Let’s Talk About Stress

By Gyn Wylie, CHRP

Did you know that April is the 19th anniversary of Stress Awareness Month?  This is an opportunity to review ways to reduce stress for ourselves and our employees. 

Stress is that “too much” experience.  Too much work, too much pressure, too much information all at once so people get overwhelmed.  People can feel unappreciated, taken advantage of or unsupported and that stress can slip into burnout.  Catching stress in the early phases and developing techniques to reduce or eliminate the effects is imperative to healthy living.

Healthy living is not stress-free living.  Instead, it is a full look at our individual lives to determine what is right for each of us.  There are three areas to consider: work life, home life and individual personalities.  In an ideal world, all of these would be in balance – we would go to work and give ourselves completely to the tasks at hand, then at the end of the day go home without bringing any thoughts of work with us. At home, we would focus on our family and friends.  And, because we have a personality that is gentle with ourselves, accepting of our accomplishments and faults, we would be content.

But some of us bring our home life to work and our work life home.  We fret about the error we made, the words we spoke, and the tasks not completed.  We get bored with the job and bored with family life.  We are human and we get stressed.

How we respond to difficult or exciting situations — do we bring drama and thus stress to others, do we provide a calm place for those in stressful times, do we help ourselves before we hit burnout — are all stress management techniques:

Take Control and Choose your Response
Stephen Covey’s 90/10 Principle is that 10 per cent of life is what happens to you but 90 per cent is how you react.  Taking charge of our lives and choosing how to respond to situations as they arise requires high self-awareness and good self-control.  Choosing healthy calm responses reduces life’s drama.

Stress Makers
Those folks who bring their grumpy, unhappy, complaining selves to work add stress to all they encounter.  Often many of these people are unaware of how they are presenting or the damage they are doing.  For this reason, Emotional Intelligence is an effective tool.  When we have self awareness we can recognize our emotions and how they affect both us and others.  We can manage these emotions in healthy ways and adapt easily to changing circumstances.  We are socially aware and can identify others emotions allowing us to help them and finally, we are better able to manage and develop good relationships.  There is a great deal written on the Internet and a lot of books written on this subject.  While EQ may not be the end all for reducing stress, being aware of ourselves and getting staff members to think about their behavior and its impact on their colleagues goes a long way to building better workplaces.

Stress Reducers
Those folks that people naturally gravitate to are typically happy, calm and looking on the bright side of life.  Stress reduction techniques include exercise, deep breathing, listening to music, watching a movie, praying, laughing and most importantly, getting connected with the stress reducers in our lives as potential ways of reducing our stress.

Burnout versus Stress
If stress is too much, burnout is not enough.  Not enough energy, not enough motivation, helplessness leading to depression.  While burnout can have many contributors outside of the workplace (Type A personality, poor home life), at work the main contributors are lack of appreciation, insufficient resources to get the work done, lack of control over work and unclear expectations of what is expected.  As managers, we can address each of these with good communication with our staff, allowing them to have input into their workday, and providing clear job descriptions and expectations.  Paying a fair wage and giving praise for a job well done all contribute to reducing potential burnout.

Stress Awareness Month will end on April 30, but awareness of stress and methods introduced during this time period will continue throughout the year.  The benefits of introducing stress management techniques and talking about stress in the workplace are many. Staff members feel cared about and group awareness of various techniques encourages healthier interactions. This contributes to good morale which creates a positive work experience that reduces stress and builds retention. 

Gyn Wylie, BGS, CHRP, is the operations and HR director at Genesis Fertility Centre.

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