There are times when mild inconveniences get on your nerves and it affects your functioning for the rest of the day. A difference in opinion with your family member, a task in office that does not seem to go right or even being stuck in traffic on a hectic day can all trigger it. You feel your pulse and irritability rising. This is the beginning of stress; when it builds up over time, it affects your overall wellbeing and interpersonal relationships.
The word ‘stress’ is used so often that we tend to overlook the weight it carries. What may seem like a minor challenge to one person might be the reason for severe stress in another. Even a positive incident, such as getting on stage to receive an award, could cause temporary but substantial stress in some people. Matters like familial conflicts, work load, financial trouble or academics cause some to feel like they are sinking. Before we get into the causes, effects and ways to manage stress, we need to understand what the definition of this word really is.
What is stress?
Stress can be a physical, mental or emotional defensive response our body creates to an internal or external stressor (stressors, simply put are causal factors). The immune system creates a ‘flight or fight’ response which kick-starts a chain of neurological and hormonal reactions in our body to respond to the situation.
While the physical reaction may be an increase in heart rate, profuse sweating, exhaustion, the emotional responses comprise of panic and fear, irritability and anger. While some amount of stress may cause a person to improve their response to a given situation; extreme stress can lead to inability to function or concentrate.
Types of stress, based on time period and intensity:
1. Acute Stress
It is a relatively shorter-term experience of stress; it results from one’s past experience or stressors in environment. A fast approaching deadline or venturing onto a new task can get your heart racing and cause distress. This is the most commonly observed form of stress, among the general population. Some common symptoms may include anxiety, restlessness and anger as the stressors unfold. Physical symptoms may include head ache, gastro-intestinal issues, acidity and muscular problems. An elevation in heart rate, sweaty palms and feeling short of breath are also observed.
2. Episodic Acute Stress
Some people experience bouts of Acute Stress frequently; this makes up for Episodic Acute Stress. People who undergo this may be on edge and seemingly small issues make them irritable and anxious. The symptoms are the same as in the case of Acute Stress, but they tend to appear periodically and are sustained for longer durations. Being worried for prolonged periods can cause severe physiological damage including migraine, hypertension or heart disease.
3. Chronic Stress
It refers to stress that persists for years together, and accumulates over time. It could stem from trauma that a person has undergone during different stages in life. Any situation or object related to an incident in the past that caused them anxiety, might trigger a stress response in them. Regular release of stress hormones in the body can have long term effects on the heart and brain, causing severe damage like stroke, heart attacks etc.
What is work-related stress and how can it be managed?
According to a 2018 study by Korn Ferry Institute on 2,000 employees, nearly 76% respondents reported that work stress negatively impacted their personal relationships. 66% stated that they lost sleep and 16% had to quit a job due to work stress.
An average adult spends 40-60 hours a week at their workplace and it is important to address the various causal factors that lead to stressful conditions while at work.
Work-related stress refers to the responses observed in employees, when they are expected to accomplish tasks that do not match with their skill-set or knowledge. This might be exacerbated by deadlines and limited resources forcing the employee to complete the task under additional pressure. When there is minimal help from colleagues or supervisors, the employee could feel like their job is stressful.
Methods of stress management:
1. Split work amongst the team
Nothing beats team work! Breaking down a project and giving each employee specific areas to work on will allow employees to apply greater attention and skill to the task at hand instead of being overwhelmed by a seemingly momentous task. It also makes it manageable for the person overlooking the project.
2. A functional work space
The environment one works in has an impact on the mood and productivity as well. Faulty lighting, ventilation, gadgets and devices could hamper pace and in turn stress one out. Bring it to the attention of the support staff and get these fixed. Choosing the right colours, having indoor potted plants and motivational posters are elevating.
3. Revamp the work culture
Some may need to listen to music while others might have their own ways to deal with their stress. As adults, people could also find it difficult to follow hard and fast rules and may perceive it as being controlled. Understanding these differences and allowing for certain liberties is important as it will help the employees function better, while at work.
4. Introduce breaks for letting off steam
Sometimes, taking a break is needed to restart work effectively. Introducing an activity area, where employees can play games, listen to some music or just walk around for a while. This refreshes their mind and helps them relieve stress.
5. Giving professional guidance
At times, it might be difficult to handle the pressure and one could cave in, despite having tried all means possible to handle the stress. Putting in place Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) where mental health professionals give guidance to deal with the work stress is a step towards easing worries and improving work life.
Important benefits of managing work-related stress
1. The wellness of employees enhances quality of work
The physical and psychological effects of stress, causes ineffective work hours or people to take days off from work. For employees to be able to produce quality work and feel satisfied as individuals for the time and effort they spend in accomplishing company goals, it is important to maintain an environment where they can handle work related stress that is inevitable.
2. Boosts morale and motivation
A highly stressful workplace can affect the morale of individuals as well as the team. Stress works in a chain; an employee who is under the pressure of meeting targets may transfer it to his/her colleague or the employees reporting to them. This creates hostility within the team. Introducing methods on effective communication strategies under stress management reduces workplace conflicts; it motivates employees to work as a team and rise above the seemingly stressful situation.
3. Improves time management and productivity
Stress as a biological response is beneficial in small amounts. It drives people to perform tasks efficiently and thereby meet goals. However, dire stress hampers productivity. Introducing stress management techniques can help people realize their potential and in turn improve their ability to complete a task within the stipulated time frame.
As an employer, it becomes important to make sure that employees are not under heavy stress or that they be provided with methods to deal with work-related stress. Conducting webinars and seminars on physical, mental, emotional and financial wellness and providing health check facilities and wellness activities at the workplace could be a stepping stone towards creating a healthier workforce.
If you are looking for a partner company that program manage these activities, we at The Fuller Life would be most happy to guide you through it. Do reach out to us!
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