Turfcare sector trainer and conference speaker Frank Newberry reports that most of us can actually 'choose' how we respond to stress in the workplace - and we can all learn how to respond better (to stressful situations) than we do now
In her excellent book 'Words That Change Minds' (Kendall Hunt Publishing ISBN 13: 9780 7872 34799), Shelle Rose Charvet discloses some interesting research results - particularly her research into how people respond to stress.
In answer to the question: Under stress, approximately how many people can keep their feelings under control?, the answers, shown in percentages, were as follows:
15% of people under stress gave a 'feelings' response, i.e. they found it hard to keep their feelings (anger, distress, 'fight or flight') under control.
15% of people under stress gave a 'thinking' response, i.e. they found that they could (given a few moments) respond in a rational and objective way to the stresses of life.
But, by far the majority, 70% of people under stress, gave either a 'feelings' or a 'thinking' response, i.e. they found that they could choose one or the other!
This, to me, suggests that, to a certain extent, 85% of people can actually choose a rational response and only 15% have problems responding to stress. I take 15% to be one person in a team of 6 or 7 people. Not too bad considering, but I imagine that, under extreme stress, these numbers might well change.
How big is the problem of stress at work?
For some years now, Government agencies (like the HSE) and respected professional bodies (like ACAS and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) have been reporting that stress is the most common cause of long-term sickness absence for both manual and non-manual workers.
In 2014/15, stress accounted for 35% of all work related ill health cases and 43% of all working days lost due to ill health.
Two gentlemen - Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman (both cardiologists) - coined the term 'Type A and Type B' people. Very soon after they published their work, it became popular to divide people and their behaviour into two groups and to suggest that one group was much more prone to stress and, therefore, stress related illness and sick absence. I wonder if you can guess which group is more stress-prone from the key word descriptions below:
|Type A||Type B|
sense of urgency
Perhaps you would like to quickly count up how many of these words are true of you? How many did you choose in the Type A column and how many in the Type B column?
Are you predominantly Type A or mainly Type B?
Looking at your total for each column - are you predominantly Type A (I used to be) or are you mainly Type B? I am a Type B now. You may even be that rare person whose totals are split equally.
Type A people are interested in high achievement, they are competitive, aggressive and, in contrast to the more laid back, more relaxed Type B, they have twice the rate of heart attacks and higher rates of other illnesses.
Type A people say they enjoy challenge and demands, but it seems, in high stress situations, they become over-stimulated, have high blood pressure, cholesterol levels and so on. They also put less effort into family and social networks and, therefore, have less sources of personal support.
Of course, no-one is a pure Type A or B but we tend towards one type rather than the other. Type B people are less at risk from stress, so it is sensible to consciously adopt Type B behaviour.
The Personality Characteristic of Hardiness
You may, like many before you, be as tough as old boots! People do differ in what psychologists call 'hardiness'. Hardiness appears to be a characteristic of people who are not made ill by stress. It is made up of the following beliefs:
Commitment - You believe in yourself and what you are doing and, as a consequence, you seem to possess the ability to involve yourself fully in life's adventure - without feeling unduly stressed.
Internal control - You believe (rightly or wrongly) that you have control over events in your own life.
Challenge - You believe that turbulence and change is the norm, rather than stability, and are, therefore, not to be feared.
Tension Discharge - You believe that certain creative or recreational activities will enable you to 'let off steam' and reduce or eliminate the build-up of stress.
Six Top Tips for Stress Prevention
In many matters, prevention is much better than cure, so here are six top tips for stress prevention.
1. Monitor what stresses you and record your responses to such stressors. Keep a stress diary, i.e. a personal log of the situations that caused you stress. Record the specific situation(s) that caused the stress, what your thoughts and feelings were, how you behaved and how you might have behaved differently.
2. Develop skills (get trained) to cope with stressful situations as they occur and before they have time to cause you much stress. For example: develop your social skills - especially your ability to be assertive, i.e. communicate in a straightforward way what you believe and feel and what you want to happen, or stop happening at work, e.g. bullying, taking advantage of people etc.
3. Learn to tolerate stressors: as some stress in life is probably inevitable, you may need to alter the way you view particular stressors.
There are a variety of techniques and the basic aim of all of them is to encourage you to change the way you think and feel about the stress or pressure.
4. Lower the body's level of stimulation: this can be done simply by deep breathing and learning to 'switch off', or through relaxation procedures or techniques such as meditation and visualisation.
5. Use regular physical exercise to prevent the negative effects of stress. Exercise helps to dispel the stress hormones from the bloodstream and stimulates the release of endorphins which will give you a feeling of well-being. You should aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity most days.
6. "We are what we eat" and we can eat to prevent stress. Eat food high in potassium, such as bananas, tomatoes and dried beans (like kidney beans), and food high in tryptophan that the body converts into the helpful hormone serotonin, such as milk, tuna, eggs, chicken, cheeses, pasta and bananas again. Different combinations of food can cause bad allergic reactions. Consult your doctor if in any doubt. Try to reduce alcohol and caffeine intake.
Finally, let me disclose that I love stress, excitement and the unexpected when it happens. This has always been great fun for me - but not my body.
Despite having lots of fun for a long time - I eventually had to endure painful and embarrassing stress-related illnesses that have taught me one big lesson. What is that lesson? Follow 1-6 above.
May you be blessed with health and strength - and lots of fun!
© 2016 Frank Newberry
For more on this topic and some great training seminars, why not register for Pitchcare's Supervisory Essentials Workshops this winter?
Frank's proven, popular, highly interactive and entertaining one day seminars are 'stand-alone'. You can take any one, any two, any three or all four seminars. They will all be held at the National Sports Centre, Bisham Abbey, Marlow, Buckinghamshire this winter:
1. Taking Charge - November 2017 (tbc)
2. Getting Better Results - 8th December 2016
3. Enhanced Communication Skills - 16th February 2017
4. Problem Solving & Decision Making - 23rd March 2017
For more details, including how to book your place on all Pitchcare workshops, visit the website www.groundsmantraining.co.uk or contact Chris Johnson, Pitchcare's Training Development Manager at email@example.com