I have developed an interactive and powerful intervention to assist any level of employee in the workplace to manage stress effectively. I have done this because, in all the interventions I have been part of, more often than not someone will say: “You don’t understand – I work in such a stressful environment that I can hardly survive one day”.
According to the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, job stress can be defined as the “harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the employee”.
Whilst we normally view stress as having a negative impact on our general wellbeing, it is important to remember that stress can also be a positive driving force in our lives. Positive stress can also be viewed in relation to meeting challenges: a deadline, finishing a project within budget and time frames or achieving difficult goals that stretch us – to name but a few. When we achieve something we never thought would be possible, we have a sense of fulfillment, joy and accomplishment. This positive stress motivates us to take on bigger challenges and to aspire to achieve bigger and more complex goals. It can therefore help us to grow as human beings – hence the saying: “a little stress is good for you”. In this context, it makes sense.
More often than not, we view stress as a negative force that impedes our ability to perform, to stretch ourselves or even to think logically. Its constant companions are normally anxiety, uncertainty, anger and frustration. These combinations lead to poor health (physical and psychological), strained relationships at work and at home, inability to perform at work or meet job demands, total exhaustion, constant tension and even depression. We dream of times when we were content, relaxed and satisfied at work and at home, when no task was too difficult to perform and when tomorrow was another challenge to look forward to.
Stress is the response of the body to a variety of internal and external triggers. It may affect your body positively or negatively. However, too much stress over a long period of time may have harmful consequences to your overall wellbeing. Different triggers cause stress in different people. Overachievers and perfectionists may become stressed when everything does not go according to plan, and the general sense they get is not of a job well done, but one of total failure. Other factors that may trigger stress is moving (house or job or city), death of a loved one, illness, bad relations at work, feeling bullied or victimised at work or feeling overworked and not able to cope. There is a myriad of triggers that we are faced with every day – sometimes we respond subconsciously and other times we have a choice of how we could respond.
To manage stress in today’s fast paced work environment, where change happens faster than a Formula 1 pit stop, every individual has to recognise their personal stress triggers and their normal responses to these triggers. To not perpetually fall victim to negative stress triggers, we have to recognise our symptoms and decide on what we need to do to change the previous negative response patterns. We can decide on a number of new strategies, which may lead to positive lifestyle changes that last. We also have to develop the necessary skills to manage the stressful situations in the workplace and at home so that the potential negative impact is minimised. After each successful stress management intervention, we will start looking at ourselves and our environment a bit differently, until it becomes more manageable and we start functioning again.
The important thing to remember is to take responsibility for your own wellbeing – physically, psychologically and emotionally. Decide where you need help, and get it. No one else will do it for you – only you can decide whether you want to bring about change that you desire. And you can!