The experience of Stress is a natural part of life, in that we will always encounter situations that may push us out of our comfort zones and spur us on into action.
Do you think stress is a bad thing?
Not all stress is bad, as some of the challenges may provide us with the motivation we need to expand our skills, perspectives and experiences, which in turn may contribute positively to our wellbeing. Here, the gap between theresources one currently has, and those required to achieve the task at handis slightly pushed, but one may still have the capacities and to achieve the goal. It does not seem like something beyond one’s reach. We refer to this kind of stress as eustress.
However, in today’s world, a more chronic, long term stress has become a common and shared experience in the context of the workplace, with the increasing unhealthy competition, difficulty in asserting boundaries, volatile economies, job insecurity, and the increasing pressure to perform, excel and succeed, make ourselves visible and relevant at workplaces, with one or all acting as stressors. These coupled with other stressors that we inevitably face at a personal front regarding roles and responsibilities, one’s caregiver status, identity, financial situation and other social factors as well, sees people invariably moving into the space of distress.
There is a lot of negative impact that this kind of stress brings with it to all aspects of our lives including our mental and physical health. So how do we respond? What kind of strategies are helpful to employ to keep stress at bay?
1) Helpful strategies for Individuals
– Remember that each of us is unique. What works for someone else may not have the same impact on us. This simply means that the first thing we need to do is spend some time reflecting:
- What are the changes I notice in my body when I am experiencing stress?
- What is the source of stress for me?
- How do I usually respond to it?
- Do I want to change anything about that response?
- What kind of change can I invite in that will be helpful?
– If it is tough to answer these all at once here are some other helpful things you can practice when the stress response is feeling overwhelming
- Take a pause. When you are feeling overwhelmed, take a few deep breaths. Allow yourself to feel anchored for a few moments. When we are stressed, our body immediately moves into survival mode. This tends to initiate involuntary shallow breaths very often. Taking deep breaths can pause this cycle, giving the body and mind a chance to relax.
- You can also just take a quick scan of your body, notice where there may be any stress, tension or fatigue and consciously relax that body part.
– Some of the things we can do also involve continuity and a commitment to oneself:
- Take care of yourself. Drink water, eat healthy, maintain a regular routine that involves spending time outside and with people you love, and a healthy sleep cycle.
- Keep organised, and don’t forget to schedule time for fun!
- Build on those aspects of oneself that may require attention – not just work-related skills but also talents, interests and hobbies
- Practice compartmentalization. Try as much as possible to disconnect from work when you log out. While some days may feel like and require some amount of a stretch, ensure that you do get a chance to disconnect from work. Plan an activity that reminds your mind work day is over especially when working from home. This could include changing of clothes, going down for a walk, change of room/environment.
- Healthy communication and revisiting goals. Take time to communicate emerging needs that may support you in the task at hand, support could also look like a conversation with a mental health professional that helps you make sense of the overwhelm and emotions you may be feeling. Revisit the goals you have set for yourself and see if there may be changes in the timeline, in support / skills required.
- Redefine what success may look like to you. Allow for changing perspectives, needs and situations. We are human, and hence it is important to be kind to ourselves.
- Don’t forget to celebrate consciously, your wins.
In addition to taking care of ourselves, we may also hold spaces of power and leadership at the workplace, and this will directly put us in a position to also be looking out for the mental health of those who we are working with.
Here are some helpful strategies for leaders to keep in mind and employ at the workplace:
- Ensure that you and your teams have been working towards psychological safety – building safe spaces where people can talk about what is not going well, and what support they may need
- Schedule and encourage organised breaks and rest times, this could be part of the policies that we may want to employ with our teams. For example, encourage the team to not schedule back to back meetings but giving 10 mins break between meetings
- Check your bias – do you feel yourself getting annoyed with certain people or relying on certain people only? This could be unconscious bias and may create a feeling of being excluded
- Ensure policies that promote inclusion, equity, respect and wellbeing are in place, and that people are aware that they can take recourse to these.
- Clear communication, training and awareness drives – Let your employees know that the organisation holds a zero-tolerance policy towards bullying, discrimination, harassment, and what are the expected practices and behaviors at work.
- Engage with your team as unique and whole individuals with lives outside the workplace. Create spaces to invite all aspects of the individual to the workplace
- Rewards, recognition and appreciation go a long way!
- Schedule time to connect with the team and check in, revisit goals and plan for the future.
- Adopt a collaborative approach! Nothing for the team, without the team.
- Schedule time and space for learning and updating skills
- Walk the talk. We need to act as role models and set the example for our teams to follow.
Effective stress management enables us to loosen the hold that stress has on our life, enabling us to be happier, healthier, and more productive. Being able to bring this in for the team as leaders and decision makes paves the way for building resilience and fostering a healthy workspace. We cannot eliminate stress altogether, but it is possible to minimize it’s impact at the workplace.
If you have any strategies you would like to share with us or would like to know more from us, write in to us at:
Samriti Makkar Midha [email protected]
Rosanna Rodrigues [email protected]
We wish you well on your wellbeing journey!