Posts Tagged ‘Stress at work’
People most at risk from stress (Further information which I have researched and thought you would enjoy from businessballs.com)
In one US study as many as 40% of workers described their jobs as very stressful. While not a scientific gauge and not measuring serious stress health problems, this gives some indication as to how prevalent work-related stress is. As regards official health records, in the UK, the nursing and teaching occupations are most affected by work-related stress, with 2% of workers at any one time suffering from work-related stress, depression and anxiety. (The figure for teachers rises to 4% when including physical conditions relating to stress.) Care workers, managers and professionals are the next highest affected occupations, with over 1% suffering from serious work-related stress at any one time. UK HSE work-related stress statistics suggest that work-related stress affects men and women in equal numbers, and that people in the 45-retirement age suffer more than younger people. More socially-based USA research suggests that the following American social groups are more prone to stress (this therefore not limited to work-related stress): young adults, women, working mothers, less educated people, divorced or widowed people, the unemployed, isolated people, people without health insurance, city dwellers. Combined with the factors affecting stress susceptibility (detailed below), it’s not difficult to see that virtually no-one is immune from stress. An American poll found that 89% of respondents had experienced serious stress at some point in their lives. The threat from stress is perceived so strongly in Japan that the Japanese even have a word for sudden death due to overwork, ‘karoushi’.
work-related stress trends
Data is sparse and confused (stress statistics are also complicated by metal health reporting in the UK), but the statistics do indicate certain growth. In the UK HSE statistics indicate a doubling of reported clinical cases between 1990 and 1999. Working days lost per annum appear to have been about 6.5 million in the mid-1990′s, but rose to over 13 million by 2001. Greater awareness of the stress ailment in reporting no doubt accounts for some of this variance, but one thing’s for sure: the number of people suffering from work-related stress isn’t reducing.
costs of stress
UK HSE statistics suggest stress-related costs to UK employers in the region of £700m every year. The cost of stress to society is estimated at £7bn pa. (These figures were respectively £350m and £3.7bn in 1995/6 when total days lost were half present levels.)
Stress is caused by various factors – not all of which are work-related of course, (which incidentally doesn’t reduce the employer’s obligation to protect against the causes of stress at work). Causes of stress – known as stressors – are in two categories: external stressors and internal stressors.
external stressors – physical conditions such as heat or cold, stressful psychological environments such as working conditions and abusive relationships, eg., bullying.
internal stressors – physical ailments such as infection or inflammation, or psychological problems such as worrying about something.
From the above, it is easy to see that work can be a source of both external and internal stressors.
Stressors are also described as either short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic):
Short-term ‘acute’ stress is the reaction to immediate threat, also known as the fight or flight response. This is when the primitive part of the brain and certain chemicals within the brain cause a reaction to potentially harmful stressors or warnings (just as if preparing the body to run away or defend itself), such as noise, over-crowding, danger, bullying or harassment, or even an imagined or recalled threatening experience. When the threat subsides the body returns to normal, which is called the ‘relaxation response’. (NB The relaxation response among people varies; ie., people recover from acute stress at different rates.)
Long-term ‘chronic’ stressors are those pressures which are ongoing and continuous, when the urge to fight or flight has been suppressed. Examples of chronic stressors include: ongoing pressurised work, ongoing relationship problems, isolation, and persistent financial worries.
The working environment can generate both acute and chronic stressors, but is more likely to be a source of chronic stressors.
Stress effects on health and performance
Stress is proven beyond doubt to make people ill, and evidence is increasing as to number of ailments and diseases caused by stress. Stress is now known to contribute to heart disease; it causes hypertension and high blood pressure, and impairs the immune system. Stress is also linked to strokes, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), ulcers, diabetes, muscle and joint pain, miscarriage during pregnancy, allergies, alopecia and even premature tooth loss.
Various US studies have demonstrated that removing stress improves specific aspects of health: stress management was shown to be capable of reducing the risk of heart attack by up to 75% in people with heart disease; stress management techniques, along with methods for coping with anger, contributed to a reduction of high blood pressure, and; for chronic tension headache sufferers it was found that stress management techniques increased the effectiveness of prescribed drugs, and after six months actually equalled the effectiveness of anti-depressants. The clear implication for these ailments is that stress makes them worse.
Stress significantly reduces brain functions such as memory, concentration, and learning, all of which are central to effective performance at work. Certain tests have shown up to 50% loss of performance in cognitive tests performed by stress sufferers. Some health effects caused by stress are reversible and the body and mind reverts to normal when the stress is relieved. Other health effects caused by stress are so serious that they are irreversible, and at worse are terminal.
