Many of us experience stress in some shape or form, whether it is in the short term, or long-term stress – especially now during a Global Pandemic! This can be pretty unpleasant, but more insidiously, this may in fact affect your health – and the approach you encompass to your work.
The GOOD NEWS is that you can learn to manage your stress more effectively, by learning the right tools and techniques.
Below, we will be looking at what stress is, what increases your risk of feeling it, and how you can manage it, so that it does not affect you negatively. Remember! Your health is your wealth!
Richard Lazarus, a professor, and psychologist says that stress is, "a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize."
In other words, we may experience stress when we feel "out of control."
Keep in mind that the manner in which you process stress is different to your peer. If you are more confident in your competencies, you will handle stress potentially more effectively. If you feel you have the power to change your situation, and / or you have the necessary support, you may feel more resilient.
How does Stress affect you?
You have likely heard of your reaction to the stress hormone, Cortisol. These are the "fight or flight" response, and the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). Both of these reactions can happen simultaneously.
David and Goliath: Fight or Flight
In 1932, Walter Cannon identified the “fight or flight” response. It is a short-term survival response, which is triggered when we experience a shock, or when we see something that appears to be a threat.
Our primitive brains then release stress hormones that get us ready to either "fly" from the threat, or “fight” it. This gives us a burst of energy, but can also make us feel quite anxious.
Although “flight” or “fight” it helps us deal with life-threatening events, we can also experience it in everyday situations – for example, when we have to work to short deadlines, when we speak in public, or when we experience conflict with others. In some unfortunate circumstances, we may experience this for no apparent reason, which is usually a symptom of an anxiety disorder.
GAS or General Adaptation Syndrome
Hans Selye identified GAS in 1950, is a response to long-term exposure to stress. Selye explained that we cope with stress in three distinct phases:
Stress and how it impacts the way in which we think
When we encounter a situation, we make two assumptions – usually unconsciously.
First, we decide whether the situation is a threat – this could be a threat to our social standing, values, time, or reputation, as well as to our survival. This can then trigger the fight or flight response, and the alarm phase of GAS.
Next, we judge whether we have the resources to meet the perceived threat. These resources can include time, knowledge, emotional capabilities, energy, strength, and much more.
How stressed we feel then depends on how far out of control we feel, and how well we can meet the threat with the resources we have available.
Stress: What it looks like
Everyone reacts to stress differently. Some common symptoms of the fight or flight response include:
Stress – the bad news
Stress impacts our ability to do our jobs effectively, and it affects how we work with other people. This can have a serious impact on our careers, our general well-being, and our relationships.
Long-term stress can also cause conditions such as burnout, cardiovascular disease, stroke, depression, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system.
Stress – the good news
Stress is manageable! The first step in managing stress is to understand where these feeling are coming from.
Keep a stress diary to identify the causes of short-term or frequent stress in your life. As you write down events, think about why this situation stresses you out.
Next, list these stressors in order of their impact. Which affect your health and well-being most? And which affect your work and productivity?
Then, consider using some of the approaches below to manage your stress. You will likely be able to use a mix of strategies from each area.
1. Action-Oriented Approaches
With action-oriented approaches, you take action to change the stressful situations.
Managing Your Time
Your workload can cause stress if you don't exercise proper time management. This can be a key source of stress for very many people.
Think about what is most important in your role, so that you can prioritize your work more effectively. This helps you reduce stress, because you get the greatest return from your efforts, and you minimize the time you spend on low-value activities.
Also, avoid multi-tasking, only check your e-mails at certain times, and do not use electronic devices for a while before going to bed, so that you use this time to "switch off" fully.
People can be a significant source of stress. It is important to learn to have firm boundaries with those who zap your emotional reserves, manage conflict effectively, exercise assertiveness and remembering you are allowed to say “no”!
Workspace stress can come from irritating, frustrating, uncomfortable, or unpleasant conditions in the workplace. Of course this can be exacerbated if you are now working from home, and you need to contend with new stressors.
Stress can come from numerous sources, such as:
The important thing to remember is that whether working from at organisation or from home, there are ways to reduce stress. These include:
2. Emotion-Oriented Approaches
Emotion-oriented approaches are useful when the stress you feel comes from the way that you perceive a situation. To change how you think about stressful situations:
3. Acceptance-Oriented Approaches
Acceptance-oriented approaches apply to situations where you have no power to change what happens, and where situations are genuinely bad.
To build resilience:
For more support, feel free to connect with us to learn more effective techniques in managing stress.
-Written by: Marzenna Almendro (Registered Psychometrist & Coach)
Our contributors collectively boast a wealth of experience in assessments, HR, organisational development, change management and more!