STRESS!! What Stress??

The statistics of work related stress

The prevalence rate for work related stress in all industries was 1220 cases per 100,000 people employed averaged over the three year period 2011/12, 2013/14 and 2014/15 (Health & Safety Executive 2015). When we break this down into categories of occupation we found that the professional occupations category has significantly higher rates of work related stress than the rate for all occupations.

For the same three year period as mentioned above, the professional occupations category had 1930 cases per 100,000 people employed, compared with 1220 cases averaged for all occupational groups, a statistically significantly higher rate. If we break this down further it appears that health professionals, teachers and nurses have the highest rates of stress within this category with rates of 2500, 2190 and 3000 cases per 100,000 people employed over this period.

When looking at the statistics between gender, it seems that work related stress in males was 590 cases for males and 920 cases for females per 100,000 people employed, with the 34-44 and 45-54 years ranges having significantly higher rates than the average across all persons.

Causes of workplace stress

The predominant cause of work related stress from the Labour Force Survey (2009/10-2011/12) was workload. Examples of this are:

  • tight deadlines
  • too much work/pressure/responsibility
  • a lack of managerial support
  • organisational changes at work,
  • bullying
  • role uncertainty (lack of clarity about job/uncertain what meant to do.)

Stress at work icons set

Research has indicated around 12 million adults see their GP each year with mental health problems. Most of these include anxiety and depression with much of it being stress related.  Work related stress accounts for 35% of work related ill health and 43% of days lost, in 2014/15.

These figures are alarmingly high and small changes can have big effects on individuals and across companies. As coaches we work on the basis that if one is going to overcome a problem or challenge first one has to understand it. Then with that knowledge one can implement the appropriate changes to improve the situation they may find themselves in.  This is appropriate to anyone at work from whichever background or level they are at.

What is Stress?

It is important to understand Stress has different effects on different people, depending on how we react to certain situations and challenges in our every day lives. It can easily be defined as the way you feel when you are under to much pressure and are unable to cope.

It is suggested a certain amount of stress is good for us as it keeps us challenged and motivated and helps our overall performance. However, too much pressure can lead to stress.

Stress has many causes and is common at both home and at work and with the world around us becoming faster paced and more competitive the pressures of life can creep up on us when we least expect it. So, it is important we continue to ensure we get the right balance in our lives and keep things in the right perspective, and ultimately retain control.

Too much pressure or stress can result in a negative impact on our health both physically and mentally. The main symptoms include insomnia, anxiety, sweats, feeling sick, butterflies, panic attacks and an overall feeling of a loss of control.

The impact of long term stress can be even more severe affecting our ability to function normally in our everyday lives.

That’s why it’s important to recognise the signs early and immediately consult with your GP and make the appropriate and required changes in your life to regain and retain a healthy mind and physical wellbeing state.

Our conscious mind can only cope with an average of seven pieces of information at any one time. Too many things going on for too long can create overload and pressure and result in our struggle to cope. It is easy to see how we become stressed isn’t it?

The chemistry in the body changes fundamentally every time one reacts stressfully. Stress starts in the brain because of the way in which we perceive a situation as requiring our immediate attention i.e. a hostile reaction from a colleague, an exam, a financial crisis, a marriage break up, an impossible deadline and a loved ones death. Everyone’s resilience levels are different. It is down to an individual’s experiences as to how resilient there are against these stresses.

When the body prepares for “fight or flight” it is ready for a short burst of heightened activity. In today’s society, many factors can trigger this response, but few can be dealt with by a short burst of activity. Stress situations are often continuous so stress responses are semi-permanently on red alert, the physical release is unacceptable so the responses are suppressed – a situation which cannot be maintained safely for too long.  The stress build up eventually explodes internally, knocks the body systems out of balance and causes extreme physical and mental exhaustion.

