We were recently contacted by one of our clients and asked to deliver a session on stress management and resilience and whilst designing the programme I completed lots of research and subsequently ended up going on a course relating to mental health and I found the whole topic fascinating.
Stress management and resilience are key workplace buzzwords now. It feels like everyone is talking about it. Why though? Stress has always been part of normal working life so why are people suddenly so much more stressed?
The modern world that we live in is, in my opinion, one of the reasons the nation feels more stressed than in previous decades. We live in a 24/7 environment now. Our phones give us access to anything and everything at any time of day or night. In previous years, you may have finished your working day at say 5 pm and you didn’t think any more of it until 9 am the next day. Now, you can access your work emails or get a WhatsApp message from your boss/colleague asking a work-related question at any time. And because we nearly always have our phones in our hands, who can honestly say that they wouldn’t read it and reply or at least be thinking of a reply? This means our time to switch off and recharge is limited. Some employers can have a lot higher expectation of people to be readily available to work outside of their normal contracted hours. Some employers expect people to go above and beyond if they want to do well in that company and rightly or wrongly, we go along with it because most people want to succeed at work, right? I remember a time when Employee of the Month was given to someone who went above and beyond but, now that it’s an expectation, what is the bar set at for people to win? Does Employee of the Month even exist anymore?
Answering emails outside of work and employer expectations aren’t the only factor here. Going back to the modern world and all the technology we have at our fingertips, how many of us are burning the candle at both ends? I see many a meme about people scrolling through Instagram aimlessly at 3 am in the morning when they can’t sleep or watching funny cat videos on YouTube. We laugh at these memes because we’ve all been there but our resilience to stress isn’t going to be improved by lack of sleep. We need to start treating mental health the same way we do physical health. We all know that not exercising and poor diet can lead to poor physical health and every January people will have a health kick – why isn’t it the same for our mental health? We see celebrities taking breaks from social media to just live in the real world for a bit, this is admirable, and we could all learn a lot from this. I did this recently and just took a week off social media. It felt amazing. Social media isn't a true reflection of real life, people tend to put the best parts of their life on it. Social media is fantastic but has a lot to do with mental ill health in this country.
The fact that every single one of us is a unique person means that stress comes in different forms for each of us. Some people are naturally more resilient to stress whereas others need to work hard to be resilient and some of us don’t know how resilient we are (or not) until it’s too late. The key? Understand yourself. What are your triggers? How does stress affect you and how resilient are you? The workshop I recently designed covers off all these topics. Let’s not forget that a bit of stress is good for us and actually proven to help increase our performance. However, understanding when things are getting too much for us is so important. It would be amazing if there was a one size fits all solution to stress but there isn’t. Instead invest some time in becoming more aware of your signs to stress and how you could improve your own resilience and you’ll be well on your way to managing stress better. The good news? Resilience/mental toughness can be developed and built upon so just because you may have not dealt well with a stressful situation in the past, doesn’t mean it can get the better of you again. Watch this space for more info on this.