You may have seen in the news this week that a healthy amount of sleep is better for your wellbeing than a 50% increase in disposable income. But what if you’re not sleeping because you are worrying about your salary and if you’ll get a pay rise, or maybe you’re worrying about work in general – Is it the right job/what will it lead to? I think we can all agree that stress and problems at work are not the formula for a good night’s sleep! In fact, stress at work can lead to a variety of health problems.
How much stress is there in your office? Some people’s automatic response would be “a lot”. What does “a lot” mean? Maybe the business you work for is going through a difficult time – staff are under pressure to meet higher targets due to budget cuts and redundancies. Or perhaps your boss is struggling to recruit staff due to the dramatic fall in net migration which looks as if it will continue to get worse?
Lots of businesses report that Brexit has had an impact on sales and employees say they are left trying to meet unobtainable targets.
Whatever the business issue it’s clear that these types of circumstances create massive stress. When people feel they have unachievable expectations placed upon them or they’re deeply worried about their job security, it’s entirely natural that their default framework for everything they do is coloured by fear.
If this is you, you’re probably living on 24 hour cortisol and adrenalin. Which means that the creative, trusting, sharing and caring part of your brain closes down. You feel under permanent threat and you start to behave differently.
You’ve probably read hundreds of times about how your body produces adrenalin and cortisol when you’re in danger, when you have to run for your life from the sabre toothed tiger. Stress at work produces the same hormones!
High levels of cortisol can affect your sleep; you may feel unusually tense and uptight or you might have panic attacks which have no rhyme or reason. Your feelings of fear and panic then shape your reality – you see things through your “fear glasses” and you interpret situations very differently from normal.
What else goes on in the workplace that can cause stress?
That means how we speak to each other. ‘Words create worlds’ and words mean different things to different people.
This is how it works: the words I use in a conversation with you, carry meaning from my past experiences. I bring those words and what they mean into our conversation so I can make sense of what you say to me.
And you do this too!
I love this quote:
“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realise that what you heard is not what I meant”. Pentagon Spokesman Robert McCloskey during a press briefing about the Vietnam war.
One way we can ensure we communicate effectively and reduce stress levels from conversations that don’t work, is to check in with the person we’re talking to. It’s not always easy. But the downside of not being ‘seen’ or ‘heard’ is that we carry this stress with us. One poor conversation has the ability to cloud all our conversations.
I have a client, I’ll call her Amy. Her boss was under the spotlight to improve his department’s sales figures. Lots of people were being made redundant and he was likely to be the next to go if things didn’t improve. Amy was told she had to increase her sales figures by 35% ; if she didn’t her boss would be fired and she would be following close behind. She wasn’t allowed to voice her feelings or offer her opinion.
Not surprisingly, Amy took her stress and fear home with her.
Conversations with her husband became tense and difficult. Amy jumped to the conclusion that he was unhappy in the relationship. Everything he said she construed as negative and against her. However, this wasn’t actually true.
She had constructed a story in her head and jumped to conclusions.
After working with Amy she was able to untangle and identify her feelings about her work situation and separate them from life with her husband. When we’re in the middle of a stressful situation, it’s not always easy to see what is really going on, which is why it’s good to get an outsider’s perspective.
Stress at work isn’t always as obvious as people worrying about their job security or hitting targets, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t present.
When you look deeper, when you look at how people relate to each other and how they speak to each other, how they empathise or support each other, that’s when you really see what is going on.
Life is made up of conversations. How good are the conversations you have at work or at home because here’s the thing; if you want to make them better, you can.
Contact me if you’d like to make changes that will impact your whole life.