.
Let us look at what cognitive behaviour therapy involves.
Step 1: the person under stress should be made aware of how they think and react in stressful situations.
Step 2: He/she should examine whether their thoughts, convictions and feelings are reasonable and constructive.
Step 3: He/she needs to learn how to replace negative thoughts, attitudes and convictions with constructive ones.
Step 4: New thoughts and attitudes must be practiced every day until they become ‘second nature’. This will help develop a feeling of positivity.
By taking this approach and making changes to the way they think, anyone under stress can learn how to solve stress related problems in a constructive way. By improving self image, their perception of the outside world and by developing additional coping strategies, they learn to cope better with stressful situations.
More ways to help when tackiling stress in the workplace
Gain Self Confidence
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training has proved very successful. It involves easy-to-learn exercises to increase awareness of the here and now, to help be more in touch with our physical sensations, thoughts and feelings. This leads to a better sense of self and the environment – a prerequisite for coping successfully with stress.
Here are a few of the suggested exercises
Keep an open mind
Keeping an open mind whilst remaining curious and intrigued by life itself helps to make changes and new experiences seem less stressful and less threatening. Stay calm and pause for a moment
Stressful situations can escalate very quickly. Someone in the workplace says a wrong word and you immediately react. It would be much better if you remained silent and took time out to think about how best to respond. Retreat into your ‘inner room’. This creates a feeling of detachment and freedom to act.
Observe, don’t judge
Many people go through life thinking they know it all. This attitude causes them to make rash judgements on other people. This in turn leads to emotional stress. In order to reduce stress, it is better to sit back and observe both people and life before passing judgement and to always be willing to change previously held opinions.
Chronic stress goes hand in hand with turning worries over and over in the mind. Worries such as losing one’s job, wealth or social status. Mindfulness exercises improve the ability to trust life and to have less worries running about in one’s head in everyday life thus reducing stress.
Accept and let go
External causes of stress are seldom resolved overnight so it makes little sense to battle against them. Instead it helps to take time to analyse the causes of stress and your own reactions to them, to carefully weigh up the pros and cons and draw the right conclusions.
Alongside these exercises you may find the use of a herbal stress relief containing extracts of valerian root and hops may help you cope with the symptoms of stress and mild anxiety. As well as learning how to go about tackling stress int he workplace You may alos like my post on ways to prevent a burnout