How to reduce stress associated with work or business
Stress is something each of us will encounter in different degrees at one point or another. But sometimes it might feel tricky to pinpoint what it is about work that’s causing us stress. Firstly, it can be helpful to understand a bit more about stress and how it works.
Good vs Bad Stress
Stress is the adverse reaction we have to excessive pressures or other types of demands placed on us, and for the most part, our working week is the part of our lives that perhaps occupies a large chunk of our time. However, a certain amount of stress is good for us, and actually not enough pressure can cause stress (as it can make people feel undervalued).
A good amount of stress is if there’s the right kind of pressure for us to perform well – it can be challenging and motivating in a positive way, it can feel exhilarating. Bad stress is when there is too much, leading us to feel overwhelmed by life’s pressures. Bad types of stress can also lead to feeling bored or unsettled – it’s not just limited to when we’re simply over-worked.
When Stress Becomes Unhelpful
It can also occur when there is a mismatch between perceived demands and perceived ability to cope. Stress affects people in different ways – what one person finds stressful might not phase another person. This is of course perfectly normal. With each new situation a person decides “can I cope” and if they can’t, they can feel stress. Stress itself is not an illness, rather a state of mind.
However, when faced with a potential stressful situation, the body prepares itself for fight or flight and does this by releasing chemicals, such as adrenaline. When the situation has been dealt with, the body recovers to its normal state. But if this ‘stress reaction’ is very frequent or continuous, the body has no opportunity to recover and is therefore constantly flooded with adrenaline. Our bodies are not designed to be like this and if we experience too much stress over a sustained period of time, it can result in ill-health.
Short and Long Term Effects of Stress
There are a wide-ranging list of illnesses and issues that can be linked to stress, some may only be short term whereas others might be longer term. Increasingly more people are experiencing burnout, which is why it’s essential to keep an eye on your stress levels before it impacts your health.
Burnout is the result of constant stress, and it can last for a prolonged period of time and can be a serious problem for many but even just a moderate amount of stress can also cause long term issues for some people.
Causes of stress
All in all, stress can have a significant impact on our personal lives and on our working lives, too. In fact, the Health and Safety Executive have identified 6 factors which may cause stress:
- The workload and demands of your job or other caring duties
- The level of control you have over the way you do your work
- The kind of support you have from colleagues, clients, friends, family members.
- Your relationships with not only colleagues and clients but family and friends – and the behaviour you are subjected to
- The understanding you have of your role and responsibilities at work and home, how you fit into the picture and the clarity you have on that
- Change – how others engage with you during periods of change and how you respond to change too.
Stress can impact us in four ways physically, it can change our behaviour, our emotions and our psychologically too. We may have a few or we may experience many and some may only experience one or two of these things. As you’ll notice many of these symptoms could also relate to other illnesses which is why it’s important to always check in with your GP if you do ever experience any of these things consistently.
The Good News – We can manage and prevent stress!
Overcoming Stress in the Workplace
There are 2 parts to the ANS, the ‘sympathetic’ system and the ‘parasympathetic’ system. The sympathetic system produces stress hormones and causing the stress symptoms and effects. And when you experience calm, the parasympathetic system becomes triggered, which in turn stimulates endorphins.
A key component to managing and preventing stress is relaxation. It will become easier for you to operate or drop into the parasympathetic more if you undertake forms of relaxation. So it might sound obvious but the best way to overcome stress is to learn how to relax. And often it’s a case of teaching ourselves how to relax. Once you have a few preferred ways to relax – such as yoga, mindfulness, hypnotherapy, massage – the key is repetition.
Because the more you repeat taking your body and mind into a state of relaxation, you will begin to create new neural pathways in the brain, making it easier for your brain to access the parasympathetic.
Stress management can look completely different for everyone and although exercise is so important, sometimes we need a bit more than just going to the gym or for a swim or run, although that can also be stressbusting for many people but really, we also need that stillness and that relaxation – so the parasympathetic can kick in.
Another way to think of stress management is as taking care of yourself so you can be your best emotionally and physically, in how you engage with others, your achievements and as a way to improve the quality of your life.