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Written by: Sara Howard LLB(Hons), BHSAI, MISMA, MAC
Does unwanted stress have a negative impact in your life? If you are reading this then the likely answer is, yes, it does. This article is to help you to recognise what may be happening in your life – either personally or to a friend or colleague, and discover how it is possible to make beneficial changes.
Stress is defined by ISMA UK as, “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed upon them.”
Whilst many companies are aware and vigilant to the signs of stress in their employees and even have procedures in place to help cope with and prevent stress – it has to be said that some companies do not. A further problem is that many employees deliberately hide the signs of rising anxiety levels due to fears that an acknowledgement of stress may be negatively interpreted as an inability to manage their workload. This may include hiding their worries from loved ones and friends with the result that such behaviour may increase a feeling of isolation.
You may already know someone suffering from stress. The Health and Safety Executive’s 2016 Statistics conclude that work related stress accounts for 37% of work related ill health and 45% of days lost in the period of 2015/16.
Some of the main issues people report regarding workplace stress include:
- The perceived pressures linked to workload, deadlines and expectations.
- A belief in insufficient support from line management and colleagues.
- Fears of change, pending mergers and acquisitions and new leadership styles.
- Conflicts between personal beliefs and corporate culture demands.
The physical symptoms of stress may vary from person to person and they can include – raised heart rate, palpitations, perspiration, feeling a rush of adrenalin, irritability with colleagues, poor sleep patterns and tiredness, stomach upsets headaches and migraines. When excessive pressure goes ignored or unnoticed over an extended period it can have a serious impact on a person’s health and well-being. For some, it can lead to depression and more serious physical conditions. Stress can also affect us psychologically and in our changing behaviours. The behavioural aspects that increase the build up of pressure include: a lack of assertiveness, procrastination and absolutism; perhaps these sound familiar?
The anxiety of constant worry about past or future events can lead to engaging in unwanted habits and addictions, sometimes in a misguided belief that they help us to cope; for example, the use of alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and chocolate etc. Some people engage (often unconsciously) in habits such as nail biting, skin picking, mouth chewing, teeth grinding, hair pulling without realising the link to their anxiety levels.
In managing workplace stress – a stress audit will help a person to develop a plan to enable he/she to recognise and identify problems and to make suitable behavioural changes to regain a sense of control in the daily routine. Managing stress is also about how we believe we interface with ‘our world’, with the most beneficial response being that we believe we do so in a satisfactory and productive way in which we are supported and can complete our tasks and achieve our goals… and find time for the importance of a work/life balance!
Effective stress management increases our self-belief in our ability to cope and to develop ‘resilience.’ In simple language, resilience can best be achieved and built on sound foundations, when we have recognised and moderated our emotional self-demands to a new understanding in harmony with our values and a position of control.