April is Stress Awareness Month, an annual celebration that started in 1992. It aims to inform people about the dangers of stress, successful coping strategies, and harmful misconceptions. (https://stressawarenessmonth.com/)
What is stress?
Stress is part of our lives. The body's natural response to pressure from a particular situation (physical, mental and/or emotional). When dealing with a stressful situation, the body releases hormones.
Your heart rate will increase.
Your breathing will increase.
Your muscle will become tense.
And when your body can't keep up with the stress level, it can take a toll on your health.
Here's a quick breakdown on what are the effects of stress.
1. Stress is harmful to your body
The ongoing stress can cause and exacerbate serious health problems like cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart disease, attacks or even strokes. It can also affect your overall well-being by developing depression, anxiety, and personality disorders.
2. Stress is harmful to your mind
The central nervous system is responsible for the "fight or flight" response. The brain tells the adrenal glands to release stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, increasing your heart rate. Your mind is now on high alert for threats.
When you feel safe due to the ‘threat’ reducing, the brain tells your body to go back to normal and relax. But if your brain fails to go back to normal, the body will be continuously on guard.
If this continues for long periods of time, you will start to feel exhausted and may start suffering from a panic attack, anxiety and burnout.
3. Stress in the Workplace
In research by NIOSH, work-related stress occurs when the job requirements do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker. This can lead to poor health and even injury.
Not all stress is bad! High-stress level can be detrimental, but no or little stress can make them feel bored, inactive and disengaged. Understanding the ‘sweet spot’ of stress is key.
Now the question is - how can you reduce chronic work stress?
Stress is not the same for everyone, and not everyone experiences stress the same way.
In a report by Willis Towers Watsons, younger employees are more impacted by workplace stress than older employees.
50% of Millenials/Generation Y (19-31 years old) and 44% of Generation X (32-45 years old) reports heightened levels of workplace stress, while it is only 35% of the Boomers (46-64 years old).
In the same report, they found out that the stress drivers between the stress drivers of Gen Y is work-life balance. On the other hand, it is the organisation’s characteristics for older employees.
So as Leaders, what can we do?
1. The first step is to understand your employees' stress drivers.
Knowing what kind of stress you’re trying to manage and who you’re trying to help is the key to providing meaningful support.
Findings from our Proactive Assessment revealed that unplanned extended working hours are the top stressors. Our clients can now set expectations and work to reduce the unplanned extended working ours, therefore reducing the companies mental health risks and improving the wellbeing of their team.
2. Determine the root cause of workplace stress
Don't focus on solving the stress symptoms like panic, anxiety and burnout because this will not solve the problem nor will create a long term impact. Talk to your employees. Engage in consultation, this helps understand the perception of your team.
One of our clients was struggling with a ‘them vs us’ culture, causing stress and confrontations. After we carried out our consultation it was found that the site team didn't feel heard or acknowledged and the office was reacting to the behaviour of the site team. By understanding what it looked like for the site team to feel heard and understood and moving into action. Within a month the culture had a massive shift. The company had been dealing with this issue for several months, by using the assessment and consultations, we created a positive cultural shift within a month.
3. There is no one size fits all approach
As stated above, stress drivers generally vary per generation. Communication is key. By understanding how to communicate between generation and demographics, enables people to feel heard. Focusing on building a community rather than running on an old school hierarchy set up.
In reducing the Mental Health Risks within the business, it is essential to understand what is going on within your team focusing on psychosocial factors which are scientificity proven in creating mentally healthy teams.
If you would like to know how you can start to understand your team and manage your mental health risks from a psychosocial, cultural and leadership perspective, call us today to have a private and confidential conversation on 1300 114 818 or email us at email@example.com. We look forward to talking to you soon.
Millennials/Gen Y (19 – 31 year-olds)
Gen X (32 – 45 year-olds)
Boomers (46 – 64 year-olds)
Matures (65 years and older)