Stress at Workplace & How to Reduce it?


By

Alpi Rastogi
Senior Lecturer
MBA Department
Vivek College of Management & Technology
Bijnor (UP)
 


Undertaking: I hereby declare that the research article titled "Stress at Workplace & how to reduce it?" is of my own and is not submitted to any journal for publication.

Note:

The information given in the article is based on the information available in the public domain.  The objective of this article is for a better management rather than criticizing or commenting any individuals.  The opinion drawn in the article was purely of personal and does not reflect on any individuals or the organizations.

Abstract

Stress is a part of day-to-day living of every individual. The college students may experience stress in meeting the academic demands, people on the job, business men may suffer stress to reach office in time and to complete the projects on time and even the house hold ladies may experience stress in managing the home affairs and to look for the maid servant. The reasons for the stress differ from person to person.  The stress people experience should not be necessarily treated as harmful. An optimum amount of stress can always act as an energizer or motivator and propel people to apply the efforts and complete the work. But a high level of Stress can be a serious threat to the personality traits of the Individual and can cause physiological and social problems.

Introduction

Stress at workis a relatively new phenomenon of modern lifestyles. The natureof workhas gone through drastic changes over the last century and it is still changing at whirlwind speed. They have touched almost all professions, starting from an artist to a surgeon, or a commercial pilot to a sales executive. With change comes stress, inevitably. Professional stressor job stressposes a threat to physical health. Work related stressin the lifeof organized workers, consequently, affects the healthof organizations.

What`s It?

Job stressis a chronic disease caused by conditions in the workplace that negatively affect an individual`s performance and/or overall well-being of his body and mind. One or more of a host of physical and mental illnesses manifests job stress. In some cases, job stress can be disabling. In chronic cases a psychiatric consultation is usually required to validate the reason and degree of work related stress.

We can define Stress as " body's non-specific response to any demand made on it". Stress is not by definition synonymous with nervous tension or anxiety. On one side Stress provides the means to express talents and energies and pursue happiness on the other side it can also cause exhaustion and illness, either physical or psychological.

Stressors are also described as either short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic):

Short-term 'acute' stress is the reaction to immediate threat, also known as the fight or flight response. This is when the primitive part of the brain and certain chemicals within the brain cause a reaction to potentially harmful stressors or warnings (just as if preparing the body to run away or defend itself), such as noise, over-crowding, danger, bullying or harassment, or even an imagined or recalled threatening experience. When the threat subsides the body returns to normal, which is called the 'relaxation response'. (NB The relaxation response among people varies; ie., people recover from acute stress at different rates.)

Long-term 'chronic' stressors are those pressures which are ongoing and continuous, when the urge to fight or flight has been suppressed. Examples of chronic stressors include: ongoing pressurised work, ongoing relationship problems, isolation, and persistent financial worries.

The working environment can generate both acute and chronic stressors, but is more likely to be a source of chronic stressors.

Symptoms of Stress

The signs of job stressvary from person to person, depending on the particular situation, how long the individual has been subjected to the stressors, and the intensity of the stress itself. Typical symptoms of job stress can be:

1. Insomnia
2. Loss of mental concentration,
3. Anxiety, stress
4. Absenteeism
5. Depression,
6. Substance abuse,
7. Extreme anger and frustration,
8. Family conflictPhysical illnesses such as heart disease, migraine, headaches, stomach problems, and back problems.
9. Poor concentration or poor memory retention
10. Anger or tantrums
11. Sleep difficulties
12. Nervous habits

Causes of Stress at Workplace

Job stress may be caused by a complex set of reasons. Some of the most visible causes of workplace stress are:

Job Insecurity

Organized workplaces are going through metamorphic changes under intense economic transformations and consequent pressures. Reorganizations, takeovers, mergers, downsizing and other changes have become major stressors for employees, as companies try to live up to the competition to survive. These reformations have put demand on everyone, from a CEO to a mere executive.

