Workplace stress assessments are often carried out to help teams perform at an optimal level. Much can be achieved when organizations identify possible sources of stress, which can include a controlling management style, lack of job security, or an excess of responsibility matched with little control over goals, roles, or procedures.
Stress can negatively affect teams by making workers feel overwhelmed, fatigued, or unable to concentrate on the tasks at hand. Although job stress needs to be reduced through important organizational changes (e.g. the reduction of micromanagement, ensuring the right balance between effort/reward balance, offering greater flexibility – to mention just a few approaches), can workers try to reduce stress to the greatest extent possible, by embracing a more productive mindset?
Is it Possible to View Stress in a Positive Light?
Health psychologist, Kelly McGonigal gave a well received TED talk in which she shared a fascinating idea: the harmful effects of stress could arise because we perceive stress so negatively. She said, “Your heart might be pounding, you may be breathing faster… but what if you viewed them as signs that your body was energized and it’s preparing you to meet this challenge.”
In the talk, she pointed to research undertaken at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which found that those who believed stress affected them negatively, had a 43% increase risk of death. Meanwhile, those who lived with high levels of stress but did not see this as affecting their health, were among those least likely to die. The findings prompt us to try to see the symptoms of stress as our body’s aim to bring us up to the sometimes difficult tasks at hand, both physically and mentally.
Can Self-Compassion Reduce the Unrealistic Expectations that Lead to Stress?
Another useful way to deal with stress is to exercise more self-compassion when it comes to rating our performance at work and in our daily lives. Many studies have been carried out on self-compassion, which involves recognizing that imperfection is part of the human condition, being as kind to ourselves as we would to a loved one, and being mindful of our emotions and feelings.
Some of the many documented benefits of self-compassion include decreased stress hormones, greater empowerment, learning, and inner strength. Even if we have an unempathetic or controlling boss, for instance, being accepting of our own work (without being self-indulgent or closed to feedback) is a vital way to keep a calm, mindful state, which can make us more productive both individually and as part of a team.
The Role of Mindfulness in Personal and Professional Happiness
Focusing on the ‘now’ allows us to solve problems in the present rather than thinking too long about a problem. Of course, mindfulness, the ability to keep the mind in the present moment, has benefits which are farther-reaching. Studies have shown that mindfulness based activities such as yoga and meditation are useful at battling depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other other mental conditions, since they are able to lower cortisol levels through a combination of breathing and mind-body control.
Mindfulness enables us to tackle personal, as well as professional stress through skills such as pranayamic breathing, which can take as little as five minutes, but which has a powerful effect on lowering our heart rate, breathing rate, and stress levels.
We have mentioned just a few ways that individual employees can take to reduce work-induced stress, though it is evident that lasting change must come from an organizational level. To make a difficult work experience (which may be temporary) easier, build up skills such as reframing how you think about stress and engaging in mindful pursuits, which will put even the most stressful situations into greater perspective.
TTI’s Stress Quotient™ assessment measures individual and workplace stress in seven index factors, including Demands, Effort/Reward Balance, Control, Organizational Change, Social Support and Job Security. While individuals and teams may not experience high levels of stress in each index, the assessment can measure how it’s impacting day-to-day affairs.