Monday, November 3, 2008

Managing stress in the workplace

By Dr Jeff Bailey

My aim in this article is to explain to you how people respond to stress. To manage stress you need to overcome negative self talk. I will explain how one person has trouble in the workplace.

What has happened to 42-year-old Jane? No previous stress attacks or mental-health problems. But she came to me because she was very stressed at work. She felt she was being criticised all the time and that her colleagues did not respect her productivity. She became socially phobic. He has difficulty going out with her husband. She hides away from people when she goes to parties.

Jane is experiencing work stress and this is a major problem. Everything seems to be too much of a burden for her. She is having physical reactions of nausea and illness. Her work demands are too much for her and she can't cope and she feels depressed and anxious all the time.

It is clear that Jane is not very productive or effective at work. She has limited stress management skills and she feels that her system is overloaded. Does this sound like you? Can you empathize with Jane? Do you feel as though things are on top of you? Have you lost the zing in your life and feel tired all the time? I your friends worrying about you? Is your life meaningless? Have you lost the ability to cope? Is your work suffering from how you feel?

If the answer is YES!!! - you are suffering extreme stress. And this is a very common phenomenon in today's high paced society. Some people think that stress is an acceptable bi-product of our busy lifestyle. Research on cardiac disease after the 9/11 attacks showed a significant increase in cardiac ailments. These included high blood pressure, strokes, and heart problems. People's physical states were impacted by their emotional states. And when people are not well emotionally they have difficulty being highly productive at work.

What are these workplace stressors? That is, what are the events that elevate stress? They include a long list of things.

These include excessive workplace demands. Poor management and poor communication in the workplace cause stress. Oddly enough, poor relationships at home can cause workplace stress as much as interpersonal conflict with colleagues.

How do we deal with these pressures? Obviously, the solutions depend on you and your context. Changing jobs is a reasonable but not totally effective alternative. If your Boss is causing you problems, why not list his or her name with a 'headhunter' and perhaps they'll get a job somewhere else? From my experience working in Employee Assistance Programs, the major problem is poor role definition. I think I have a specified list of things to do but my role description doesn't clarify this and my boss has other idea about what I should be doing. Obviously, confronting the issues with the individuals concerned is one simple approach but there are many other ways of resolving this tension, especially if you are committed to taking responsibility for your feelings and actions.

One way to control workplace stress is to recognize the role of negative thinking. There is an old saying that you are what you think so you have to consider your negative thoughts. If you are stressed you can deal with the problem if you try. You must realize that you have to confront negative self talk. How we feel is shaped by how we think. Self talk occupies much of our day.

What I am going to say sounds simple but it is true. We are our own worst enemy because we constantly criticize ourselves. The ratio of negative to positive thought is 10 to 1. Our constant self-criticism causes stress. Our situation can be made worse if our friends and loved ones criticize us. To start to manage workplace stress and personal stress we need to begin by eliminating negative self talk and increasing positive self regard.

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