Managing Stress in the Workplace- by Kristen Jennings, HR Innovator

    Paula Fulghum

    In the comings and goings of busy work days, the word stress seems to pop up a lot. We’re all under a lot of stress and feel its harsh effects. Nobody enjoys being stressed, and stress can be incredibly harmful to our health. It is necessary to note that some stress can be a good thing. As humans, we work well at an optimal level of stress. Otherwise if we didn’t have any stress, we may not have any motivations at all. At this optimal level where there is just enough challenge, but we have the ability to meet it, performance thrives. When stress levels trickle past this optimal level or are too far under our optimal level, we may experience negative performance. Although being under-stressed can be a problem, the larger problem is being over-stressed. Harmful stress can arise from overwhelming emotional demands, constraining circumstances, physical illness, lack of sleep, and many other factors. These huge amounts of stress can lead to many negative consequences like headaches, anxiety, high blood pressure, and increased risks for various diseases. Stress has been shown to affect not only our physical health but our mental health, cognitive abilities, and emotional mood and affect as well. With all of these negative consequences, it is important to learn how to cope with stress. There are lots of things we can do at the individual and organizational level to try to ease the impact of stress.

    With organizations fostering a large portion of stress for most individuals, this is a good place to look for stress intervention. Many aspects like the environment, management personalities, and job demands may have a large impact on employee stress levels. Some simple adjustments in the work environment could make a lot of difference to employees. Keeping a more positive and open work environment makes individuals feel more at ease. Employees should feel like they can come to their supervisors or co-workers when they have problems, without feeling stressed that there are going to be horrible outcomes. Of course some actions must be reprimanded for the betterment of individuals and the organization, but in all situations where positive feedback is possible, pour it on. Many of us have had environments where we felt that if we made the tinniest errors, it would cost us our jobs. This definitely is a stressful environment to work under. So, as long as it is possible in the particular field, make employees aware that mistakes will happen, and they must learn from them. They should try to limit mistakes, but don’t make employees feel scared of admitting to a mess up. Working scared will only increase negative stress in the life of workers. Additionally, it could always help to add some fun to the workplace with events like dress up days, company get-togethers, or any fun weekly events. When employees have fun, they are going to be less stressed. When positive environments and fun at work help employees to stay away from dangerous levels of stress it is most likely that they will perform better, make fewer mistakes, and moreover be pleasant employees to be around.

    Organizations should also do as much as possible to encourage employees to take individual action to keep their unwanted stress at a minimum. Employees should be encouraged to use practices like positive thinking, exercise (which has proven to be a great stress reliever), relaxation techniques, and professional mental health help if needed. Individuals must realize that stress is going to happen, but there are positive ways of dealing with it. Taking steps like making daily de-stressing routines could work wonders. Anything from exercising after a long day to simply taking five minutes to take a short walk or do breathing exercises can work wonders. It is also important to stay more positive throughout our day to day lives to reduce stress. When we go through a day constantly picking out what’s wrong and the negative, it is of course going to put a strain on our mood. If we reframe things that stress us out or scare us into something positive, it can make a world of difference. Instead of thinking this deadline is way too soon, I feel so rushed, you can reframe it into this tight time frame is going to be a challenge, but it will be really awesome when I meet it. It may seem hard to see “the glass as half full” at times, but if we can reframe our minds to just see a bit of light in something that seems difficult or stressful, it will do wonders for our physical and mental health. Overcoming stressors in life seems quite intimidating at first, but taking small steps to figure out what makes us less stressed can help us to be happier, healthier, and more pleasant individuals.

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