Here comes the science part…

When we are stressed deep inside your brain lays the hypothalamus which triggers the pituitary gland which releases hormones to trigger the adrenal glands. These glands release an output of adrenaline and nor-adrenaline into the bloodstream. It is these stress chemicals which induce physiological changes designed to improve performance. This is the “fight or flight” effect and the following reactions are carried out:

  1. Blood supply to the brain is increased – improves judgement & decision making
  2. Heart speeds up and fuel is released into the bloodstream from glucose
  3. Fats and stored blood sugar provide extra energy
  4. Blood vessels dilate in some areas i.e. the skin to make it available for use in other areas like the muscles
  5. Air passages relax and breathing rate improves
  6. Blood pressure rises
  7. Digestion and excretion are not considered high priorities in a “dangerous situation”; adrenaline causes vascular constriction, which reduces the flow of blood to the stomach and intestine

Long term adrenal stimulation with no discharge of energy will deplete essential vitamins and minerals from the system, namely, vitamins B & C which are vital to the functioning of the immune system. If these are depleted this could cause lower resistance and susceptibility to diseases such as ME. Blood pressure can also be affected and cause a build up of fatty substances on blood vessel walls, as well as, damaging the functioning of the digestive system.

When a person faces continual or repeated stress, the response system enters the chronic phase during which resistance declines below normal and eventually that person becomes exhausted.

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 Ways in which to tackle stress – Five top tips

  1. Mind Workout

Commence a mind workout everyday. Daily mind exercises can help you re-balance your life and regain control of your thoughts and feelings. Quiet meditation at home using deep breathing techniques or a yoga class twice a week can help re-balance you internally. Mindfulness is also proving to be a very popular and effective tool for combating stress and is mow more prevalent within workplace settings.

  1. Diet

Try to cut out any sugary, processed or refined foods. It is these we crave and run for when we need to find comfort, however, the comfort is short lived and once your blood sugar level has risen sky-high it dips just as fast and the cravings return an hour later and the cycle begins again.

Being aware of what you eat is incredibly important in helping to overcoming stress and a diet of fish, white meat, fruit, vegetables, whole grains and pulses can give your body all the necessary nutrients required to retain balance and harmony. If possible avoid stimulants like coffee, chocolate and alcohol and also too much refined and processed foods or sugar as these can only upset the balance.

  1. Exercise

When we exercise our body releases endorphins which in turn combat stress hormones that are released into the body when we are stressed. Think of this as your endorphins putting out a fire. A fire caused on the inside by all the stress feelings and overload experienced every day.

A recommended minimum of forty minutes cardiovascular exercise everyday will keep an equilibrium even if it is just a short walk to work and back. Small changes such as walking or cycling to work. Many people use their lunch hour as a time to get some exercise and go for a stroll, apart from the fact that it breaks up the working day and gives your body a break from work. To make it more fun create a lunchtime walking group or diarise “walking meetings” instead of sitting indoors. For those of you who prefer exercising alone there are some great apps around that measure your steps and even work with your music library on your phone along with motivational prompts from the start to the finish of the jog.

  1. Sleep

Sleeping problems are common with stress. Ensure you have a consistent bedtime routine and go to bed at the same time every night. If you have worries or problems on your mind at night keep a notepad and pencil by the bed so consciously you are in control as you know you can write them down and forget about them if you need to. Avoid cat napping during the day, and try not to become too obsessed with how much sleep you have had.  If you have a bad night, draw a line under it and go to bed earlier the next night after a hot bath and relaxing your body through reading a book or listening to some calming music. It is suggested that we only really need a minimum of 4 hours sleep per night to function normally. We have convinced ourselves we need 6 or 8 hours. Take the pressure off yourself.

  1. Goal setting

Sometimes, we lose our way in this busy world and our aims and objectives become confused or unclear. By writing down your goals and actions with a timeline this will give you focus and a process to follow and implement. Ensure you keep a diary so you can monitor any symptoms of stress physically and mentally, then apply the above and make the appropriate small changes and take back control.

Building a case for wellbeing in the workplace

In order for a company to embrace wellbeing it needs to bring it into their company values. Managers need to encourage, support, sponsor and lead all wellbeing at work initiatives first in order to thread it into their companies culture.  They need to lead from the front. Managers can create the right environment for their staff by offering flexible working hours, manageable workloads, regular lunch breaks without looking upon this as a weakness.  Managers must recognise the signs and symptoms of work related stress and have a process by which to approach their staff sensitively and supportively.  Give your staff a voice and more autonomy and ensure that objectives are realistic, timely and consistent.

