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  • Kat Hounsell

Do we really need to stress-less?

Updated: Feb 27, 2019

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, we discussed stressing-less and were asked the question – Stress: are we coping?

It was the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week last year and we all agree that it’s a great topic for debate, especially within our workplaces.

Doesn’t work and stress go hand in hand?

Writing this article fell within my working day, and quite honestly, I was feeling a little stressed about it. There was a slight tightness in my chest, I was questioning the words that were falling onto the paper and there was a desire to slam shut my laptop and run out into the beautiful sunshine. My mind and body had perceived some form of threat and they wanted to get me out of the situation as fast as possible.

The good news is that stress helps us. It is one big reason why, even after 6 million years, humans are walking the face of the earth. The infamous ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response has a lot to do with it… For example, one day, whilst out hunting, you come face to face with a razor-sharped tooth, roaring lion. Within a blink of an eye your brain has sensed danger and kick-started your nervous system. You’ve got a rush of all the right hormones and glucose your body needs to react appropriately and keep you alive. Thank you stress!

Ok, so this blog isn’t going to eat me. Running away or freezing at my screen would be more harmful than helpful in this situation. That’s true for most situations we now face in the 21st Century workplace. What we need in these instances is just the right dose of stress to keep us motivated, focused and productive. What we need is something called eustress. This is the good stress that gets us jumping out of bed in the morning proclaiming “I feel excited!” for the challenges ahead.

We all get stressed, it’s normal and part of being alive! That’s why it’s essential to clarify the type of stress we’re talking about is distress and something called allostatic load. When we experience ‘fight or flight’ regularly, our bodies take a physical beating. All those hormones and the high level of glucose flying around becomes toxic and, over time, can increase our risk of heart and circulatory diseases, worsen diabetes, and dampen our immune system. There is a big risk factor when it comes to our Mental Health and clinical conditions such as clinical anxiety and depression can be worsened.

Statistics by the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), in 2015/16 claimed over 480,000 people in the UK reported that work-related stress was making them ill. This amounts to almost 40% of all work-related illness, which brings a financial burden – according to a Deloitte analysis, the cost to employers is between £33-42 billion per year.

It’s therefore no surprise that Wellbeing was highlighted as a strategic priority in the latest Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report (2018) with further benefits revealed too – 43% of organisations surveyed believed that well-being reinforces their organisation’s mission and vision, 60% reported that it improves employee retention, and 61% said that it improves employee productivity and bottom-line business results.

So, do people really need to stress-less? If we’re talking about the bad and toxic stress, then yes. It’s getting in the way of them making the most of life and doing their best work.

Last year, Wildgoose (author of original blog) conducted their own survey on the topic, and that inspired them to design the ‘stress less’ programme especially for the workplace. It’s a highly interactive and experiential half-day event that they ‘stress-tested’ with a willing group of HR and people professionals from a range of industries.

The Group:

  • Explored the latest statistics around stress and mental health in the workplace

  • Recognised bad stress vs. good stress and considered impact on performance

  • Discovered wellbeing best practice to reduce personal stress levels

  • Learnt an easy to do mindfulness practice

  • Reflected on what will work for them – there’s no one size fits all

  • Left with practical ideas to experiment with back at work

  • Built their professional network

86% of participants said they found the course personally valuable and 88% said they will be recommending the Stress Less programme within their organisation.

During the programme participants discover their own coping mechanisms for dealing with stress, as what works for one person may not work for another. Here’s some of the most popular ways to beat the bad stress, have fun and get work done.

To keep stress at bay:

  • Get out in nature as much as possible

  • Regularly connect with friends and family

  • Write down 3 things you’re grateful for every day

Dealing with an unhelpful ‘fight or flight’ moment:

  • Notice how you’re feeling and share this with someone

  • Go for a 5-minute walk and breathe deeply

  • Tell yourself “I feel excited!”

What are your favourite ways to stress-less? Let us know @everyday_action

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