MIND MANAGEMENT Positive Stress: 10 Ways to Turn it to Advantage

The advice used to be ‘refurbish’ or ‘strategise’ this or that, or takea ‘synergistic’ approach to managing opportunities. These were the ‘in’ words of the past two decades. The latest one is ‘stress.’ Too many people, it seems, are experiencing this transferable illness. We can be forgiven for thinking the outbreak of stress is reaching global epidemic proportions. Is there cure? What can be done to ameliorate its effects? How can we eliminate or minimise it and turn it into an advantage?

Stress affects every aspect of our life, from the challenges of marriage, raising children in an environment of unparalleled peer pressure and drug abuse, to financial and work demand pressures. It increases anxiety levels, exacerbates anger and illness, and disrupts sleep patterns. Activity effectiveness is reduced and performance deteriorates rapidly, leading to mental and physical ill health and, in very extreme cases, to death.

From business perspective, stress has profound negative impacts such as illness, absenteeism and, less visible equally damaging, bad decision-making, negative internal politics and communication and apathy. Absenteeism or negative activity generated by chronic stress can become one of the most rapid and damaging forces within an organisation. Seemingly minor incidents can escalate causing domino effect. The work performance of other employees collapses as each individual struggles to deal with overload caused by having to deal with their own work load and that of absentee colleagues.

The British Heart Foundation estimates that 21 percent of all sickness absence in the UK is due to stress-related heart disease, which apparently costs the average UK company with 10,000 employees, 73,000 working days lost, the death of 42 of its employees (between 35 and 65 years of age) and $7.5 million in lost production annually.

To obviate these personal health and organisational profit destroyers, management needs to put the turn around of stress up there as major portion of the annual training budget. With professional advice stress can be turned to account and marginalised as destructive force.

Individuals, groups and large organisations’ capacity to cope is dependent upon their ability to maintain their performance between effectiveness and optimum levels. Organisations need to be cognizant of the fact that if optimum performance is continually encouraged and then further stressful demand is made, reduced efficiency, failure and illness quickly follow.

Stress can be managed and can be beneficial when it is motivating or encouraging. Corporate planners must look at where the curve plateaus on the graph that correlates their production and profitability. Stress is self-induced by those who falsely perceive that they do not have the resources to cope. With management cooperation they can soon discover that they do indeed have the necessary resources.

10 steps to manage stress
Make definite modifications to actual and perceived demand. Introduce measures to change attitudes and perceptions.

Implement training programmes on relaxation techniques eg, yoga or tai chi.

Encourage management and staff who feel stressed to take time out.

Learn the art and advantages of deep breathing exercises.

Promote the idea of keeping stress diary to note what aspects of the job cause individual stress.

Introduce fitness awareness programmes.

Run brief lunchtime seminars on building positive self-image.

Organise time management programmes.

Adopt strategy for all staff to manage major tasks when energy is highest.

Run sessions on performance versus expectations to reduce frustration and stress by discussing options.

Stress is reaction to fear and fear stops people taking action. Break the fear barriers by managing employee stress and turning it to advantage by creating, through proper forward planning, the mental and physical vitality and energy they will need to follow through.

Charles Donoghue APS, FNZIM is an Auckland-based author, performance psychology coach and business consultant. Email: [email protected], www.donoghuedynamics.com.

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