Monday, 4 March 2013

Managing Your Levels of Stress

I read an article the other day in which the HSE reported that there were an estimated 428,000 cases of work related stress in 2011/12, which was around 40% of all total work related illnesses. While companies have a legal duty of care to manage work related stress, I have always been a firm believer in the concept of ‘resilience’ – our personal capacity to manage and cope with stress. Resilience is the capacity that allows some people to cope well with stress and bounce back to their normal self very quickly, even after suffering from a traumatic event. My observations are that resilient people rather than letting failure overcome them, they look to find positive meaning even in a traumatic experience. But is resilience a quality that anyone can develop? I think that it can be, and the following are some ideas about how you can build your resilience. 1) It is important to develop close relationships with people, as this provides you with someone who can support you when you need it, as well as you offering others support when they need it. 2) I think it is important to accept that some things cannot be changed. It is not helpful to waste time and emotional effort on these things and instead and focus on those things that you can influence. Try this exercise to help. On a piece of paper draw two concentric circles and write in the centre circle ‘direct control’, the next ‘indirect control’ and on the outside ‘no control’. Write down the things that worry you most in the appropriate circle and reflect on what you have written. How many have you written in the ‘no control’ area? 3) Develop realistic goals for yourself that are clear, specific and have a time frame and regularly do something that helps you to move towards them. 4) Maintain an optimistic outlook and expect good things to happen in your life. Try to think of what you want, rather than worry about what you fear. 5) Take decisive actions when difficult situations arise rather than hoping they will go away. 6) Try to avoid seeing a crisis as an insurmountable problem. While we cannot change what happens to us we can change how we react to it. Focus on how the future may be better as a result. 7) Look for ways you can learn something about yourself when you are going through difficult times. 8) Take small steps outside of your comfort zone to build greater confidence and resilience. For example, if you dread presentations and find them really stressful, build your confidence by giving a simple talk to a small group of people. This could be in the form of a training session, team brief or talk to a local church or voluntary group. Doing this on a regular basis will enable you to start to give more complex talks and presentations. While you may never relish the opportunity to give a presentation your confidence in your ability will soar! Resilience is our personal capacity to manage and cope with stress. My view is that it is analogous to a glass being filled with water. As the glass fills with water (i.e with life’s pressures) our stress levels increase until finally the glass overflows and we become highly stressed and ill as a result. However, you can increase the size of your glass and increase your resilience by adopting the ideas outlined above. By developing your resilience you will be less likely to become one of the HSE’s stress statistics.