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Understanding Workplace Stress


Stress Is Serious

A heavy workload and tight deadlines aren’t the only causes of stress. Office politics, competitiveness, back-biting and difficult co-workers can all contribute. It’s a serious problem because workplace stress can result in a whole range of health issues, such as increased blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. And, of course, stress also takes its toll on the performance of the business. Stressed-out employees simply aren’t as productive as those that are chilled-out.

Here’s The Science

How does stress make you sick? Due to an elevation of your natural ‘fight or flight’ hormones – cortisol and norepinephrine. When it comes to workplace stress, increased levels of these hormones affects everyone differently and short-term symptoms can include panic attacks, stomach problems and migraine. But it’s consistently elevated levels of stress that cause serious long-term health problems.

Stress plays havoc with physiological functions in the brain, contributing to chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes. It’s also linked to depression, obesity, and decreased cognitive performance. Research shows that people with stressful jobs have higher blood pressure and higher cholesterol levels, so it’s hardly surprising that people in high pressure jobs die younger from strokes and heart disease.

Ask For Help

What can you do if you think you’re suffering from stress? Quite a lot. In the first instance, experts agree that’s it’s vital to ask for help – whether that’s extra resources, more time or whatever you need to get the job completed to the standard expected.Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re not good at your job.

On the contrary, it says that you are proactively reacting to the demands of the job to find a solution that works. It shows you use initiative instead of covering up problems. As a result, company targets are met and employees are protected from stress related illness.

Dealing With Stressful Work Relationships

Often, it’s not the job that causes the most stress, but the people they have to deal with, whether that’s colleagues, business partners or customers. Stress brought about by work colleagues can cause you to lose self-control and when that happens, you lose your ability to cope with the task at hand.

Research shows that the 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress, in order to remain calm and in control. It’s therefore worth learning techniques to deal with stress if you want a successful career.

Why You Get Stressed

Some stress is necessary to help you meet life’s challenges. Your brain is wired in such a way that until you feel some sort of pressure, you are slow to take action to achieve a desired goal. Research from UC Berkeley in the US found that the onset of stress entices the brain to grow new cells responsible for improved memory. However, this effect is only seen when stress is intermittent.

When stress becomes prolonged, it suppresses the brain’s ability to develop these important new cells. Intermittent stressful events increase your performance by keeping the brain more alert. The best performers at work use strategies to lower their stress levels and ensure their stress is not prolonged. Here are a few ways you can employ strategies to deal with stress brought about by people you encounter at work.

Say No

Research from the University of California shows that the more difficulty you have with saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress. ‘No’ is a powerful weapon in the battle against stress. Don’t be afraid to wield it. Avoid phrases like, ‘I don’t think I can’ or ‘I’m not certain’. Saying no gives you the time and opportunity to fulfill your existing objectives.

What others do at work is pretty much out of your control, unless of course, you’re their boss. Endlessly questioning what would have happened if things had gone your way simply raises your stress levels. Spend less time worrying about what could have been if person X hadn’t been involved, and more time on what you can do to achieve the best outcome for the organisation and yourself.

Know When To Disconnect

When you’re constantly tracking someone at work, you expose yourself to a barrage of stressors. Turn your focus away from them and concentrate on what you need to do. If you’re seriously worried about the negative repercussions of their actions on your work, talk to a manager.

Don’t Take Your Work Home

After work, don’t dwell on the person who bugs you and what they’ll do next. Otherwise, you’ll begin the next day already stressed. Focus on family, friends and hobbies and chill out. Try not to lose sleep over work. As you sleep, your brain recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories (causing dreams), so you wake up alert and clear-headed. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels, even without a stressor present.

Exercise more

Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that reduces stress by soothing you and helping you feel in control of your emotions. As a result, you may find an aggravating work colleague less troubling.

Don’t Hold Grudge

The negative emotions that come with holding onto a grudge are actually a stress response. Just thinking about an event at work can send your body into fight-or-flight mode. When a threat is imminent, this reaction is essential to your survival, but when the threat is ancient history, holding onto that stress can have detrimental health consequences over time.

Be Mindful, Be Positive

Mindfulness is a simple form of meditation that can help you control your own thoughts and behavior. People who practice mindfulness are more focused and perform better. Being mindful means reflecting on your actions and not jumping from one thing to the next without thinking it through.

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Positivity is power. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that thoughts, not facts. Focus on the positive.