We’ve all been stressed at different points in our lives, some more than others, and some of us can deal with it better than others. It can depend on how you’re brought up, what’s happening in your life presently and resilience skills among other things.
According to research released this week by MIND, over 55% of people interviewed stated that they found work more stressful than relationship, health, debt and financial problems. So what causes stress and what is causing so much stress at work? The report reveals the main culprits are excessive workload, frustration with poor management, lack of support, threat of redundancy and unrealistic targets.
Stress can cause all kinds of health issues. Understanding the impact and, more importantly, how to prevent it and create healthy workplaces, is something that cannot be thought of lightly.
It’s important we understand stress and its purpose. In small doses, stress has advantages. For instance, stress can help you meet daily challenges and motivate you to reach your goals. In fact, stress can help you accomplish tasks more efficiently. It can even boost memory. However, continually being in a state of stress means that body chemicals such as Adrenaline, Cortisol, Norepinephrine are constantly being stimulated, which can create symptoms of ill health.
We all respond to stress differently, so there’s no “one size fits all” solution to managing stress. But if you feel like the stress in your life is out of control, it’s time to take action. Stress management can teach you healthier ways to cope with stress, help you reduce its harmful effects, and prevent stress from spiralling out of control again in the future.
No matter how powerless you may feel in the face of stress, you still have control over your lifestyle, thoughts, emotions, and the way you deal with problems. Here are some simple tips to get started on creating a stress free life and workplace.
Let’s get physical
You don’t have to be an athlete or spend hours in a gym to get the benefits of exercise. Just about any form of physical activity (use your imaginations!) can help relieve stress and produce happy hormones – endorphins – that boost your mood and make you feel good. It can also give you a break from your daily worries or concerns. Simply getting off the bus a stop earlier, walking up the stairs or starting a walking club at lunchtime can help huge amounts. Think about what you can do, rather than what you can’t do.
Getting together with friends, colleagues and family is the quickest and most efficient way to help you feel better. It can also help you avoid overreacting to events that you perceive as upsetting or threatening. Communicating with another human being who makes you feel safe and understands you has been shown to calm the nervous system. This experience of safety results from nonverbal cues that you hear, see and feel. And if you’re that type of person, a hug will work wonders by releasing oxytocin, calming you further!
Find a different way to look at things
Sometimes we can’t avoid stress, in which case try to alter the way you see it. Often, this involves changing the way you think, talk and behave in these situations:
- Be willing to compromise. When you ask someone to change their behaviour, be willing to do the same. If you’re both are willing to bend a little, you’ll have a good chance of finding a happy middle ground.
- Manage your time better. Poor time management can cause a lot of stress. But if you plan ahead and make sure you don’t overextend yourself, you’ll find it easier to stay calm and focused.
Make time for fun, laughter and relaxation
Regularly making time for fun, laughter and relaxation will help you be in a better place to handle life’s stressors. Don’t underestimate the power of time-out and giving yourself time just for you. I know this is easier said than done in busy times, with busy lives and family commitments on top. But committing to even just a couple of hours a week will help your body and mind feel, think and be better.
- Set aside relaxation time. Include rest and relaxation in your schedule. Look at times when you can do this, even if it’s 15 minutes at the end of the day.
- Do something you enjoy. Make time for activities that you enjoy, whether it’s playing the piano, walking in the park or playing with the kids.
- Keep your sense of humour and make time to laugh. This includes the ability to laugh at yourself. The act of laughing helps your body fight stress in a number of ways. Bring more laughter into your life by making time to watch comedy DVDs or spend time with people you know will make you laugh. And don’t underestimate how the joy of watching funny cats on YouTube will make you guffaw.
Look at how you create a culture at work that is conducive to good health
- Step away from your desk. If you’re a leader or manager, you need to lead by example. That means showing your team that going out for lunch, a quick break or having some time out (within reason) is positive.
- If you have the space, then have a play/games room. Put some distraction toys in there like a remote control toy, mini ping-pong table, a Wii or whatever you think. You’ll be surprised at how this helps improve mood and gets the creative juices flowing too.
- Have meetings in different places. If you can, go out for a meeting to a café, green space or somewhere different. A change of scenery is good and it will help you think differently too.
- Be aware when you and others need a break or need to do something different.
- Have rewards of the week or month and ask for nominations from teams. Make them positive and inclusive and maybe not even about work.
- Develop your managers. They are the key to stress free, happy teams.
Creating an environment where people can relax and have time out when they need it can improve productivity. Focus on what you can do, promote positive behaviours, improve management skills and you’ll be surprised at the difference this can make. You can find further information about techniques to help you and your workplace work better at www.laughology.co.uk.
Stephanie Davies is company founder and CEO of Laughology. She has an unsurpassed reputation for designing and delivering interventions for top performing teams in various settings and is recognised as one of the UK’s leading voices in happiness, humour and laughter.
Laughology’s toolkit, FLIP, helps you think, communicate and behave differently. FLIP stands for Focus, Language, Imagination and Pattern Breaking. Based in psychology, FLIP allows you to manage your mood and helps you understand how to manage the mood others. When broken down, FLIP can be used as a coaching technique as well as a cognitive and behavioural tool. For more information, visit the FLIP toolkit.