Stress is said by some to be a good thing, for themselves or others, that it promotes excitement and positive feelings. If these are the effects then it’s not stress as defined here. It’s the excitement and stimulus derived (by one who wants these feelings and can handle them) from working hard in a controlled and manageable way towards an achievable and realistic aim, which for sure can be very exciting, but it ain’t stress. Stress is bad for people and organisations, it’s a threat and a health risk, and it needs to be recognised and dealt with, not dismissed as something good, or welcomed as a badge of machismo – you might as well stick pins in your eyes.
Causes of stress at work
These are typical causes of stress at work:
bullying or harassment, by anyone, not necessarily a person’s manager
feeling powerless and uninvolved in determining one’s own responsibilities
continuous unreasonable performance demands
lack of effective communication and conflict resolution
lack of job security
long working hours
excessive time away from home and family
office politics and conflict among staff
a feeling that one’s reward reward is not commensurate with one’s responsibility
working hours, responsibilities and pressures disrupting life-balance (diet, exercise, sleep and rest, play, family-time, etc)
factors influencing the effects of stress and stress susceptibility
A person’s susceptibility to stress can be affected by any or all of these factors, which means that everyone has a different tolerance to stressors. And in respect of certain of these factors, stress susceptibility is not fixed, so each person’s stress tolerance level changes over time:
childhood experience (abuse can increase stress susceptibility)
personality (certain personalities are more stress-prone than others)
genetics (particularly inherited ‘relaxation response’, connected with serotonin levels, the brain’s ‘well-being chemical’)
immunity abnormality (as might cause certain diseases such as arthritis and eczema, which weaken stress resilience)
lifestyle (principally poor diet and lack of exercise)
duration and intensity of stressors (obviously…)
signs of stress – stress test
At a clinical level, stress in individuals can be be assessed scientifically by measuring the levels of two hormones produced by the adrenal glands: cortisol and DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), but managers do not have ready access to these methods. Managers must therefore rely on other signs. Some of these are not exclusively due to stress, nor are they certain proof of stress, but they are indicators to prompt investigation as to whether stress is present. You can use this list of ten key stress indicators as a simple initial stress test: tick the factors applicable. How did I do?
loss of appetite
poor concentration or poor memory retention
uncharacteristic errors or missed deadlines
anger or tantrums
violent or anti-social behaviour
alcohol or drug abuse
methods of personal stress management and stress relief
If you are suffering from work-related stress and it’s beginning to affect, or already affecting your health, stop to think: why are you taking this risk with your body and mind? Life’s short enough as it is; illness is all around us; why make matters worse? Commit to change before one day change is forced upon you.
If you recognise signs of stress in a staff member, especially if you are that person’s manager, don’t ignore it – do something about it. It is your duty to do so. If you do not feel capable of dealing with the situation, do not ignore it; you must refer it to someone who can deal with it. You must also look for signs of non-work-related stressors or factors that increase susceptibility to stress, because these will make a person more vulnerable to work-related stressors. These rules apply to yourself as well….
Stress relief methods are many and various. There is no single remedy that applies to every person suffering from stress, and most solutions involve a combination of remedies. Successful stress management frequently relies on reducing stress susceptibility and removing the stressors, and often factors will be both contributing to susceptibility and a direct cause. Here are some simple pointers for reducing stress susceptibility and stress itself, for yourself or to help others:
stress relief pointers
think really seriously about and talk with others, to identify the causes of the stress and take steps to remove, reduce them or remove yourself (the stressed person) from the situation that causes the stress.
Understand the type(s) of stressors affecting you (or the stressed person), and the contributors to the stress susceptibility – knowing what you’re dealing with is essential to developing the stress management approach.
improve diet – group B vitamins and magnesium are important, but potentially so are all the other vitamins and minerals: a balanced healthy diet is essential. Assess the current diet and identify where improvements should be made and commit to those improvements.
reduce toxin intake – obviously tobacco, alcohol especially – they might seem to provide temporary relief but they are working against the balance of the body and contributing to stress susceptibility, and therefore increasing stress itself.
take more exercise – generally, and at times when feeling very stressed – exercise burns up adrenaline and produces helpful chemicals and positive feelings.
stressed people must try to be detached, step back, look from the outside at the issues that cause the stress.
don’t try to control things that are uncontrollable – instead adjust response, adapt.
share worries – talk to someone else – off-load, loneliness is a big ally of stress, so sharing the burden is essential.
increase self-awareness of personal moods and feelings – anticipate and take steps to avoid stress build-up before it becomes more serious.
explore and use relaxation methods – they do work if given a chance – yoga, meditation, self-hypnosis, massage, a breath of fresh air, anything that works and can be done in the particular situation.
seek out modern computer aids – including free downloads and desktop add-ons – for averting stresses specifically caused by sitting for long uninterrupted periods at a computer screen work-station, for example related to breathing, posture, seating, eye-strain, and RSI (repetitive strain injury).
