Stress. We all have it in our lives. And unfortunately, the workplace is commonly noted as one of the major sources. While the sources of our stress at work are varied, understanding those sources can help us reduce or manage that stress more effectively. Let’s call those triggers for stress. And if we can reduce their frequency and impact, we can reduce the stress caused by work. Recognizing those triggers is the first step to reducing stress and improving both mental health and results at work.
Sources and Triggers
We each have our own hot buttons – words, phrases, and situations that can raise our stress and prompt nearly automatic responses. I’m not trying to catalog all those triggers for stress, but rather share a general list. Think about how this general list impacts you and those you work with. Then you can work to reduce their negative impact and start thinking about any personal trigger or hot buttons.
Let’s briefly consider six major sources of stress at work:
- The demands of the work. Have you ever felt overwhelmed with the amount of work or the complexity of it? Overwork is a clear trigger for stress.
- Lack of control over the work. Micromanagement is common trigger for stress. When people feel micromanaged, they will likely carry more stress and their mental health will be negatively affected.
- Lack of information, resources, or support. No one is ever stressed when they don’t have the tools to do their job, are they? When people have the tools in their toolkit and feedback on their progress their stress will be lower.
- Lack of clear expectations. It is hard to feel and be successful when you don’t know what success really is. Expectations define success in any work role.
- Poor relationships at work. Beyond a lack of connection and comradery, what about the impact of conflict or even bullying at work? When our relationships are frayed our stress is increased.
- Lack of engagement. You spend eight or more hours a day at a place where you don’t find meaning, purpose and are just going through the motions. Sounds like a recipe for stress to me.
It is one thing to know what the list of triggers for stress are. It is another to overcome them. But when you see the list there are steps you can immediately being working on reducing your triggers for stress.
As a leader, you should see that you are impacting all of them. If the stress level is high in your organization, look at this list and think about how you could improve one or more of them. Chances are you could make real progress, starting today.
If you are impacted by these specific issues personally, you don’t have to wait for your leader, or immediately look for a new job (though that might be a good option). You can work to be more proactive in many of these areas. Two obvious examples? You can ask for tools and feedback; you can work to build relationships. Be proactive and advocating for yourself will by itself start to change your stress level – and if those actions create real change your stress could be greatly reduced.
Removing the Triggers
If you remove the trigger from a firearm, it can’t really shoot. Similarly, if you remove the source of the stress, we will less likely be stressed! While humans are more complex than a firearm, when triggered bad things can manifest for us, just like that firearm. As you become more aware as a leader and self-aware as an individual of the triggers for stress you will be better equipped to reduce your stress levels.
Want to move past the triggers and improve your mental health? Want tools to help you build mental fitness for yourself and your team? Join us for the Fostering Our Mental Fitness virtual event April 13. Join seven experts and a community of like-minded learners as we learn tools, practices, approaches, and mindsets to improve our mental fitness. Get details and your free registration here.