High Demand for Performance

Unrealistic expectations, especially in the time of corporate reorganizations, which, sometimes, puts unhealthy and unreasonable pressures on the employee, can be a tremendous source of stress and suffering. Increased workload, extremely long work hours and intense pressure to perform at peak levels all the time for the same pay, can actually leave an employees physically and emotionally drained. Excessive travel and too much time away from family also contribute to an employee`s stressors.

Technology

The expansion of technology—computers, pagers, cell phones, fax machines and the Internet—has resulted in heightened expectations for productivity, speed and efficiency, increasing pressure on the individual worker to constantly operate at peak performance levels. Workers working with heavy machinery are under constant stress to remain alert. In this case both the worker and their family members live under constant mental stress. There is also the constant pressure to keep up with technological breakthroughs and improvisations, forcing employees to learn new software all the times.

Workplace Culture

Adjusting to the workplace culture, whether in a new company or not, can be intensely stressful. Making oneself adapt to the various aspects of workplace culture such as communication patterns, hierarchy, dress code if any, workspace and most importantly working and behavioral patterns of the boss as well as the co-workers, can be a lesson of life. Maladjustment to workplace cultures may lead to subtle conflicts with colleagues or even with superiors. In many cases office politics or gossips can be major stress inducers.

Personal or Family Problems

Employees going through personal or family problems tend to carry their worries and anxieties to the workplace. When one is in a depressed mood, his unfocused attention or lack of motivation affects his ability to carry out job responsibilities.

Job Stress and Women

Women may suffer from mental and physical harassment at workplaces, apart from the common job stress. Sexual harassment in workplace has been a major source of worry for women, since long. Women may suffer from tremendous stress such as `hostile work environment harassment`, which is defined in legal terms as `offensive or intimidating behavior in the workplace`. This can consist of unwelcome verbal or physical conduct. These can be a constant source of tension for women in job sectors. Also, subtle discriminations at workplaces, family pressure and societal demands add to these stress factors.

Quick Stress reduction techniques

If you are stressed, do one or all of these things, in whatever order that takes your fancy. These ideas can also be adapted for team development exercises.

The key to de-stressing in the moment is getting away from or removing yourself from the stressor. Developing new habits which regularly remove you and distract you from stressors and stressful situations and pressures is essentially how to manage stress on a more permanent basis.

1. Humour

Humour is one of the greatest and quickest devices for reducing stress.
Humour works because laughter produces helpful chemicals in the brain.
Humour also gets your brain thinking and working in a different way - it distracts you from having a stressed mindset. Distraction is a simple effective de-stressor - it takes your thoughts away from the stress, and thereby diffuses the stressful feelings.
Therefore most people will feel quite different and notice a change in mindset after laughing and being distracted by something humorous.
Go read the funny family fortunes answers. Or try the funny letters to the council. Even if you've seen them a hundred times before. As you start to smile and chuckle the stress begins to dissipate.
If this material fails to make you laugh then find something which does.
Keep taking the laughter medicine until you feel suitably relaxed and re-charged.

2.Brisk walk and self-talk

Go for a short quick really brisk walk outside.

Yes, actually leave the building.

Change your environment.

Breathe in some fresh air and smell the atmosphere...

Trees, rain, flowers, traffic fumes - doesn't matter - stimulate your senses with new things.

You can extend the exercise by going to a park and jogging a little.

Or do a few star-jumps - something energetic to get your body moving and relaxing.

Or stroke a dog, or pick up some litter, or kick a kid's football.

You can of course use other mantras or chants, depending on what you want to do and how far you want to get away from the stress causes, for example:

"(your name) is doing star-jumps/picking up litter/looking for a small non-threatening dog.." or

"(your name) is leaving/has left the industrial park/district/city/company/country.." etc, etc.
Of course this is daft, but the daftness reduces the stress by removing you from the stress in mind and body.

Doing something daft and physical - and reinforcing it with some daft chanting - opens up the world again.

