Stress Management

Stress Management in Human Resource

Modern life is full of stress. As organization become more complex, the potential for stress increases. Urbanization, industrialization and increase in scale of operation are some of the reasons for rising stress. Stress is an inevitable consequence of socioeconomic complexity and, to some extent, its stimulant as well. People experience stress, as they can no longer have complete control over what happens in their lives. The telephone goes out of order, power is shut down, the water supply is disrupted, an expected promotion is denied, children perform poorly at school, prices of essential commodities increase disproportionately to income, etc. we feel frustrated, and then stressed.

There being no escape from stress in modern life. We need to find ways of using stress productively, and reducing dysfunctional stress.

Several terms that are synonymous with stress, or similar in meaning, have been used. In order to avoid confusion we will use the following terms: stress for stimuli that induce stress; stress for the affective (emotional) part in the experience of incongruence; symptoms for the physiological, behavioral and conceptual responses or changes: and coping for any behavior that deals with the emotional component in the experience of incongruence, e.g. stress. The term stress will be used here to refer to such terms and concepts as strain, pressure, etc. As already stated, role can be defined as a set of functions, which an individual performs in response to the expectations of the significant members of a social system, and his own expectations about the position that he occupies in it. The concept of role, and the two role systems (role space and role set) have a built-in potential for conflict and stress.
Stress is normal. Everyone feels stress related to work, family, decisions, your future, and more. Stress is both physical and mental. It is caused by major life events such as illness, the death of a loved one, a change in responsibilities or expectations at work, and job promotions, loss, or changes.

Smaller, daily events also cause stress. This stress is not as apparent to us, but the constant and cumulative impact of the small stressors adds up to big impact.

In response to these daily stresses, your body automatically increases blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, metabolism, and blood flow to your muscles. This stress response is intended to help your body react quickly and effectively to any high-pressure situation.

However, when you are constantly reacting to small or large stressful situations, without making physical, mental, and emotional adjustments to counter their effect, you can experience stress that can hurt your health and well-being.

It is essential that you understand both your external and internal stress-causing events, no matter how you perceive those events.

Stress can also be positive. You need a certain amount of stress to perform your best at work. The key to stress management is to determine the right amount of stress that will give you energy, ambition, and enthusiasm versus the wrong amount which can harm your health and well-being.

Important Stress Causing Issues, Characteristics and Traits

While each person is different and has different events and issues that cause stress, there are some issues that almost universally affect people. These are the stressors you most want to understand and take measures to prevent.

  1. Feeling out of control
  2. Feeling direction-less
  3. Guilt over procrastination or failing to keep commitments
  4. More commitments than time
  5. Change, especially changes you didn’t initiate or institute
  6. Uncertainty, an
  7. High expectations of self
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Effects of Stress at Work

Modern lifestyle is full of stress. You have not only to cope with challenges at work but also with stress that you take along with you to work. What adds to the problem is that in these difficult times when economy is bad, stress at home and workplace are on the rise.

Workplace stress grows in times of economic crisis. It is not only workers but also the managers and employers who have to come to terms with the changes that they see around them. While employers worry about how to cut budgets, employees are more worried about increased pressures to meet targets to ensure job safety.

Workplace stress can be equally difficult during a better economic condition. It can be caused by extreme pressure to perform beyond your capability or excessive competition and back biting at work. Sometimes high levels of workplace stress are actually caused by the high expectations that one sets from himself/herself.

It is important that you understand the various effects of workplace stress in order to combat the situation effectively. Workplace stress can result in physical, psychological, behavioral and emotional changes that can ultimately result in a poor performance, job loss, monetary issues and other health related issues as well.

Workplace stress can leave you overwhelmed. When you are overcome with a feeling of an impending disaster that seems to be looming large over you, you feel anxious, irritable or depressed. There is a sudden feeling of apathy and lack of enthusiasm and you suddenly loose interest in your work that you may have enjoyed earlier. You get fatigued more quickly and you have trouble in concentrating, which eventually shows on your performance. In fact, it seems as if you no longer have control over your abilities.

