If you’re going to rise high in an organisation or your business, you’re going to get stressed from time to time. Fact. In fact, stress is a much maligned word and generally used to mean something undesirable. Yet a bearable amount of stress, like when we venture to try something new, can be enormously beneficial. It can actually advance our careers. It’s getting the balance right that is difficult. If you always tried to avoid stressful situations you’d never advance, never learn and change your ideas. You’d stay where it’s always comfortable. (This is a significant point for ambitious professional women as generally speaking we emerge from surveys as being risk averse and also as disliking conflict. I’ll cover this in a future post)
When the balance gets out of kilter it can have disastrous consequences, for ourselves, and others. Work overwhelm is a serious business.
Work Life Balance
I was listening to an interesting seminar from Julie Hirst the other day (courtesy of a Women in Logistics seminar, many thanks to them). Julie had been part of a project which had run for ten years looking into work life balance and how stress affected people. An interesting distinction emerged. Working long hours which spilled over into your personal life were not such a huge cause of stress for people at the top of an organisation as for those lower down.
In Control of Your Work
The variable factor is actually feeling in control of what is going on. It’s about having a choice; people who felt this was imposed upon them exhibited other symptoms of stress too. When we feel out of control at work serious ill health is sure to follow and then we are NINETEEN times more likely to make a major error. And I mean major error. The survey invited folk to give examples annonymously of mistakes they had made at work. The results were scary, down to actually causing death.
Having an element of control as a factor in helping manage stress is not surprising. The same thing happens in organisations when they are undergoing significant organisational change. The feeling of not knowing, of having no control is the one which produces the most stress and leads to higher than average sickness levels.
Top 5 Symptoms of Stress
1) Sleeplessness on a regular basis.
2) Fatigue, again feeling tired most of the time, even when you’ve done little.
3) Inability to focus and concentrate
4) Irritability with others and with self
5) Pains in the neck, head and shoulders.
So, if you tick any of these boxes it’s time to start taking your well being seriously.
Sometimes it’ s impossible to take control of the external events, even if you are at the top. And that’s when we have to look within ourselves. There is one place where we can always have control. We can control and manage how we react to the external events. I don’t mean to sound trite, because it’s not as easy as talking positive (although that is a part of it). But it is possible. Take steps to recognise your stress and then take steps to address the cause when and however you can. But always, take care of what is within your contol- you and your feelings.
Epictetus: “We are not touched so much by life events themselves but by the view we choose to take of them.” Wise words from a Stoic philospher AD 55-AD 135. There is always a choice.
How do you manage work place stress? Do please share your ideas. The best thing I ever did to manage my work stress was to run my own business! And there are 3 tips here. Or, try listening to my free visualisation and see if you find that calming. Loads of women have told me how much they love it. Here’s the article that accompanied it : What’s your perfect working day?
Photo Credit: Irum Shahid
Posted on July 8th, 2011 by Jane