Note also that managing stress does not cure medical problems. Relieving stress can alleviate and speed recovery from certain illnesses, particularly those caused by stress, (which depending on circumstances can disappear when the stress is relieved); i.e., relieving stress is not a substitute for conventional treatments of illness, disease and injury.
Importantly, if the stress is causing serious health effects the sufferer must consult a doctor. Do not imagine that things will improve by soldiering on, or hoping that the sufferer will somehow become more resilient; things can and probably will get worse.
For less serious forms of stress, simply identify the cause(s) of stress, then to commit/agree to removing the cause(s). If appropriate this may involve removing the person from the situation that is causing the stress. Counselling may be necessary to identify the cause(s), particularly if the sufferer has any tendency to deny or ignore the stress problem.
Acceptance, cognisance and commitment on the part of the stressed person are essential. No-one can begin to manage their stress if they are still feeling acutely stressed – they’ll still be in ‘fight or flight’ mode. This is why a manager accused of causing stress though bullying or harassment must never be expected to resolve the problem. The situation must be handled by someone who will not perpetuate the stressful influence.
Removing the stressor(s) or the person from the stressful situation is only part of the solution; look also at the factors which affect stress susceptibility: where possible try to improve the factors that could be contributing to stress vulnerability. This particularly and frequently involves diet and exercise.
The two simplest ways to reduce stress susceptibility, and in many situations alleviate stress itself (although not removing the direct causes of stress itself) are available to everyone, cost nothing, and are guaranteed to produce virtually immediate improvements. They are diet and exercise.
Feel stressed, tired and miserable? Then take time out, you need to relax. Your body is telling you it needs loving tender care, so take heed and listen to what your body is telling you!
If we continue to ignore what our bodies are telling us, then we are asking for trouble at some stage or time in the future?
Here is a relaxation exercise taken from businessballs.com
Sit or lie down comfortably. Properly comfortably. Straighten your back, put your shoulders back to open your rib-cage.
Relax your shoulder muscles particularly. Relax your whole body, and empty your mind.
Close your eyes (obviously open them when you need to read the next stage).
Take ten deep, slow breaths. Breathe from the pit of your stomach and feel your lungs filling.
Focus on your breathing. Feel it getting deeper and slower. Feel yourself relaxing and any tension drifting away.
Relax your shoulders and neck again.
Visualise yourself being happy, succeeding, winning, being loved, laughing, feeling good.
Relax your forehead, your mouth and your eyes.
Allow a gentle smile to appear on your face as you feel a calmness enter your mind.
Then say (out load ideally) the words below (a script for personal change) to yourself:
Here are some beginning statements to build on to help get you started,
I deserve to be,……………
I want to be,………………
I can be,…………………..
I will be,………………….
Once you have recharged the batteries so to speak, you will be up and running like new, feeling refreshed and able to cope with life, family and work.
Other ways to reduce stress and relax the body can be undertaken in various ways:-
1. Humour – Is probably the best way to relieve stress, they say that laughter is the best cure and it is also infectious.
2. Brisk Walk – Walking allows you to take time on your own in the fresh air and the exercise help to get rid of stress.
3. Rehydrate – Sometimes the lack of fluid intake will cause stress, so to rehydrate replenishes the soul.
4. Catnap or Powernap – A short rest bite and taking a Catnap or Powernap, which ever you want to call it, recharges the batteries on a temporary basis.
5. Make a Cuppa – Well the good old British Cuppa, tends to solve most things in life! its a combination of the Tea, a short rest and rehydration.
6. Crying – Crying is a way of relieving stress via another emotional state, personally I would rather laugh than cry.
7. Sex !!!!! – Well it speaks for itself, it could be humorous, it beats a brisk walk and afterwards you can have your Catnap / Powernap followed by a nice Cuppa to Rehydrate you. And if that does’nt work then have a good Cry!