In addition, the anxiety and the accompanying stress lead to muscle tension, tension headaches, stomach problems and loss of interest in social activities. Since there is a great possibility that you bring your workplace problems home, you may find a loss in sex drive. Suddenly, the neighborhood pub seems to be the only place where you can drown your worries in alcohol.

If stress is interfering with your performance at workplace, wake up and take care of yourself. It is upon you to manage your life and take control of the situation. Try to assess what is causing the stress. This can sometimes be a very minor issue that you may have perceived as larger than what it really is and you may be able to handle on your own easily if you think it through with a clear head.

Reducing workplace stress may be as easy as joining a gym or doing some exercises at home. Exercising is a great anti-stress remedy that lifts your mood, keeps you alert, helps to focus and relaxes your mind and body. Make some more positive changes like organizing the way you work and take one thing at a time. You will find that it is not very difficult to manage workplace stress.

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Best Ways for Managing Stress

Some of the Worlds best ways for Managing Stress are:

Exercise

Physical exercise not only promotes overall fitness, but it helps you to manage emotional stress and tension as well. For one thing, exercise can emotionally remove one temporarily from a stressful environment or situation. Being fit and healthy also increases your ability to deal with stress as it arises.

Relaxation and meditation

There are many ways to use structured relaxation and meditation techniques to help control stress and improve your physical and mental well-being. While some types of meditation and relaxation therapies are best learned in a class, it’s also possible to learn meditation techniques on your own. There are literally hundreds of different types of relaxation methods ranging from audio CDs to group martial arts and fitness classes. The following are only examples of the types of structured programs available that can increase our capacity for relaxation:

Autogenic training:

Developed in the early 20th century, this technique is based upon passive concentration and awareness of body sensations. Through repetition of so-called autogenic “formulas” one focuses upon different sensations, such as warmth or heaviness, in different regions of the body. Autogenic training has been used by physicians as a part of therapy for many conditions. Popular in Europe (where it is even covered by some insurance plans), this method is currently gaining acceptance in the United States. No particular physical skills or exercises are involved; however, people desiring to learn this technique must be prepared to invest time and patience. Since this technique is slightly more complex than some relaxation methods, a course is generally the best way to learn the method.

Biofeedback:

Biofeedback is one method of learning to achieve relaxation, control stress responses, or modify the body’s reactions through the use of monitoring equipment that provides information from the body which would normally not be available. This method is based upon the principle first advanced in the early 1960s that the autonomic nervous system (the part we don’t consciously use) is trainable. For example, instruments can be used to measure heart rate, blood pressure, brain activity, stomach acidity, muscle tension, or other parameters while people experiment with postural changes, breathing techniques, or thinking patterns. By receiving this feedback, one can learn to identify the processes that achieve the desired result, such as reduction in heart rate and blood pressure. Biofeedback is used by many practitioners for a variety of psychological and physical conditions. Because the technique involves the use of measuring devices, it can only be performed by a professional.

Imagery:

Imagery, sometimes referred to as guided imagery, is the use of pleasant or relaxing images to calm the mind and body. By controlling breathing and visualizing a soothing image, a state of deep relaxation can occur. This method can be learned by anyone and is relatively easy to try out.

Meditation techniques:

Ranging from practices associated with specific religions or beliefs to methods focusing purely on physical relaxation, meditation is one of the most popular techniques to achieve physical and mental relaxation. There are thousands of different types of meditation, and many can be learned on your own. The meditative state is one in which there is a deep centering and focusing upon the core of one’s being; there is a quieting of the mind, emotions, and body. The meditative state can be achieved through structured (as in a daily practice of a routine) or unstructured (for example, while being alone outdoors) activities. While teachers of meditative arts are readily available, some techniques can be learned though books or online tutorials.

A form of meditation popularized in the last few decades is TM, or transcendental meditation. TM has the goal of achieving transcendental consciousness, or the simplest form of awareness. It is practiced for 15-20 minutes in the mornings and evenings and is relatively easy to learn. Numerous classes and teaching materials are available for beginners.

