I was all set with my article I had written at the weekend for National stress awareness day, poised to post in a timely manner until my assistant pointed out that the article I had written was on kindness which was meant for a different week! That is when the stress hit. I suddenly went from poised and on message to scrambling around thinking ‘how the hell am I going the find the time to come up with another article in time?’ I had steam coming out of my ears. The irony that I was stressing about an article on stress was not lost on me!
A widely used definition of stressful situations which resonates with me is, “one in which the demands of the situation threaten to exceed the resources of the individual” (Lazarus & Folkman 1984). I like this definition because is shows how stress is relative and how something that can bring someone to their knees, leaves another relatively unfazed.
We now know through various studies that stress is detrimental to our health so we have to manage it as we can’t live life without coming across stress on one form or another.
The one thing to help you beat stress in the workplace
The one behaviour that will help you beat stress in the workplace and any other place for that matter is to prioritise your Wellbeing.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has identified 6 main causes of workplace stress:
- The demands of the job
- Amount of control over work
- Support from managers and colleagues
- Relationships at work
- How a role fits within the organisation
- Change and how it is managed
I am impressed they managed to narrow it down to only six as from my point of view, practically anything can trigger a stress response if the individual is in not in good place.
We must recognise that workplace stress is only a subset of our overall stress. Some of us live a lifetime everyday before we even get to the office. If you are working mother or carrying any sort of family responsibility you know exactly what I mean. If your cup is full even before you get to the office, it doesn’t take that much to tip you over the edge.
Prioritising your Wellbeing means that you take care of yourself daily: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually
Physically: For me nothing cuts through stress exercise. The sweat makes me feel like I am letting go of my stress and the release of endorphins elevates my mood. We all know we have to exercise but if you haven’t built it into your lifestyle, then you are constantly missing out on an essential tool that helps you deal with stress. Taking care of yourself physically also means that you are eating the right foods that support you and you are staying hydrated. Your body is a tool so if you are not taking care of it, It will not be able to support you.
Mentally: Are you reading books that develop you as a person and help you to think properly? Your ability to choose your thoughts in times of stress is important but your mental framework will determine the thoughts you come up with. You need to invest in what you put in your mind.
Emotionally: Your thoughts affect how you feel and the people you surround yourself with also affect your emotions. Have you invested in good friends who can pick you up and give you a different perspective when you think your colleagues are plotting coup against you?
Spiritually: For an article on workplace stress you will think spirituality has got no place here but that is a fallacy. There are mindfulness and meditation practices that help you stay in the moment, and not catastrophise what is happening. As the American philosopher William James said: “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
I am going to leave you with just the one thought to cut through stress wherever it is coming from this stress awareness day. Mine is coming from completing this article on time! Needless to say, I will not have the same stress next week.
Your wellbeing should not be an afterthought. If you want to thrive and live the smart way, then prioritise your wellbeing. It will pay dividends you come face to face with stress. Here is a quote from the great man himself to give you some perspective.
“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”– Winston Churchill