By taking control of our situations we can all reduce stress at work and in our lives, explains leading stress consultant Ann McCracken
Last week, I read an article about moving house and how it is rated by a vox pop as the most stressful experience people endure. I was then asked to comment on this by BBC Wales. My comment consisted of my firmly held belief that it is not the situation that is stressful, but the way the individual perceives the situation. Moving house is challenging and often emotional, requiring the person to take control of their feelings and emotions and focus on the logistics, support and level of help required as well as, hopefully, the good reason for moving. This could be reducing your costs through downsizing, celebrating a change in status, beginning a new exciting phase of your life or any other reason you need to move.
With 16 years experience as a stress management practitioner and business consultant, I believe that the same concept applies when managing stress at work: The mind set of the employee is just as important as the job.
Many jobs self-select employees. You don’t become a fireman or roofer if you don’t like heights. You don’t become a nurse or doctor if you don’t like the sight of blood etc., People with good life skills and a positive, flexible attitude, will enjoy their work much more than a person who sees everything as a chore or is prepared to fight changes at every turn.
If you blame your job for how you feel you loose a lot of control of your life. If you take responsibility for how you feel, you regain control and hopefully enjoyment and choice.
Self responsibility and acceptance for how we feel is the key to reducing stress symptoms of ill health. It puts us back in control of our lives and reduces regular firing of the “flight or flight” body mechanism. Every time we think “Oh no!” the body goes to red alert, firing of flight or flight adrenalin response, to enable us to fight the challenge or run from it but… most of our “Oh no’s” today are not a threat to our life, but a threat to our self image or self esteem. This threat is more of a need for awareness than a life threatening situation.
The skills required to manage most minor concerns are self confidence, good interpersonal communications, mental flexibility and a desire to solve a ‘problem’ rather than get enmeshed in it. Developing a positive attitude is a great skill to enhance, as it helps put situations into perspective and immediately down grades most situations from ‘high alert’ to ‘manageable’.
This approach will not be attractive to so called “high maintenance” people, who thrive on being the centre of attention and seem to make every minor setback a disaster. This is a reaction which they have found to be effective for them and will continue to do so if others fawn to their over reaction.
Such people are often described as “stressy” but it has little advantages and will cause ill health.
The opposite is a laid back, totally relaxed approach which sometimes becomes debilitating, so in truth, somewhere in between is the healthiest and most effective place to be.
The good news is that if we wish, we can change our behaviour, take back some control and enjoy and happy, fulfilled and healthy life.
Ann McCracken is our chosen blogger for the Workplace Wellbeing and Stress Summit 2014.
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