Another variant of a meditation technique has gained popularity in the U.S. since its description in the 1970s by Harvard physician Herbert Benson. This technique involves generation of the so-called relaxation response through the repetition of a word of phrase while quietly seated, 10-20 minutes per day. Designed to evoke the opposite bodily reaction to the stress response (or “fight or flight” reaction), this method carries no religious or spiritual overtones. Its value has been documented in the reduction of blood pressure and other bodily stress responses. Like other forms of meditation, it can be learned on one’s own, but time and practice are required to elicit the desired relaxation state.

Progressive muscle relaxation:

Progressive muscle relaxation is a method developed in the 1930s in which muscle groups are tightened and then relaxed in succession. This method is based upon the idea that mental relaxation will be a natural outcome of physical relaxation. Although muscle activity is involved, this technique requires no special skills or conditioning, and it can be learned by almost anyone. Progressive muscle relaxation is generally practiced for 10-20 minutes a day. As with the relaxation response, practice and patience are required for maximum benefits.

Yoga:

There are many forms of yoga, an ancient Indian form of exercise based upon the premise that the body and breathing are connected with the mind. The practice of yoga is thought to be over 5,000 years old. One goal of yoga is to restore balance and harmony to the body and emotions through numerous postural and breathing exercises. Yoga, which means “joining” or “union” in Sanskrit, has been called the “search for the soul” and the “union between the individual and the divine.” Among the benefits of yoga are increased flexibility and capability for relaxation. No special level of conditioning is required; yoga can be learned by nearly anyone. Classes, books, and videos are widely available. Those with special or chronic physical conditions will want to get clearance from their doctor before beginning.

Time management

Good time-management skills are critical for effective stress control. In particular, learning to prioritize tasks and avoid over-commitment are critical measures to make sure that you’re not overscheduled. Always using a calendar or planner, and checking it faithfully before committing to anything, is one way to develop time-management skills. You can also learn to identify time-wasting tasks by keeping a diary for a few days and noticing where you may be losing time.

For example, productivity experts recommend setting aside a specific time (or multiple times) each day to check and respond to email and messages rather than being a continual slave to incoming information. Banishing procrastination is another time-management skill that can be learned or perfected.
Organizational skills

If your physical surroundings (office, desk, kitchen, closet, car) are well-organized, you won’t be faced with the stress of misplaced objects and clutter. Make it a habit to periodically clean out and sort through the messes of paperwork and clutter that accumulate over time.

Support systems

People with strong social support systems experience fewer physical and emotional symptoms of stress than their less-connected counterparts. Loved ones, friends, business associates, neighbors, and even pets are all part of our social networks. Cultivating and developing a social support network is healthy for both body and mind.

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Best Ways to Reduce Stress

  • Identify causes of stress. Make honest assessments whether stress is related to your home and family, work or other relationship.

  • Share your thoughts and feelings with your loved ones.

  • Discuss the causes of stress, openly with those concerned.

  • Try to avoid unpleasant situations.

  • Realize that there are other people experiencing problems similar to yours.

  • Simplify your life.

  • Manage time and conserve energy. Make time for hobbies, recreational and social activities which  will help divert attention away from problems.

  • Follow a regular exercise programme. Practice a relaxation routine involving exercises, breathing patterns and meditations.

  • Seek help from professional organizations or self-help groups which offers support and advise.

  • Try to stay healthy.

  • Avoid drugs and alcohol.

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Job Stressors

Jobs Stressors refers to aspects of work that may invoke feelings of anxiety in a person. These are broken down into two groups, work-related job stressors and  people management related job stressors.

Work-related job stressors

  • Uncertainty of employment – a person may be on a contract and unable to perhaps apply for a housing loan or make long-term plans. Others may be aware that their job could be at risk as a result of an area review.

  • Control – an employee may have total responsibility for the outcome of their job but little or no control over the processes used or the resources allocated. This is a classic scenario for work stress.

  • Job content – the nature of the work itself can be stressful. For example if a person is in contact with the public and likely to be the recipient of abuse from angry or disgruntled consumers.

  • Workload – some areas may be under-resourced or have inefficient work systems in place. As a result staff may have a high workload. Most workers can cope with the pressure of high workload for reasonably short periods of time (such as at enrolment or exams). However when high workload is perceived as unrelenting, morale is eroded and job dissatisfaction develops.

