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Stress Awareness at Work

April is Stress Awareness Month. As we come out of a 2-year pandemic, watch what is happening in Ukraine, and try to understand new business dynamics there is a lot to be aware of. A lot of stress to be dealt with. And as business leaders, it is up to us to help understand, to empathise with any work-related stress co-workers may be experiencing.

What does stress mean to you?

There is no single definition for stress. Everyone experiences stress, but it can be in many different ways. It can affect more than your mind. Think of when you find yourself finding it hard to catch your breath in a tense moment. Or how about wringing your hands when you are worried?

It’s important to recognise when you are stressed. Watch for tightening muscles, mood swings, tiredness, and hand clenching. Stress can manifest itself in many ways.

Stress Awareness in Others

Stress awareness is also about being aware of others. Giving support to colleagues when they are feeling upset, angry or frustrated goes a long way to making the office, even online, a better environment to work in.

Many things can affect our mood, from issues at home, to workloads, even technology. If you are a leader, importantly awareness is first about support and then about causality. Once stress has been tackled, the underlying issues can be addressed.

Some quick tips to relieve stress in the office

There are countless techniques for relieving stress such as yoga, meditation, exercise, and simply walking in nature. None of these are particularly easy to do in your office. What you can do is use your senses to help alleviate stress.

I can recommend a few simple sense awareness tips to help with stress whilst at your desk. Some will be a little easier than others, depending on your surroundings.

Breathing: Place a hand on your stomach and notice your breath. If it is a bit fast, focus on slowing it down. Focusing on the cadence of the in and out of your breath does wonders for calming stress.

Seeing: Look at a favourite photo on your desk. Or if there isn’t one, close your eyes and bring to mind a remembered peaceful place.

Touching: Give yourself a hand or neck massage.

Moving: Get up from your desk and go stare out a window or artwork on the wall. A change of view really helps to alleviate stress.

Here are an additional 12 ways to eliminate stress at work from Forbes.

This leads nicely into one of our Henka Competencies

Automatic Survival Behaviour (ASB)

Our brains are twice as likely to be triggered into a Protect state of mind (i.e., ASB’s of fight, flight, freeze, appease) versus a Connect state. This is further aggravated when a person feels under pressure or stress – they retreat into Automatic Survival Behaviours, unable to see the forest for the trees.

In this Protect state of mind saboteurs (aka automatic negative thoughts, negative self-talk, gremlins, annoying voices in the head) emerge to wreak havoc; they offer a distorted, narrow and judgemental lens through which to view the world and inhibit a person’s true potential. Absolutely everyone has Saboteurs!

Tell-tale signs of a Saboteur at play are when someone starts using the words ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘ought to’ or ‘have to’... judgement dominates the thinking, and discernment is barely visible. Here it’s worth asking “Who’s talking? You or your ‘shoulds’?”

The Henka Model

The Henka Model is about sustainable transformation and growth through the application of a coaching leadership philosophy that is collaborative, inspiring, empathetic, supportive, and yes, rarely directive

As stress awareness is very important in the workplace, I believe we can help alleviate stress levels by being aware, and not just in April, but every month of the year.

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