Much talked and written about, and with good reason, is our health and especially the health of those with responsibilities in business. Business stressful? This appears to be a prerequisite but does it have to be? Probably to a degree, but that’s the whole point of this particular post.
To what degree do we have to endure #stress in the workplace?
We all understand the causal factors of stress and I guess just one of many definitions is that – Stress is the body’s reaction to a change that requires a physical, mental or emotional adjustment or response. There are many other definitions and it seems that it is unlikely there will ever be ‘just one fits all’. However, you can determine your own definition with a little introspection.
Physiologically, stress has useful attributes which are well understood to come from our inherited “flight or fight” response whereby our senses are heightened to danger – perceived or otherwise. Adrenaline is released into the bloodstream which prepares us for optimal performance to either “fight” the danger or “run for it”! That was, and is, all well and good in short bursts (and when we need it) but for prolonged periods, due to workplace or home life stresses, perhaps over many years, this response is unnecessary and indeed unsustainable to the human organism; it’s damaging to mind and body.
Blood pressure becomes elevated and can become the ‘default’ state in the body.
Left untreated, elevated blood pressure (Hypertension) can lead to heart disease, vascular compromise leading to stroke or dementia, kidney failure, cancer or diabetes. These are just some of the more common side-effects of sustained stress on the body and its cells.
When arteries become hardened and lose their elasticity, this dramatically increases the risks associated with stroke and heart attack. Many cancers are also widely believed to be triggered by stress. Indeed the World Health Organisation (see: Stress at the workplace) believes that stress will become the biggest killer in the 21st century.
Sleep pattern disturbance and emotional turbulence become the ‘norm’ leading to poor behavioural tolerance to others and this leads to yet further stress. We try to calm the nerves, after a tough day, with alcohol. Whilst alcohol in moderation is fine, when in excess it reduces creativity and appropriate motivation and very often can be a trigger for, and exacerbation of depression.
Diet choices can become impaired leading to malnourishment, even in obesity. Recent reports have stated that there is a “shocking” increase in the numbers of ‘new’ cases of diabetes. Improved lifestyle choices means this IS avoidable for many!
Depression and Stress
Both depression, and stress, are such well used terms now that it seems we have become desensitised to them. Yet, with more and more people suffering needlessly, depressive and other mental health issues still carry huge stigma in our workplaces and society in general.
It’s often perceived as weakness or of failing in some way, and at best, misunderstood!
Do you feel ‘safe’ talking to your colleagues, boss or Occupational Health (if you have OH)? Or, do you feel that to raise your health concerns may threaten your job, or future promotion prospects? It’s our ‘dirty’ little secret it appears and yet, here’s the irony – consider what depression is, in its literal form – a result, partial or complete, of “depressing one’s feelings or emotions”!
Clearly, if we are unable to discuss or disclose that which is making us unhappy, it can only lead to us failing to address the issues until work becomes intolerable; leading to loss of self-esteem and general wellbeing and financial crisis (and for the business, loss of productivity) but potentially to tragic losses to society when otherwise productive, useful contributory lives are lost to suicide, hospitalisation or disability.
What Works, What Helps
Clearly, everyone is different and is affected by their own unique issues which may be (and often are) short term and temporary ‘wake-up’ calls. For others, lifelong preconceptions around people and circumstances interfere with their ability to see things for what they really are. It’s tough enough that life IS so demanding without living life through different themes! I’ll explain…
We base many, if not all, of our emotions and reactions on experiences from our past; especially those from our formative years, so we live in the past.
We worry and concern ourselves with our future; something, for the most part, in which we have no control whatsoever and while bothering ourselves with the future, ruminating our past while we try to deal (poorly) with the present. The future is created by what you do today! A cluttered, monkey-chattering mind with its 60-80 thousand random thoughts every day, for us all is the net result.
Meditation – “Tree Hugging Scariness”?
I just didn’t want to go to a public place and try it, and besides, I could never find enough time!
Meditation can be conducted anywhere, but comfortingly, with help from books or online, very easily in the home. It can be 15 mins, 30 mins or an hour, both ends of the day – whatever works for you. Its without formal prescription and counter intuitive to ‘try hard’ at! (Oh, and it’s really fast to learn!). There is a stigma attached to meditation it seems, but this is likely because of ignorance in the true sense… lack of knowledge or fear of trying something (ironically) outside of your comfort zone!
Mindfulness and the ‘Here and Now’
By living this way, we can clear a great deal of daily mind-clutter and increase our creativity and performance at home, and at work. Mindfulness helps us to manage and cope with life as it can be lived – in the here and now. It will provide the necessary, and fairly effortless, solution and tools to a much more peaceful and productive life. A bonus being that your family and boss will really see a difference.
The majority of us have a default position to reach before we will consider seeking some help. Physical or emotional ‘dis-ease’ usually manifests itself and is commonly seen as the marker for us to finally act; the tipping point, if you will, for self preservation.
However, it is important to know that, whilst eventually seeking an opportunity to attend to the issue is a good thing, chatting in a safe, private, and confidential environment with a skilled listener before things get so bad improves dramatically the chance of early repair. And this means less time and financial commitment; something we would all welcome.
Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, mindset consultant and creator of "Conscious Living by Design"™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.
Bob provides bespoke counselling services to individuals and couples in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).