Stress…..the Road to Disaster or the Key to Success?

September 10, 2016 by  

Humans have actually identified stress since the beginning of time.

Plato, in the 4th Century BC, conjectured that, “all diseases of the body proceed from the mind or soul.”

Early societies considered the phenomenon of stress as a demonic possession of the body.

In 1831, Dr. James Johnson developed a precise description of the physical reaction to stress.

In the 1920’s, Walter Cannon established “fight or flight” syndrome.

In 1936, Hans Selye began to investigate the “syndrome of just being sick.” He has been referred to as the Father of Stress and developed the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS): flight or flight, resistance, then exhaustion.

As many as 75% of today’s workers experience some level of stress and over 75% of all doctor’s appointments seem to be related to stress ailments.
Stress has been linked to heart disease, immune deficiency, memory loss, diabetes, periodontal diseases, pre-term/low weight births, fatigue, weight loss, weight gain, sleep issues, gastro-intestinal problems, headaches, irritability…the list goes on and on.   Symptoms experienced usually fall into 5 common categories: Behavioral, Perceptional, Communication, Physical, and Cognitive.

In short, it appears that stress is a very costly issue in today’s world and does not seem to be going away any time soon.  In fact, stress seems to increase and decrease but never ceases. When the stressors are relatively acute but infrequent; our bodies can recover from their effects.
However, changes in our world such as technology, the expectation of multi-tasking, and the breakdown of the traditional family has shifted the nature and the pattern of stress-inducing events. Which is likely why it has become such a common, persistent, expensive, and pressing concern.

So far you likely think that stress is all bad when in fact there is another side to this troubling issue. Here is another way of looking at stress……
POSITIVE STRESS actually challenges us to higher achievement by increasing our creativity and resourcefulness. Therefore mild to moderate stress over brief periods of time can actually be beneficial to our productivity, efficiency and creativity. This “modern stress” can promote survival in the workplace, helping us meet deadlines and get more accomplished.

The stress our ancestors experienced helped them survive by taking advantage of the “flight or fight” mechanism. If they needed to save themselves from an imminent danger, they had the necessary boost of adrenalin to boost their energy so they could run away. Once safe at home they could recover to hunt another day. You have likely heard stories of people having the strength to lift a car off of a loved one or make it up a steep embankment to safety after an accident….that is mother nature taking care of us by giving us the necessary resources to save ourselves.

Here is why…..Stress hormones activate the mind, improve concentration, increase muscle function and speed reaction time: but only for brief periods! Every time a human is challenged to do something new, we get stressed, but if we leverage that energy in a positive way we can actually gain a competitive edge and do better.

On the other hand, prolonged exposure to stress does not give our bodies a chance to recover: we cannot fight or flee! When this happens we can experience irreversible physiological changes that be life changing. In truth, HR personnel will tell you that individuals who are forced to take a “stress leave” often never return, or if they do, they never seem to achieve the same level of competence as they have lost self-confidence in their abilities. In addition, many of these people can end up having to take more stress leaves….a pattern emerges in their ability to cope with the regular stress of their job.

Moderation is the Key! Too much stress causes you to feel overwhelmed, and this can lead to procrastination and more stress. Unhealthy levels of stress interfere with a person’s creativity due to poor concentration and memory issues. Finally, stress reduces the oxygen levels in the brain which interferes with your rational thought.

So here are some tips to reduce your stress at work…..
BREATHE!!! You need to make sure you are sending adequate oxygen to your brain so you can think clearly.
Organize your desk:  An untidy desk makes being efficient and organized pretty impossible as finding what you need can take too much time and be frustrating as well.
Organize your e-mails:  These can also be set up in a way to make finding what you need quickly an easy task and you can also “weed out” the ones you really do not need to keep.
Practice Active Listening:  This key communication skill will improve your relationships as well as reduce conflict, resentment, confusion, disappoint and complaining, all of which reduce efficiency, productivity and innovation.
Employ Accountability Skills:  Do not let issues fester and take responsibility for what you do. Life will be happier if you employ this strategy with regularity.
Do not delay Problem Solving Techniques:  When problems go unresolved they can turn into bigger issues, so it is best to deal with them as soon as possible to avoid larger ones.
Be Assertive:  Standing up for yourself is something no one else will do for you….that does not mean being it aggressive, it means knowing what you want and asking for it in an honest and respectful manner.
Exercise:  Regular exercise changes your brain chemistry releasing chemicals that give you a feeling of well-being. It also gives you more energy and better coping skills to deal with the stressors you face.
Eat Healthfully:  Meals that include variety, moderation and a balance of the 4 major food groups will also give you more energy and ability to cope with the challenges thrown your way.
Get adequate rest:  Your body recovers when you sleep, your memory is consolidated, systems can heal and you gain energy and coping skills for the next day.
BREATHE!!!!   Again, this is the most important for proper brain function and high energy levels!

Identifying stress before it hurts your organization can prevent having to pay a high price in the form of absenteeism, turnover, lost productivity, and workplace accidents. Be sure to introduce fun, social activities, and laughter into your daily life…..a work/life balance is the key a healthy, happy successful life!

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