Your Complete Guide to Understanding and Managing Stress
Included in this guide:
- The Top 4 Sources of Stress
- Secondhand Stress and You
- Employees Got Grit - A Webinar
The Top 4 Sources of Stress
The American Psychology Association (APA) recently released a report titled “Stress in America: Paying with our Health”. The report provides key statistics for understanding what factors contribute the most stress to our lives. Using the collected data, the APA found how stress affects different generations, and the different ways generations manage their stress. Also included in the report are important facts about how emotional support affects stress levels.
The top four sources for stress are:
- Family responsibilities
- Health Concerns
These four categories have been the same top reasons for stress in the same order since 2008, the beginning of the recession. While the overall trend of stress levels has decreased since peaking in 2010, a deeper dive reveals some enlightening facts about Americans and their stress.
Money: The root of all stress?
When respondents were asked how their stress over money has changed over the past year, 88% answered that their stress has either stayed the same or increased. So while some of the anxieties from the recession have subsided, the vast majority of Americans are still concerned about their finances. The three most significant sources of money related stress were: paying unexpected expenses, paying for essentials, and saving for retirement.
All four categories can be seen as being influenced by one another. For example, money concerns can influence decisions about health concerns, or work concerns can influence stress about family responsibilities. In fact, the APA states in their report that “Nearly 1 in 5 Americans say that they have either considered skipping or skipped going to the doctor in the past year when they needed health care because of financial concerns.”
It might seem obvious that different generations would have different stresses due to their stations in life, but viewing stress through the prism of generations allows for a clearer picture of the future of stress and stress management.
The APA report highlights the divide between the generations using statistics about money stress: “Money is a somewhat or very significant source of stress for the majority of Americans (64 percent) but even more so for parents (77 percent), Millennials (75 percent) and Gen Xers (76 percent).”
The effects of stress
Each person’s stress and how it affects them is unique to them, and the ways of dealing with mounting stress vary greatly. The top three symptoms of stress reported were: irritable/angry, nervous/anxious, and lack of interest/motivation. All three symptoms can lead to negative consequences at home, on the job, or in one’s social life. With 75% of Americans experiencing a symptom of stress in the past month, it is worrysome that “[a] sizable number of Americans say that they engage in unhealthy behaviors because of stress, such as lying awake at night…or eating too much…”
Presenteeism is defined as an employee being physically present at work, but not being fully engaged due to outside stresses. Presenteeism can be difficult to notice, but it can wreak havoc on productivity, and even an organization’s bottom line. According to research featured in the Harvard Business Review, presenteeism costs organizations more than $150 billion per year. Surprisingly, the study found that “on-the-job productivity loss resulting from depression… was roughly three times greater than the absence-related productivity loss attributed to these conditions.” We can then see that when stress is weighing heavily on an individual, it is not only hurting him or herself, but also the entire organization is adversely affected.
Without a proper support system in place, people often turn to unhealthy techniques to manage their stress, particularly Millennials with high money stress. For example, of all Americans, 38% say they surf the internet to manage stress, while 67% of Millennials say the same. For eating to deal with stress, the breakdown is 23% to 41%, respectively. Alcohol use for stress management is nearly double at 12% for all Americans and 25% for Millennials.
However, when emotional support is available (family, friends, or professional help such as an employee assistance program) we see significant improvement in overall stress:
- 43% of respondents without emotional support say stress has increased in the past year
- 26% of respondents with emotional support say stress has increased in the past year
Those with emotional support are able to handle stress and its effects better than those without:
- 46% of people without emotional support felt depressed due to stress in the last month
- 32% of people with emotional support felt depressed due to stress in the last month.
The overall positive effects of an emotional support system are extremely encouraging. When individuals can turn to trained professionals with their stress problems, they are less likely to engage in unhealthy behavior, and are more likely to be productive at work, and maintain healthier relationships. A professional assistance program can offer a wide variety of trainings, counseling services, and referrals to help people learn how to effectively manage their stress.
Secondhand Stress and You
Do you have someone at your place of work that is constantly rushing around the office and is seemingly busy 24/7? According to the Wall Street Journal this type of behavior can lead to "secondhand stress" and "[r]ushing blocks thoughtful communication and creates worries..." In today's hectic environment it can seem like we need to be constantly rushing and multi-tasking just to keep up; however, this may have a negative effect on openness and effective communication in a workplace. When you see someone going full speed around the office it may make you question yourself and your work habits. A vicious cycle then occurs where the main reason for a person's stress is just that: stress.
Cally Ritter, LICSW an education and development consultant with AllOne Health Resources, who frequently presents on stress, spoke about her experience
"...I always ask my audience 'what is causing them stress?' and a common response is 'other people's stress!' 'I'm not stressed, it's the others around me who are oozing stress out of every pore.'". Our tendency to do this is an inherent human trait, "We are born to emulate other people's behaviors and to also take on their emotional states, it's called social mimicry." Ritter said
"Social mimicry also allows us to be empathic, caring and communal by taking on the emotional state of the others around us. This is great if we are surrounded by happy, energized, motivated colleagues. However, social mimicry has a down side: we take on other's people's stress. Unfortunately, other's people's stress is contagious..."
Prioritizing your time is the key to managing stress. A clear schedule that outlines exactly when and where you have to be and when you are available to meet goes a long way in keeping a work environment organized and stress free. The Wall Street Journal notes, "A calm, unruffled work style is still a mark of competency, management experts say."It is important to remember that being harried does not always mean work is being performed in an efficient manner. The Wall Street Journal mentioned a manager whose advice was to "understand the big picture and not get caught up too much in day-to-day details". Whenever a day can feel too hectic it can be helpful to step back and think about what really needs to be done at that moment to ensure long-term goals are achieved.
The next time you see someone hurrying around the office or you feel stressed, try to get to the source of the stress. Speaking about stress is something that is rarely done but being open about responsibilities and tasks will make your workplace a more team oriented environment.
Employees Got Grit - A Webinar
Resilience is our ability to handle setbacks and problems. While some people marshal through when faced with disaster such as, financial strain, natural disasters, and even the loss of a loved one, others are overwhelmed and shut down by these stressors. Although some people may be born with resiliency, it can also be learned and developed through practice. By developing personal resilience, one is able to cope, problem solve, and obtain goals. To view this free webinar please click here.