3. Rehydrate

Go get a big cup or a bottle of water.

Here's why...

Most of us fail to drink enough water - that's water - not tea, coffee, coke, 'sports' drinks, Red Bull or fruit juice...

All of your organs, including your brain, are strongly dependent on water to function properly. It's how we are built.

If you starve your body of water you will function below your best - and you will get stressed. Physically and mentally.

Offices and workplaces commonly have a very dry atmosphere due to air conditioning, etc., which increases people's susceptibility to de-hydration.

This is why you must keep your body properly hydrated by regularly drinking water (most people need 4-8 glasses of water a day).

You will drink more water if you keep some on your desk at all times - it's human nature to drink it if it's there - so go get some now.

When you drink water you need to pee. This gives you a bit of a break and a bit of exercise now and then, which also reduces stress.

When you pee you can see if your body is properly hydrated (your pee will be clear or near clear - if it's yellow you are not taking enough water).

This will also prompt some amusing discussion and chuckling with your colleagues ("Nature calls - I'm off to the bog again...") which is also good for reducing stress.

You do not need to buy expensive mineral water. Tap water is fine.

If you do not like the taste of tap water it's probably because of the chlorine (aquarium fish don't like it either), however the chlorine dissipates quite naturally after a few hours - even through a plastic bottle - so keep some ordinary tap water in the fridge for 2-3 hours and try it then.

If you want to be really exotic add a slice of lemon or lime. Kiwi and sharon fruit are nice too...

So now you are fully watered and guffawing and exercised up to the max, read on for ideas for how to prevent stress as well as reduce and manage it.

4. Catnap or powernap

(Not so easy but still perfectly possible)

Take a quick nap. It is nature's way of recharging and re-energising.

A quick 10-30 minutes' sleep is very helpful to reduce stress.

It's obviously essential if you are driving while tired, but a quick sleep is a powerful de-stressor too.

A lunchtime snooze is very practical for home-workers - it just requires the realisation that doing so is acceptable and beneficial (when we are conditioned unfortunately to think that sleeping during the day is lazy, rather than healthy).

At some stage conventional Western industry will 'wake up' to the realisation that many people derive enormous benefit from a midday nap. Sounds ridiculous? Tell that to the many millions in the Mediterranean countries who thrive on a mid-day siesta.

People in the Mediterranean and Central Americas take a siesta every working day, and this is almost certainly related to longer life expectancy and lower levels of heart disease.

If your work situation is not quite ready to tolerate the concept of a daytime nap then practise a short session of self-hypnosis, combined with deep breathing, which you can do at your desk, or even in the loo. It works wonders.

In the summer of course you can go to the nearest park and try it alfresco (that's from the Italian incidentally, al fresco, meaning in the fresh air - which is another good thing for stress reduction).

5.  Make a cuppa

Any tea will do, but a flavoured cup of tea is even better.

Experiment with different natural flavourings using herbs and spices and fruit.

Fresh mint is wonderful, and excellent for the digestive system. Nettles are fantastic and contain natural relaxants. Orange zest is super (use one of those nifty little zester gadgets). Ginger root is brilliant. Many herbs, spices, fruits and edible plants make great flavoured tea, and many herbs and spices have real therapeutic properties.

Use a 'base' of green tea leaves - about half a spoonful per serving - plus the natural flavouring(s) of your choice, and freshly boiled water. Be bold - use lots of leaves - experiment until you find a blend that you really enjoy. Sugar or honey bring out the taste. Best without milk, but milk is fine if you prefer it.

Making the tea and preparing the ingredients take your mind off your problems, and then smelling and drinking the tea also relaxes you. There is something wonderful about natural plants and fruits which you can't buy in a packet. Use a tea-pot or cafetiere, or if you are happy with a bit of foliage in your drink actually brew it in a big mug or heatproof tumbler.

