Comstock's magazine 0519 - May 2019 - Page 21

HARMFUL STRESS ISN’T JUST THE LOOMING DEADLINE, OVERLOADED INBOX, BUDGET CRUNCH OR COMMUTER TRAFFIC ON THE WAY TO WORK. STRESS INVOLVES HAVING TOO MUCH RESPONSIBILITY FOR THOSE PROBLEMS IN THE WORKPLACE OVER WHICH WE HAVE TOO LITTLE CONTROL. than ever (three months per year lon- ger than their German counterparts and one month longer than workers in Japan), according to the American Insti- tute of Stress. That leaves more opportu- nity for stress to develop. Statistics from the American Psy- chological Association Center for Or- ganizational Excellence revealed that 65 percent of employees cited work as a significant source of psychologi- cal symptoms of stress, which may in- clude depression, anxiety, agitation, moodiness, anger, a feeling of being overwhelmed, loneliness and isolation. Even worse, more than a third experi- ence chronic stress, which includes physical symptoms such as low en- ergy, headaches, upset stomach, tense muscles, chest pain, insomnia, and fre- quent colds and infections. The APA also researched the causes of stress in the U.S., finding “job pres- sure” to be No. 1. That includes factors such as coworker tension, bosses and work overload. Money, which includes loss of job and reduced retirement, came in as the second factor. Health, relationships and poor nutrition round out the top five. Most of these stressors seem to be outside of our control, re- sulting in dangerously harmful stress in our lives. But are they really? Laurie Erdman, a business coach, writer and speaker, has a different take: Stress begins in our minds via a thought or belief. Stress doesn’t come from the environment outside; it comes from inside. If that definition sounds a bit simplistic, it al- ludes to the fact that the job alone is not the only stressor. The relationship between the person and the environ- ment also matters. Some people may thrive in a time-urgent, pressure-cook- er life, as long as they perceive them- selves as in control. These same people would become ill if forced to work on an assembly line with no expectations and no responsibility. HOW EMPLOYEES CAN TAKE OWNERSHIP OF THEIR STRESS Every individual is different, and what works for you might not work for your peers, but here are some practical tips to get you started: 1 Train yourself to neutralize stress through understanding what it is and from where it comes. 2 Practice stress. Repeated exposure to stressful situations can change your body’s biological response. When your stress hormones become less re- sponsive, you will handle stress better when it inevitably arises. 3 Replace harmful thoughts with more positive, gratitude-filled thoughts. 4 Meditate, exercise, eat healthy. Taking care of your body makes you more adept at handling the psychological impact of stress. also do what they can to increase their employees’ sense of control. 1 Listen. The act of listening can help increase an employee’s sense of control. 2 Encourage workplace camaraderie by making time for socialization during and after business hours. 3 Help employees strategize workflow, replacing multitasking with “serial mono-tasking,” in which employees dedicate their focus and attention to one task at a time, therefore eliminat- ing distractions and frantic thoughts. 4 Limit unplanned overtime. 5 Consider more flextime options so em- ployees can work in various environ- ments that allow them to reduce stress. The stakes are high. Awareness that “helplessness” and “lack of control” are the villains in this scenario will lead managers and employees to iden- tify and alleviate at least some of the causes. n Jessica Kriegel, Ph.D., is an organiza- tional development consultant and an expert on generational issues. For more, visit The greatest tool is acknowledge- ment that perhaps it’s not just your job or your boss, but rather how well you identify impossible demands and take ownership of your responses to them. HOW MANAGERS CAN HELP Given the deleterious effects of stress in the workplace on employee health, mo- rale and productivity, managers must How do you handle workplace stress? TWEET US @COMSTOCKSMAG May 2019 | 21