Career Control: Managing Stress

We’ve teamed up with Executive Life Coach Neelam Kaul to explore the impact of stress on our mental health. Looking beyond this, we want to understand how we can all contribute to managing stress, in both our business and personal lives.

Stress is an emotion that we all suffer from. A socially accepted mental health condition which occurs when we exceed our ability to cope. However, not all stress can be bad. When under stress we are creative, motivated and can thrive however learning what and how much you feel comfortable with is the key to managing your ability to conquer stress when it hits you the hardest.

So what can employers do to open the topic and begin breaking the taboos associated with mental health?

A culture starts with and is a reflection of the leadership team, therefore how the business behaves at the top will carry through the ranks. As leaders, we should be more open and engaged with our teams, showing awareness of physical and mental health requirements. Introducing a line of communication on the topic of stress and mental health will also create a positive impact amongst colleagues, demonstrating an understanding that these feelings are common and universal. When mental health is approached from a cultural perspective rather than a programmed approach, there is a greater likelihood of effective employee wellbeing.

How can employees influence the topic?

As employees, we should take responsibility for our own mental and physical health. The first step is to protect ourselves by establishing healthy boundaries and managing expectations. We should be realistic and honest, we must develop the courage to speak up before we feel exhausted and overwhelmed. Secondly, we need to learn how to manage our inner critic. Being unable to cope with the demands and stresses of a job does not mean that you have failed, learn to ask for help.

What advice do you have for employers looking to implement a wellness programme?

In my experience, employees want tailor made ongoing training, that’s differentiated, targeted and bespoke.  A programme that takes place over a few weeks or months so that employees can change their habits is most popular. Employers also need to acknowledge that not all employees need the same programme, we need to understand the different types of stress or anxiety and provide training on techniques to manage those feelings.

A focus on emotional intelligence as the key to personal and professional success will allow leaders within a business to improve their people skills, in turn teaching them how to deal with common mental health problems within their team. Understanding how stress and anxiety affects different people is crucial to building a thriving business community.

How do we identify and support those who are suffering in silence?

By showing empathy and encouraging people to speak about their mental health will provide the platform needed for others to speak out. By sharing our own mistakes, vulnerabilities, faults and stresses will also encourage those around you to open up.

If we sense that someone is persistently stressed, make the effort to initiate a conversation, by sharing your own thoughts at the time. Perhaps you’re feeling anxious about an upcoming project and as a result are feeling stressed. Use this common feeling to create a conversation however, we should also be mindful about reading the situation and accepting that some people do not want to talk as openly as you would like them to.

As managers, during appraisals we should ask our employees directly how they feel in terms of their mental health. Consider implementing an objective process or system to analyse how they are feeling, ensuring that this creates a platform for self-assessment. Encourage learning from mistakes and assess where their stress trigger points are. Vitally, ensuring our employees feel part of the bigger vision and purpose of the company will maintain morale.

How can we incorporate stress prevention and management techniques into our everyday lives?

  • Learn about the different types of stress and understand what happens to our physiology when we are stressed for long periods of time.
    Pay attention to our mindset. Practice changing our perspective by turning negative to positive thinking, check in with ourselves on how we are feeling on a regular basis.
  • Raise our EQ (Emotional Intelligence). Get into the practice of labelling our emotions so that we can feel in control and learn to process them.
  • Have a stress journal to write down our stress triggers. This automatically makes us feels more organised. By being aware of triggers we can then breakdown and work on what is in our control and what is not.
  • Stick with it; it takes effort and practice to create habits that become second nature.
  • Finally, diarise time for relaxation. We should have periods of time in our day when we are not involved in or thinking about work.  Take time to reflect, consider our values and what is important to us.

By finding positive, healthy ways to manage stress as it occurs, many of the negative health consequences that we see so frequently in colleagues and friends can be greatly reduced. We are all different and so are the ways we choose to manage our stress. When we take responsibility for finding places where we feel valued and can thrive, we should expect employers to value our health.

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