Fresh mint and ginger tea recipe:

Put all this into a teapot or cafetiere and add boiling water for 2-3 cups. Allow to brew for a minute or two, stir and serve. (This is enough for 2-3 mug-sized servings):

1-1½ heaped teaspoons of green tea leaves
2-4 sprigs of fresh mint (a very generous handful of leaves with or without the stems - more than you might imagine)
3-6 zest scrapes of an orange
half a teaspoon of chopped ginger root
2-4 teaspoons of sugar or 1-2 teaspoons of honey - more or less to taste

Alter the amounts to your own taste. The recipe also works very well without the orange and ginger, which is effectively the mint tea drink that is hugely popular in Morocco and other parts of North Africa. Dried mint can be substituted for fresh mint. Experiment. The Moroccan tradition is to use small glass tumblers, and somehow seeing the fine colour of the tea adds to the experience.

6. Crying

Not much is known about the physiology of crying and tears, although many find that crying - weeping proper tears - has a powerful helpful effect on stress levels. Whatever the science behind crying, a good bout of sobbing and weeping does seem to release tension and stress for many people.

Of course how and where you choose to submit to this most basic of emotional impulses is up to you. The middle of the boardroom during an important presentation to a top client is probably not a great idea, but there are more private situations and you should feel free to try it from time to time if the urge takes you.

It is a shame that attitudes towards crying and tears prevent many people from crying, and it's a sad reflection on our unforgiving society that some people who might benefit from a good cry feel that they shouldn't do it ever - even in complete privacy. Unfortunately most of us - especially boys - are told as children that crying is bad or shameful or childish, which of course is utter nonsense. Arguably only the bravest cry unashamedly - the rest of us would rather suffer than appear weak, which is daft, but nevertheless real.

Whatever, shedding a few tears can be a very good thing now and then, and if you've yet to discover its benefits then give it a try. You might be surprised.

The Survival Sutras

Because change is constant in life, stress is an integral part of it. Since we don`t want to perish under it, we have to adhere to the bottom line for survival—adapt.

Following are some of the long-term tips to survive stress:

  • Even if we feel secured in a habituated life, the truth remains that changing with the times makes one`s position more secure. In today`s business climate, you must continually be prepared for changes to avoid stress and survive in the competitive world.
  • Find and protect whatever time you get to refresh, re-energize and re-motivate yourself. Spend quality time with your family. This can be an excellent source of emotional and moral support.
  • Share worries - talk to someone else - off-load, loneliness is a big ally of stress, so sharing the burden is essential.
  • Develop positive attitudes towards stressful situations in life. Give up negative mental traits such as fear, anger and revengeful attitudes, which actually germinate stress. Try to revert to holistic relaxation and personal growth techniques such as meditation, breathing and exercises, to remodel your lifestyles.
  • In case of chronic stress consult a health professional.

  • Improve diet - group B vitamins and magnesium are important, but potentially so are all the other vitamins and minerals: a balanced healthy diet is essential. Assess the current diet and identify where improvements should be made and commit to those improvements.
  • Reduce workplace stress by celebrating your`s or your colleagues` accomplishments.
  • Avoid giving in to alcohol, smoking and other substance abuses while under constant stress.
  • Adapting to demands of stress also means changing your personality.
  • Improve your line of communication, efficiency and learn from other`s experiences.
  • Don`t be complacent. Be prepared for any change physically, emotionally and financially.

    But, when you are under stress at work, some simple practices can help:-
     
  • Sit straight and comfortably on your seat, and try breathing exercises. It will relax your nerves and muscles.
  • Relax and count backwards (20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15….)
  • Try creative visualization

Conclusion:

When we discuss Stress and its management, we should understand that Stress can be confronted and reduced if and only if we understand ourselves better, analyze the behavior and identify the stressors. The stress management techniques will work if we are honest with ourselves and adopt the techniques in their fullest spirit.
 


Alpi Rastogi
Senior Lecturer
MBA Department
Vivek College of Management & Technology
Bijnor (UP)
 

Source: E-mail May 23, 2010

          

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