It has been a long winter, and many are finding the endless snow days, the difficult and dangerous road conditions and the inability to get out and carry on business very frustrating. However, stress is not necessarily the boogey man that many people fear. In fact, the human race would not have survived without it.
There are two kinds of stress. One is eustress, which is positive stress. It actually inspires people to action and produces energy necessary to accomplish great things. Things like cramming last minute for an exam or preparing for an important presentation can, when they are met and conquered, trigger the production of immunoglobulins. Immunoglobulins are a type of protein that strengthen the immune system.
For instance, this prior Sunday our church found out last minute we did not have an organist. Thankfully, Larry MacKinnon jumped in and within 15 minutes had a beautiful selection of music which he played on his guitar. He was amazing. It was the stress and urgency of the situation which enabled him to achieve this.
Conversely, stress we cannot change or control, such as the economy, stock market declines, or the wars in Syria and Afghanistan, diminish the immunoglobulin production and weaken the immune system. This results in us being more susceptible to mental fatigue or physical illnesses.
If stress is too great, is repetitive, or lasts for an extended period of time, it becomes negative stress or distress. This stress drains our energy and could result in anything from mild anxiety, to a deep depression. This could eventually immobilize us.
Here is the good news. We can turn our distress into positive eustress by taking control of our thoughts and looking optimistically into the future.
A study by researchers at the Universities of California and Miami shows that people who consciously remind themselves every day of the good things for which they are grateful, instead of dwelling on what they don’t have, show significant improvement in their mental as well as physical health.
The results were true for both healthy college students as well as people with incurable diseases.
Here are a few ideas that will help you deal with the stress you are feeling:
1. Write a daily gratitude diary listing at least one positive thing about your life. There are smart phone apps that help discipline you to do this.
2. Your brain is more open to external suggestion within 20 minutes after waking up. Only allow positive messages in. During that time don’t listen to, read, or watch the news. It is typically full of negativity.
3. Make an emotional connection with someone who makes you feel comfortable. As well, reconnect spiritually according to your beliefs.
4. Find someone who needs help more than you — and go help them. Of all other suggestions, this may be the best. By helping others you actually help yourself.
5. Surround yourself with happy people. There is research that says the body absorbs the negative or positive emotions of those within eight feet around you.
As a manager, watch for signs that indicate when someone may be experiencing the initial stages of overload. People can avoid going down the path of distress if they are able to connect with a trusted friend, family member or coworker.
In fact, right now I am sitting in Budley’s enjoying their “all day” breakfast at the Charlottetown airport waiting for a flight which has been delayed three times. This means I will also miss my connection. So, instead of feeling frustrated and upset, I have taken the opportunity to write this article.
My question for managers this week: “Are you providing an open door and a willingness to listen when an employee is feeling the impact of the winter strain?”