Paul Bishop just felt plain tired. He’d had a tough year in his job and he was really finding it difficult to keep motivated. To cap it all he had started to make stupid mistakes at work, forgetting to check things and he always seemed to be rushing to meet deadlines. His job satisfaction had disappeared; work had become a real burden and the constant changes in management structure left him feeling paranoid about being edged out of the company.
The symptoms that Paul was feeling are pretty well understood these days. Continual change is a feature of modern business and, although this can stimulate more interest and better productivity in some employees, it can have the opposite effect others, like Paul, making them highly stressed.
What may start as minor stress can escalate into medical problems; digestive disorders, allergies, insomnia, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Mental disorders such as depression, phobias obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia and paranoia can also result from a stressful lifestyle.
Now, more than ever, it is essential to adopt sensible stress avoidance and stress management strategies. In the UK alone it is estimated that 245,000 people became aware of symptoms of work related stress in a 12 month period resulting in 12.8 million lost working days.
There is a fine balance to be drawn, however, as we also rely on the stress from competition, deadlines, negotiations, frustrations and sorrows to add texture to our lives. Each person has an individual and sometimes very different threshold beyond which stress begins to have a negative effect on their well-being.
There are some findings that disease and illness are closely allied with unrelieved stress. Just being aware of stress is not sufficient to eradicate it, more work is necessary to identify the causes and either change the environment in which stress occurs or change our response to the stressful environment.
A useful model to consider is one where you can divide the stimuli in your environment into three categories.
Category 1 – Things I can change
Category 2 – Things I can’t change but I can influence
Category 3 – The weather
Categories 1 and 2 are pretty self-explanatory. For example you can decide to change your job or perhaps your boss needs to requisition a new computer for you.
The weather accounts for everything else outside Categories 1 and 2. It’s called the weather because just like when it rains, you can’t do much about it other than work around it. It doesn’t matter how much you worry about rain it won’t stop just for you.
When Paul used the three categories he realized that he needed to ask for help to give him more time to check his work and also to question deadlines he was given rather than accept them as gospel. The organizational changes that were happening around him were just the weather and if he navigated himself through the weather successfully, he would avoid being surplus to requirements.