Very few people would say that they never feel stressed at work.
In fact, most human beings need to experience some measure of stress, otherwise life would be monotonous and boring.
Good Stress and Bad Stress
Like many things in life it is all about balance. There is good stress and bad stress. Eustress is a positive kind of stress that lets you thrive and keeps you full of energy and able to cope, while distress makes you feel overwhelmed and drained of energy. Stress is just our body’s reaction to a new situation. Our bodies react in the same way, whether the situation is welcome or unwelcome.
When we’re stressed our hearts beat faster; our bodies produce adrenaline; we breathe more rapidly; we’re more alert; and we may perspire more. This can occur when involved in a positive event like receiving an award, or a threatening event like having a performance appraisal at work. Physiologically, your body cannot differentiate between the sources of the stress, whether good or bad, and reacts the same in both situations. All of these responses can be good for you when followed by periods of relaxation, but when stress is unrelenting for long periods of time, health problems will result.
General Adaptation Syndrome
The term “stress” was coined by Hans Selye who in 1926 discovered that patients with a variety of ailments manifested many similar symptoms, which he ultimately attributed to their bodies’ efforts to respond to the stresses of being ill. He called this collection of symptoms a stress syndrome, or the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS).
The General Adaptation Syndrome explains why stress is such an abundant source of health problems. By changing the way our body normally functions, stress disrupts the natural balance — the homeostasis — crucial for wellbeing. It can also subtract years from our lives, by speeding up the aging process.
Stress is one of the most significant factors in lowering resistance and triggering the various mechanisms involved in the disease process.
It is important to recognise and anticipate the potential of stress occurring; identify the source; and build your capacity to withstand this stress; while at the same time trying to reduce or if possible eliminate the source of stress. Have realistic goals and don’t get caught in the trap of undertaking an amount of work that is not sustainable in the long run; your employers may be pleased to begin with, but if it’s not sustainable you will burn out. Identify your own resources, the situations you find stressful, and your optimal level of stress.
Handling Workplace Stress
Ensure that you maintain communication with your supervisors and colleagues, and ventilate your feelings in safe environments in professional and appropriate ways. Keep areas and time for relaxation and recovering from the stress of the day; before or after work have a rule that you will only think about work issues for a certain period of time – and keep to this rule.
Know yourself and your own capabilities, and think positively about your abilities, without placing unrealistic demands on yourself. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by expectations and problems, try breaking them down into manageable chunks.
Some self-care strategies to help you with handling workplace stress include:
- Scheduling in positive, enjoyable or rewarding activities;
- Utilising social support from family, friends, sport;
- Using spiritual or religious practices;
- Undertaking moderate cardio exercise for 30 minutes every day;
- Eating healthy food (at least most of the time);
- Moving around frequently – sitting for long periods of time is not good for our systems;
- Practicing breathing and other calming activities;
- Having something to look forward to – short-term and long-term!
By learning relaxation and stress management techniques, you’ll improve your overall health as well as your odds of living a disease-free life.
Author: Greg Turner, B App Sc, Grad Dip App Sc (App Psych), Cert GMH, MAPS.
Brisbane Psychologist Greg Turner is an employee assistance program provider and works with individuals working in high stress occupations. If you would like to learn ways to reduce stress and improve your quality of life make an appointment to see Greg and get back on track with life.
To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Greg Turner, try Online Booking – Mt Gravatt or call (07) 3088 5422.