As a Manager, if you notice these symptoms in your staff and are not sure how to engage with them appropriately our Happiness by Design at Work programmes would work for you and your organisation.

Remember: If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

Download our brochure today 

or call the Life Practice on Tel: 01462 431112

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It’s never too late to score the winning goal

IMG_2055Throughout life we experience many different situations and scenarios which create a change to be forced upon us; reaching a certain age; getting made redundant, breakdown of a relationship or suffering a bereavement

Whatever the scenario, these situations provoke different emotions and often they don’t serve us in a positive way. We start an inner dialogue with ourselves.

Our inner self talk could be a number conversations like:

  • I’m not attractive enough to date again
  • I’m too burnt out to try for a promotion
  • I’ve never been ambitious
  • I’m too old for that

The emotion attached to these scenarios maybe a sense of loss; a door closing; giving up trying, poor motivation or the end of something great.

We learn from our mistakes

But it doesn’t have to be looked upon in this way, my advice is to think of life as a set of experiences and from each experience we will learn something new. It may be good, bad or indifferent but ultimately, we will learn something new which is the key point (90% of what we learn, we learn from our mistakes).

Re-frame your thinking

By being empowered with more knowledge and wisdom when we are faced with a new experience we should re-frame our thinking in that it is only temporary, nothing ventured nothing gained, it’s not about winning or losing, it’s not permanent or forever, it is just a new path that I am following and let’s see which direction this takes us.  This way you instantly reduce the stress of the expectation of the new phase and can allow yourself to embrace the future without fear.

Every stage of life has its own rewards and success and happiness comes quite often from looking back and reflecting on what you learned and how you can take that learning into the next phase of your life and use it for your own self development.

Whatever stage of life you are experiencing, it is never too late to score the winning goal.

If you are struggling with an experience in your life and need support, we are here to help. Call the Life Practice on 01462 431112 to speak to one of our qualified therapists .

The key to happiness in your career

WhaBusinesspeople Running Towards Finish Linet is your current job role doing to you as a person, to your mind, character and relationships? Are you someone who always finds other people’s careers interesting compared to yours?  Have you assessed how you are doing lately? If not, why not?  Our career aspirations can change throughout life depending on experiences from our past, maturity into adulthood, and requirements to survive our chosen lifestyle.

Recently my 14 year old daughter has had to think about her career and future and to choose her GCSE options. Who actually knew what they wanted to do at that age?  It seems more of a minefield than it was when I was younger, particularly as the current government seems to keep changing the goal posts and schools seem also to be left in the dark, however, that’s a topic for another time.

Parenthood brings many challenges at different stages of a child growing up and as a parent I have always been conscious to keep happiness at the forefront of their minds and an “anything is possible” attitude to life.  In helping my daughter make her choices I have tried as much as possible to give her enough information so that she ultimately makes the decisions for herself. Her dream (at the moment) is to perform in the West End Musical theatre in London and perhaps eventually go to Broadway.  Whilst, many parents flippantly would say, “oh no, that could never happen for you”. I say “why not? Someone has to, why not you?” Sure, you will come across rejection, disappointment and failure along the way but by learning from these pitfalls and making the necessary tweaks this can enable you to adjust the path and change direction as you go.  After all, the yellow brick road was not straight and Dorothy learnt many lessons along her journey whilst experiencing the twists and turns of the land of Oz.

We have looked into course brochures and her school offered the children a career workshop that has educated them about what lifestyle they wish to have and how much money they would need in order to live it. All of these resources are important in making such decisions but deep down my feeling is as long as you follow what makes you happy everything will fall into place and if it doesn’t, I hear you ask, then you need to keep checking back by asking yourself some unearthing questions about your career.

So if any of you who are reading this are wishing they had had some insight into their future career before they got there and feel it is too late to change direction. Think again.

There are five dimensions of meaning to one’s career.

  1. Earning money
  2. Achieving status
  3. Making a difference
  4. Following your passions (interests)
  5. Using your talents (skills)

These five dimensions can be prioritised in various order depending on your own experiences, influencing factors (family) and perception of the world.

Earning money

Look at this in a broader perspective rather than going for a career that pays the best. How much income do you want/need? Are you setting your own monetary goals or complying with someone else’s? What is a comfortable living, and what careers might fulfill that? What career fields might suit you in other ways from which you could also earn a reasonable (from your perspective) salary?