  • Pace – in some jobs the pace of work is outside the control of the worker. A clear example is production line work. Some occupations at the University may be similar to this in as much as it may be impossible or very difficult for the worker to take a meal or toilet break.

  • Scheduling – in some positions the worker is not able to spread their workload evenly across the working day. The nature of the work may be stop-start and go against a worker’s natural work rhythm. For example, very little to do at the start of the day but a great rush approaching the end.

  • Social environment – obvious factors of this nature include overcrowded work environments or being required to work in isolation. The amount of stress derived from both these depends upon the individual. Another negative factor could arise when a person does not get on with or enjoy working with another staff member and rotation is not possible.

  • Physical environment – aspects of the physical environment that could contribute toward stress include poor ergonomics, bad lighting, high noise levels, dust, poor air circulation and extreme heat or cold, etc.

Management-related job stressors

  • Change management – successful change management is an important management skill. Staff should be consulted in the early stages of the process. At every phase they should be given a realistic picture of what is to be achieved, the processes involved and timeframes. When managed poorly, change can cause anxiety and low morale.

  • Supportive supervision – supportive supervisors will praise staff  for good work, rather than only speaking to them when they have performed poorly. Discussion of performance errors should always include strategies for improvement and a review of progress.

  • Role definition – lack of clarity of a person’s role, boundaries or who should give them orders, can lead to anxiety when conflicts occur. Staff should be encouraged to seek clearer definition of their role, particularly if the role is new or they are new to the area or organisation.

  • Feedback – this should be given whenever appropriate. This is most effective when it is provided as soon as possible after the event. As mentioned above, feedback should be provided for good as well as bad performance. Some managers ‘sandwich’ positive and negative feedback to lessen . Negative feedback should also include suggestions to remedy shortcomings.

  • Participation –  staff morale is higher when staff are encouraged to work as a team. High morale is often linked to high job satisfaction. Team-building is an important skill for managers to utilise.

  • Development – for some staff members the absence of opportunities to develop their skills and knowledge at work can cause frustration. This can also reduce morale.

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Causes of Stress

Best Definition of Stress is as follows:

“Situations, circumstances or any stimulus that is perceived to be a threat is referred to as a stressor, or that which causes or promotes stress.”

(Brian Luke Seaward)

ORGANIZATIONAL FACTORS CAUSING STRESS

  1. Task Demands
  2. Role Demands
  3. Interpersonal Demands
  4. Organizational Structure
  5. Organizational Leadership

ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS

  1. Economic Uncertainty
  2. Political Uncertainty
  3. Technological Uncertainty

INDIVIDUAL FACTORS

  1. Family Problems
  2. Economic Problems
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Ways to Cope with Role Stress

When individuals experience stress, they try to adopt ways of dealing or coping, with it, as they cannot remain in a continual state of tension. The word coping has been used mainly with two meaning—ways of dealing with stress, and the efforts to master harmful conditions, threat or challenge. We will use the term coping in the first sense (ways of dealing with stress), and distinguish between effective and ineffective coping.

Generally, effective coping strategies are approach strategies, which confront the problem of stress as a challenge, and increase the capability of dealing with it. Ineffective strategies are escape or avoidance strategies, which reduce the feeling of stress by, for example, denying the reality of stress, or through the use of alcohol drug or other aids to escapism.

Research has shown that social and emotional support helps a person to effectively cope with stress. Persons maintaining close interpersonal relationships with friends and family are able to use more approach strategies. Social support includes material support (providing resources) and emotional support (listening to the person and encouraging him). However, studies have also shown that unsolicited support may have negative consequences. Approach or effective strategies of coping includes effort to increase physical and mental readiness to cope (through physical exercises, yoga and meditation, diet management), creative diversions for emotional enrichment (music, art, theatre, etc), and strategies of dealing with the basic problems causing stress, and collaborative work to solve such problems. It is useful for individuals and organizations to examine the strategy that they are using to cope with stress. The absence of a coping strategy may lead to ineffectiveness.

Coping is also related to the quality and emotional reactions.

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