I took a small break from writing on Stress Prevention, but we’re back to discuss how we apply what we learned about those vital 6 steps to almost any organization, including households! To me, “organization” is an umbrella term and I really prefer it to “workplace” or “home life,” because much of what we can apply to our personal lives for long-term wellness, we can apply to the workplace as well. Just how a healthy, happy family requires strong leadership and role models, so does a healthy and productive workplace.
American companies have historically been very resistant in admitting that the workplace is stressful. Studies show how stressful they can be, and employees usually don’t shy away from discussing it, contributing more to a negative culture full of absenteeism, elevated health insurance costs, and productivity issues. My slide below reminds us of the mind-blowing statistic of just how many doctor visits are due to stress related symptoms!
My slide below reminds us of the mind-blowing statistic of just how many doctor visits are due to stress related symptoms! Remember that it’s not the sources of stress alone that have long-term negative effects for our health, it’s the counterproductive coping mechanisms and the unique stress reactions in our bodies that–when uncontrolled and lasting–snowball into stress related illnesses.
And remember why long-term stress is bad for the heart: Elevated blood pressure and repetitive adrenal responses thicken the blood as a “fight or flight” reaction which puts unnecessary pressure on our hearts and surrounding arteries.
And that’s really what we’re trying to prevent. No one can take away deadlines, communication needs, and “fires,” but we truly can prevent those individualized reactions stemming from those exterior sources of stress. Organizational stress prevention must holistically evaluate sources and individual reactions to stress while mitigating both through cultural and environmental efforts.
The Federal Aviation Association, as one might assume, has some very stressful environments. Imagine working the airport traffic tower like my Grandpa did for decades or operating planes daily! The F.A.A. told stress researches in the mid 90′s that if they acknowledge that their workplace is stressful, it’d only make things worse. As a coach, that’s like a client telling me that if they acknowledge their emotional eating habits, it’ll only make it worse! Stress symptoms eventually catch up to us in a big way if we stick our heads in the sand and ignore it. Europe and Canada have a very different approach compared to the U.S. They operate with the assumption that it’s up to leadership to create lower stress environments, whereas American organizations tend to leave it up to the employees. I think it takes both a top to bottom and a bottom to top approach for long-term stress prevention to take hold in any organization.
This isn’t something we change overnight, of course, and for something as everlasting as stress, why not take our time and do it well?
Next time we’ll discuss how organizations go about evaluating and implementing stress prevention for the long term in a 1 year program. We’re all responsible and capable of preventing stress and creating the types of environments we want to be a part of!