Achieving status

As with the perception of money, your definition of status may be different to the next person’s. Take some time to determine your proudest moments at work and in life. That may give you some perspective of what constitutes “status” to you. Does your current position provide you with the sense of pride and status you desire? What in your current job do you take pride in?

Making a difference

Now without thinking I’ve gone all tree hugger on you, making a difference isn’t always about saving the whales or other voluntary projects; you can also make a difference at work. Think about a teacher who makes a difference every day to a pupil but the results aren’t always seen immediately. What about helping someone learn to cope with their debilitating anxiety or fear of public speaking? What does “making a difference” mean to you?  Are you perhaps underplaying the difference you make in your current job or would a different job provide more fulfillment for you in this area? Is making a difference important to you or do other factors trump this desire? Only you can decide.

Following your passions and interests

This is the area in which I have focused on with my daughter and her subject choices. What subjects do you love to learn about as these tend to be the subjects you do well in.  There is no doubt, if you love the job you are in you will love getting up in the morning and springing onto that commuter train and whistling as you go, however, it is not quite as simple as that to achieve this, there are compromises and creative solutions along the path to doing what we love.

Take a few minutes and ask yourself if you have found your right livelihood.  Are you pursuing what you love or have you found the love in what you do?  Because it might be that doing a less-than-ideal job that puts food on your family’s table and offers you the chance to travel on holidays to sunnier climates is one aspect of the love you can find in it.

Understanding talents, skills & passion

You need to have the right mix of talent and skill. You don’t actually need passion but if you want to get into what you love to do, it helps. Skill is something that you can learn. Talent is something that you naturally have. List down in three columns: all of your skills, talents and passion. When you are at your all-time best, what are you doing? And how can you find a job that lets you do more of that?

I have always been fascinated with the mind and how people behave.  Armed with my interpersonal skills and my talents of leading, motivating and inspiring people I have managed to re-carve a new career in the world of Behavioural Change.  Sure, I needed to do some extra training and education to get me here but the underlying skills, talent and passion have always been there. I just simply got the qualification to fill in the gaps. The skills and experience from my last career have all been transferable in one respect or another.

That’s the key to successful career transitioning: you take a job, figure out what you like best, and then look for a job that lets you do more of that.   Or you take a look at your skills, talents and passions and see what positions could work in line with those.

In my career path, my strength was Sales. I have always been told that I have good inter personal skills and these skills helped me to build rapport with my customers who I sold to and eventually through the years I was promoted up the ranks into a Senior role managing teams within the Financial Industry, earning a shed load of money.  However, the dis-loyal, cut-throat nature of the Corporate world did not sit well with me and I found it soul destroying, extremely stressful and at times unethical. One day the money was just not the priority and my happiness and health took precedence. I still had my good interpersonal skills and had picked up many other skills along the way in the Business world from training, coaching, mentoring and leadership so I re-trained and stepped into a new industry that I remain in today.  Ironically, coaching business men like my “old-self” who have been sucked in by the Corporate life, bigged up, and spat out the other side feeling hit by a train with the look of shock as to what to do next.

A poignant example that springs to mind where I have made a difference in someone’s life which touched me emotionally was when I coached a West end actor to overcome his performance nerves prior to starring in his first West End show. My client had achieved his “status” by being chosen by Andrew Lloyd Webber, whom he held in the highest regard in the Musical Theatre World but unfortunately, his nerves did not care about this, his body was struggling to calm down in such a highly charged situation. After teaching him some techniques and exercises along with visualisation he managed to overcome his fear and the show was a West End hit.  My moment of “making a difference” became apparent when I went with my family to watch him. I was so proud of his achievement that it brought tears to my eyes. How many people can say that about their job?

Now you have examined these dimensions. Which is most important? Which is least? How much of each is “enough” in your work? So going back to the original question, “What is your current job role doing to you as a person, to your mind, character and relationships?” Would making changes in these five dimensions change your life for the better? Is one area neglected at the expense of another? How can you fix that?  By doing this career MOT every so often it helps you keep on the right track and is the key to happiness in your career.