HOWEVER it is when we are exposed to persistent and continuous levels of stress that we risk damaging our health. Over time irritability, tiredness and headaches can lead to ulcers, exhaustion and severe depression. It is not unknown for sufferers of stress to seek relief through alcohol or drugs, which leads to further complications Stress affects employees throughout all levels of an organisation. A recent survey at a large NHS hospital discovered that senior managers suffered from more stress complaints than junior managers. However each level of management blamed the level above for increasing the amount of stress throughout the whole organisation. Whilst employers have a duty of care to look after the health and safety of employees, many people feel that the stigma surrounding stress prevents them from talking openly about it. Nevertheless do you really want to wait until you are unable to work effectively and have severely damaged your health before taking action? A far better plan would be to monitor your stress levels on a regular basis and take appropriate self help action. Recognise the symptoms of stress Most people perform better when subjected to small amounts of stress – indeed boredom can be more stressful than the challenge of work. However because people respond differently to stress and have differing stress thresholds it is important to recognise your first symptoms before they become too severe. For example do you get frequent headaches or clench your teeth. Do you become irritable and suffer from poor sleep patterns. Do you feel anxious and unable to cope? Many people are so busy being stressed that they only notice these symptoms when they try to unwind at the end of the day! Do you savour a glass of wine in the evening or do you need four or five glasses before your brain starts to relax? Write down your stressors Anything that causes you stress is known as a stressor. Write down a list of your stressors. It could include a person, situation, object or perceived threat. For example financial or children problems at home; being harassed at work or not having sufficient time to prepare for meetings. Is there a practical solution to any of these stressors? However much you try and control your stress, it will always remain with you unless you are able to eliminate the stressors or learn to manage them. Create an action plan Something committed to paper has far more chance of success than something that isn’t. Having written down your stressors, devise a plan of action to resolve/ eliminate/cope with them. For example if you are moving house then money spent paying for a removal firm to pack as well as transport your boxes may allow you extra time to complete important ‘must do tasks at work.’ If your budget does not stretch that far then can you share your workload? Can deadlines be negotiated? Your action plan should list what you can do, what you need help doing, and what must be discussed with others before you can even begin to understand the implications. Use your action plan when communicating your needs with others. Having already begun to devise a self help plan will make you appear a strong minded and practical person rather than being perceived as a whiner. Use your action plan to list priorities and tick them off as you achieve them. Nothing is more stress relieving than ticking off what you have achieved throughout the day! Communicate with others Tell someone how you feel. If it is your manager who is causing your stress then approach someone else. You don’t have to mention the ‘S’ word. Start by asking for help with sharing your workload or by requesting a change in someone’s behaviour. Often your colleagues will not have realised the pressure you are under or will not be conscious of their own inconsiderate behaviour. Stress in your personal life can often exacerbate stressful situations at work. For example a request to manage a colleagues workload due to holiday absence is something you have accomplished with ease in the past. However due to your imminent house move you worry that you will be unable to cope. Does your manager or do your work colleagues know about your house move. You cannot use every situation at home as an excuse to shed work however a well informed and competent manager should be able to recognise when you really need help-as long as you are open about what is happening in your life. Often discussing your problems with a friend, relative or work colleague is enough to help lighten the load. Satisfy your training needs As mentioned previously stress is often associated with a feeling of being unable to cope. If the stressors cannot be eliminated then it is only by learning how to manage them that you will reduce or at least control your stress. Practical courses such as time management or delegation skills are designed to teach you tools that enable you to perform tasks better. By learning and using these new skills your stress levels should decrease. Other appropriate courses might be assertiveness training (not being able to say NO is a major source of stress) or a stress management course. Communicating with yourself Next time you are in a stressful situation stop and listen to your inner voice. What is it saying to you? The chances are it is being critical. ‘I cannot do this.’ ‘Why am I being so thick?’ ‘Come on hurry up. Time is running out.’ Negative self-talk adds to your tension and the only way to eliminate it is to replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk. Prior to your next sales presentation or any other stressful situation fill your mind with positive thoughts such as ‘I feel good.’ I am the best.’ I can succeed.’ Smile as you think back on all the past success you have had. Take time to relax Make time for yourself. During particularly stressful days find time to walk in the park or have a cappuccino in a deli. At the end of stressful day or week do something for you. Relax both your mind and body. Sport and exercise is ideal if it releases your frustration and helps your mind unwind. However chose a sport that does not create even more tension and anxiety! If you are someone whose gym membership card has never been out of their wallet then absorb yourself in a hobby or activity. Relaxation therapies such as reflexology, massage or aromatherapy are particularly good as someone else takes responsibility for looking after you and the therapies themselves release tension from the body. Relaxing at home is often a contradiction as home maybe the stressor. So communicate with your loved ones. Tell them why you need some time and space to yourself. Find time for reflection If possible take a few minutes every day for reflection. Otherwise reflect as regularly as you can. Make a note of your current stress level. On a scale of 1to 10 how is it compared to previous days. Is your stress action plan working? Do you need to tip the scales further in favour of life on the work/life balance? Reflect on past decisions. Do you feel more in control? Do you need any more tools to add to your palette of coping mechanisms? Reflection should also be a time of relaxation. If reflection causes you anxiety as you worry about past mistakes and future obstacles then revisit your action plan. Be realistic about what you can achieve and make changes in your life one at a time. Stress is here to stay. It is far better to learn to live with it rather than die from it!
|If you would like further information please contact: Lee Patterson, Managing Director Redhill Group, Management and Training Consultancy 01572 812219|