Speaker and leading authority in the field of wellbeing and stress
When I work with organisations, there’s one question that always comes up. I call it the million-pound question because if I collected a pound for every time it is asked I’d be a millionaire. The one thing directors, heads of HR and senior managers all want to know is: what kind of stress-reducing tools and strategies can we offer our people?
We all want to know what to do to reduce stress. Senior leaders and managers understand that safety at work, which encompasses stress, is a legal requirement. Many will also be familiar with the HSE’s Management Standards. And increasingly organisations are embracing wellness at work by offering things like lunchtime walks, yoga classes and relaxation sessions.
There is a tremendous willingness to help – but also a feeling of helplessness and the heavy burden of responsibility. Organisations don’t know where to turn. They’ve followed the guidelines, they’ve developed evidence plans and strategies – but they still haven’t solved the problem.
THE DIFFERENT FACES OF STRESS
Stress doesn’t come in one shape or size – and nor do humans. Situations differ, people differ. A stressful incident can affect us all in different ways to different degrees. Stress comes in many guises, too – the employee with a sick partner or dealing with family issues at home, for example.
That means you could have all the stress-reducing strategies in the world, but they may work for one employee but not another. They might have some, limited – or no – effect on your organisation as a whole.
So, if stress isn’t one-dimensional, what’s the answer?
THE SCIENCE BEHIND STRESS
The answer is to forget everything you think you know about stress. Well… most of it!
As hard as it is to realise, stress isn’t something that happens to you. Stress is not directly triggered by external circumstances such as a difficult customer or a colleague disagreement. Stress doesn’t come from outside world. We construct it.
People have been fascinated with the human psychology for centuries. Today, modern neuroscience is making it possible to observe and objectively measure how our mental states manifest. And this science shows that our emotional states including stress are constructed and not triggered and the whole world we perceive comes as much from the inside-out, as from the outside-in.
RETHINKING ORGANISATIONAL STRESS
These new findings have important implications for the way we deal with stress. Rather than trying to remedy stress by preventing it or practising stress management strategies, we need to look at this ‘inner’ process to find out how our stressful experiences are generated in the first place.
Knowing how stress works can help us to nip a lot of stress in the bud. It creates a completely new relationship with stressful experiences – one that leads to more psychological wellbeing, one that unlocks resilience and enables balance. It explains why stress is not one-dimensional but comes in different shapes and forms. When we understand stress, we realise that we can access our inner calm and clarity in any circumstances. And the real bonus is that we can turn our stress into success.
STRESS AND A HAPPY ENDING?
What does this mean for your organisation?
It means that you don’t have to seek out strategies for tackling stress. That merely moves you further away from the solution. The real, long-lasting solution is looking in a completely different direction and learning how stress really works – understanding what is happening within your psychology. Because, what is happening inside is more important than what is happening outside.
It means the power lies within your own people. And when your employees are educated about the mind-stress connection, the results can be truly empowering. And you’ll never have to ask what to do to reduce stress again.
Dorothy Martin is a Speaker and leading authority in the field of wellbeing and stress
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