But which ever method you take or use, you will feel less stressed.
Alternatively avoid stress by listening to your body and remember you are fundimentally made of three parts your body (the machine) your mind
(is your Sat Nav) and your soul (is the energy and personality that make – You the person) and they all need to be in-sink to be effective. If the machine breaks down or the mind loses its way or is confused, it can’t function normally and your soul is left to carry on and deliver the goods all on its own!
So a healthy body, mind and soul is what to aim for?
Stress at work, stress management techniques, stress reduction and relief (From Businessballs.com)
Employers should provide a stress-free work environment, recognise where stress is becoming a problem for staff, and take action to reduce stress. Stress in the workplace reduces productivity, increases management pressures, and makes people ill in many ways, evidence of which is still increasing. Workplace stress affects the performance of the brain, including functions of work performance; memory, concentration, and learning. In the UK over 13 million working days are lost every year because of stress. Stress is believed to trigger 70% of visits to doctors, and 85% of serious illnesses (UK HSE stress statistics). Stress at work also provides a serious risk of litigation for all employers and organisations, carrying significant liabilities for damages, bad publicity and loss of reputation. Dealing with stress-related claims also consumes vast amounts of management time. So, there are clearly strong economic and financial reasons for organisations to manage and reduce stress at work, aside from the obvious humanitarian and ethical considerations. If you are suffering from stress yourself the stress management guidelines here are just as relevant.
Stress reduction idea 1 – humour
Humour is one of the greatest and quickest devices for reducing stress.
Humour works because laughter produces helpful chemicals in the brain.
Humour also gets your brain thinking and working in a different way – it distracts you from having a stressed mindset. Distraction is a simple effective de-stressor – it takes your thoughts away from the stress, and thereby diffuses the stressful feelings.
Therefore most people will feel quite different and notice a change in mindset after laughing and being distracted by something humorous.
stress reduction idea 2 – brisk walk and self-talk
Go for a short quick really brisk walk outside.
Yes, actually leave the building.
Change your environment.
Breathe in some fresh air and smell the atmosphere…
Trees, rain, flowers, traffic fumes – doesn’t matter – stimulate your senses with new things.
On your way out keep saying to yourself out loud (and to anyone else you see, in that daft way people say “Elvis has left the building..”):
“(your name) is leaving the building.. ”
And when you are outside and free say:
“(your name) has left the building.. ”
You can extend the exercise by going to a park and jogging a little.
Or do a few star-jumps – something energetic to get your body moving and relaxing.
Or stroke a dog, or pick up some litter, or kick a kid’s football.
You can of course use other mantras or chants, depending on what you want to do and how far you want to get away from the stress causes, for example:
“(your name) is doing star-jumps/picking up litter/looking for a small non-threatening dog..” or
“(your name) is leaving/has left the industrial park/district/city/company/country..” etc, etc.
Of course this is daft, but the daftness reduces the stress by removing you from the stress in mind and body.
Doing something daft and physical – and reinforcing it with some daft chanting – opens up the world again.
stress reduction idea 3 – rehydrate
Go get a big cup or a bottle of water.
Most of us fail to drink enough water – that’s water – not tea, coffee, coke, ‘sports’ drinks, Red Bull or fruit juice…
All of your organs, including your brain, are strongly dependent on water to function properly. It’s how we are built.
If you starve your body of water you will function below your best – and you will get stressed. Physically and mentally.
Offices and workplaces commonly have a very dry atmosphere due to air conditioning, etc., which increases people’s susceptibility to de-hydration.
This is why you must keep your body properly hydrated by regularly drinking water (most people need 4-8 glasses of water a day).
You will drink more water if you keep some on your desk at all times – it’s human nature to drink it if it’s there – so go get some now.
When you drink water you need to pee. This gives you a bit of a break and a bit of exercise now and then, which also reduces stress.
When you pee you can see if your body is properly hydrated (your pee will be clear or near clear – if it’s yellow you are not taking enough water).
This will also prompt some amusing discussion and chuckling with your colleagues (“Nature calls – I’m off to the bog again…”) which is also good for reducing stress.
You do not need to buy expensive mineral water. Tap water is fine.
If you do not like the taste of tap water it’s probably because of the chlorine (aquarium fish don’t like it either), however the chlorine dissipates quite naturally after a few hours – even through a plastic bottle – so keep some ordinary tap water in the fridge for 2-3 hours and try it then. Read the rest of this entry »