According to research in 2008* workplace stress was costing the Australian economy $14.81 billion a year. Stress related presenteeism and absenteeism was directly costing Australian employers $10.11 billion a year and 3.2 days per worker were being lost each year through workplace stress. It would be no surprise to anyone to find that, although there is a lot more information available today on stress, stress relating factors and methods of reducing stress, there probably has not been as much impact on these figures as you would expect.

With workers spending longer hours at work, the lingering impact of the global financial crisis on jobs, not to mention one of the most stressful seasons of the year – Christmas – looming ever closer I thought it might be a good ideas to revisit some of the factors influencing stress in the workplace and refresh ourselves on how to make stress work for us instead of against us.

So what is stress? In its basic form: it is the body’s automatic response to various emotional and physical demands. Simply, we over load our body’s ability to cope and the body tells us quite clearly to stop, take a breath and let the body catch up with the demands we are making on it.

Some of the factors that can impact on managing stress in the workplace are:

Poor communication                                       High Turnover of staff

Poor organisation                                            Workloads and time pressure

Lack of autonomy                                           Performance demands

Overcrowding                                                 Health and Safety issues

I am sure we have all experienced one or more of these factors at some stage in our workplaces.

The body will react to poor stress management with physical symptoms such as: headaches, tiredness, sleeping difficulties, aggression, fatigue, anxiety and depression.

Stop and take a few minutes of me time each day to give yourself a health check: Ask yourself what factors at work may be causing you some issues – are you experiencing any of these physical signs. Are you having difficulty in concentrating, are you less decisive or creative or having trouble remembering things? If so put a big stop sign up and start looking at ways to manage your stress levels to make the stress work for you. We all need some stress = it is what gives us that ‘oomph’ to get things done, to pull off that great project or think up the wonderful marketing ideas.

Some simple techniques to manage your stress include: time management, time out for your self – as little as 10 minutes a day just to clear your mind and relax can help to keep the stress levels manageable. Natural remedies such as aromatherapy oils can bring calmness to the workplace.

Positive thinking is an essential ingredient. Negative thoughts such as: “I can’t do this, It’s all too much, everyone is talking about me” – will contribute to increased stress levels. Counter these thoughts with a positive attitude – “I can get someone to help me and to train me, people are talking with me not about me”.

There is a lot of information available on stress, factors causing stress and how to manage stress to work for you. This information was available in 2008 and is available now. All you have to do is take that first step and acknowledge that your stress is getting out of control. Identify what is causing it and then try some of the methods to bring it back down to a workable level. Find what works for you and do it –not just once but on a continuing basis.

Now I’m off to have some ‘me’ time – a bit of meditating, some soft music and essential oils and I will be completely rejuvenated for the next task

* The Cost of Workplace Stress in Australia, August 2008

Trish @Trischel

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