Mind recently surveyed 2060 workers and found that almost half of people (45%) said that employees at work are expected to cope without mentioning stress at work and a third (31%) said they would not be able to talk openly to their line manager if they felt stressed.
Stress is a serious problem, it is on the increase and it seems that many people are suffering in silence. In January, the Mental Health Foundation produced a report which revealed that almost half (47%) of British adults said there felt stressed almost every day, with 59% claiming their lives are more stressful than they were five years ago. Money and work issues were cited as the main causes of people’s stress.
Stress not only damages people’s physical and mental wellbeing, but it can also have a detrimental impact on the economy leading to higher levels of absenteeism and reduced productivity. It can also decrease employee motivation and commitment and lead to a greater number of resignations, as well as increase conflict at work.
The first step in combating workplace stress is to look out for signs of it. Executives should be looking for signs of stress in their colleagues or managers and also making sure they are keeping their own stress levels under control. While it is widely recognised that some stress at work can be positive and lead to increased employee motivation and productivity, the downsides of stress can’t be ignored.
‘Negative’ stress comes from feeling of being overwhelmed and unable to cope with the responsibility or emotion faced at the time. It doesn’t mean a person can’t, it just means they feel they can’t. It is a feeling of being stuck, depressed, anxious and panicked.
Some of the signs of workplace stress might include a sudden increase in employee absenteeism or frequent lateness, increased conflict and tension between colleagues or individuals working long hours, but producing very little. People who are stressed also do not sleep well, or they self-medicate by drinking more. According to the Mental Health Foundation people who feel stressed are three times more likely to drink alcohol to help deal with stress than go to a GP. The problem here is that alcohol can exacerbate the stress and cause people to become more tired, indecisive and prone to mood swings and confrontations.
Stress cannot be handled effectively until the root causes have been identified. As stress is complex and can be caused by a variety of different factors, people tend to need help to pinpoint what is making them feel stressed. Rather than bottle it up they should talk to someone trustworthy at work or enlist the support and help of a business coach who is experienced in helping people work through their problems and putting in place action plans which will eliminate stress.
Here are some other techniques that can be used to cope with stress.
1. Accept stress
Denial of stress will only worsen the symptoms. People need to be honest with themselves that they are in a situation that needs to change.
2. Find the root cause of stress
This is not necessarily as easy as it sounds but it's important to get to the heart of the matter fairly quickly. People need to spend time contemplating their feelings to understand the sources of stress and talking to a trusted confidante can help provide clarity and focus.
3. Identify what needs to happen to change the cause of the stress.
It is important not to place too much emphasis on reducing the symptoms without acknowledging the underlying causes. Changing the cause might include looking for a more suitable job. Other examples of changing the cause might include arranging for some work to be delegated to others. It could also include improving organisational skills so that things don’t get so out of control in the future.
4. Focus on the solution not the problem
Instead of dwelling on the problem, people need to ask themselves how they would ideally be feeling or what their ideal desired outcome is. Too often people get stuck thinking about a problem without considering an alternative or focusing on the end result they want to achieve.
5. Set an action plan in place
Without actions people are placing their destinies in the hands of others. Blaming others for the situation is also futile. To reduce stress, people need to take responsibility to make the situation different. They will be surprised at how much better they feel by simply knowing they are taking steps to alleviate the problem, however small they might seem. Moving forward will make them feel empowered and in control.
6. Don’t take on too much
If people are feeling stressed, they shouldn’t overwhelm themselves by taking on extra duties that aren’t necessary or important.
7. Delegate and say no
Sometimes saying no is essential to reduce stress and people need to do this without feeling guilty. They also need to ask others for help if they need it.
Even if they feel stressed, people can’t avoid all the responsibilities and obligations they have, but by prioritising carefully they can tackle each obligation in their own time and way, which will help them feel more in control.
When stressed, people tend to overlook their hobbies, friends and interests but spending time with family and friends can be the best tonic. Exercise also helps combat stress by releasing endorphins that create a natural high and it can help replace feelings of tension with optimism and calm.
10. Focus on the positive
People should count their blessings daily. At the end of every working day people should reflect on the good things that happened and write them down. At the end of the month when they read the list they will realise that life is far better than they thought.