How much stress is in your life? How much of your life stress is related to your job? Here are the facts about stress as compiled by the American Institute of Stress: stress related healthcare and missed work costs employers $300 billion annually; 76 percent of people cited money and work as the leading cause of their stress, a survey of 26,000 workers in the US revealed that 60 percent were so unhappy with their current jobs they would rather just choose a new career; 77 percent of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress, 73 percent regularly experience psychological symptoms due to stress; and 48 percent lie awake at night due to stress.
What exactly is the definition of stress? I found a definition of stress that says it is an individual reaction or a “dis-ease” as in lack of a comfortable feeling. Some related words are: anxiety, pressure, stressor, and strain. C. Hardy has defined stress as “when perceived and actual capabilities and responses are insufficient to meet the demands of the situation.” T. Avroba and K. James have defined it as “pressure is the aggregate of all the demands made upon you. Stress is your response to an inappropriate level of pressure. It is a response to pressure, not the pressure itself.” The American Institute of Stress also confirms that stress is a highly personalized phenomenon.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health conducted a survey and found that 40 percent of workers found their jobs to be highly stressful, one quarter view their jobs as their number one source of stress, and roughly a quarter said they were often stressed out by their work. One more survey on attitudes in the American Workplace said that 80 percent of workers feel stress on the job although stress can either be stimulating or harmful. Some see stress as the force, pressure, demand you are subject to, others see it as your response to the force and still others see it as the result of your response. Nonetheless, excessive stress impacts your physical and emotional life. When it comes to the main reasons for workplace stress a 2006 “Stresspulse” survey determined that workload was the main factor followed by people issues, work/life balance, and lack of job security.
Now that we’ve got our arms around the concept of work related stress – what should we do? Deep breathing, creative visualizations, and walks around the block may not stop the stressors from coming back. A publication on stress management in work settings by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health made an interesting finding that “stress management, as currently defined, has a limited role in reducing organization stress because no effort is made to remove or reduce sources of stress at work. Focusing on the individual as the prime target for organization intervention creates a dilemma of ‘blaming the victim.’ A more appropriate application of stress management would be as a complement to job redesign or organizational change interventions.”
Here are some of the more creative stress relieving ideas that I found. Does your organization offer a special place for employees to unwind such as cozy chairs in a special area? Can your agency allow people to let off steam by playing table sports like foosball? Don’t forget the board games like chess or backgammon. How about subsidizing lunches or stocking a free snack cabinet? Eating well helps regulate hormones including stress hormones. Doctors says there is a connection between the stomach and the brain so keeping good food in your system will allow your brain to feel less stressed.
According to the Center for Mind Body Medicine the quickest way to relieve stress is to release endorphins. Some say touching, kissing, and hugging can do the trick because it releases oxytocin. (But no sexual harassment, please!) Have you ever done a primal scream exercise or better yet, researchers at East Anglia Norwich University in England say you can reduce stress by swearing. If you rub your hoku – flap of skin that connects the thumb and the forefinger – you can also stay calm according to scientists at Hong Kong Polytech University. And finally, for all you neat freaks out there, embrace the clutter. According to work by a journalist and a professor from the Columbia Business School moderate messes can actually enrich creativity and minimize anxiety.
Yolanda Smith is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.