It is no surprise that individuals have reported higher levels of stress during the pandemic. A survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) published in May 2020, reported that Americans’ stress levels have increase by 10% since the same period last year – the highest reported increase since the survey started in 2007. Despite the fact that stress is a normal bodily function, short and long term stress have been linked to memory loss, high blood pressure, the formation of artery clogging deposits, and even changes in the brain which can lead to higher anxiety levels, depression, addiction, obesity, and insomnia (Harvard Medical School).
However, in business terms, what does chronic stress mean? As the second leading cause of stress, work can be seen as a direct source to people’s worry (APA) – money is the first source and often times, it is directly linked to work. Interestingly enough, despite the erroneous belief that stress inducing/ cut-throat work environments can lead to a more efficient and productive company, chronic stress-driven environments has been shown to negatively affect a company’s bottom line. For example, highly stressful workplaces tend to spend 50% more in health care services (BMC Public Health). In the US, more than 50% of workplace injuries can be attributed to stress (The Harvard Business Review).
Stress can often induce the body to activate the famously known fight-or-flight response. In chronically stressed workplaces, individuals may begin with a balanced physiological reaction to said stress, but in the medium to long run, prolonged stress often leads to higher rates of disengagement. Disengagement is a problem in itself as it leads to 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, and a 60% increase in errors (Queens School of Business).
Stress is simply part of life, it is an important mechanism for humans to survive and thrive. However, given the side-effects of stress, it is in the benefit of organizations and individuals to develop, employ, and partake in methods that can be of assistance in coping with stress for a better quality of life, on a human level, and better key performance indicators (KPIs) results, on an organizational level.
In fact, a study published in the BMC Public Health employed stress management mechanism to a controlled group which consisted of the following:
Astounding results were observed as a result of the study. Individuals in the controlled group experienced a drop in stress levels from 52% to 16% and sick leaves were reduced from 48% to 27%.
There are several different methods to coping with stress in a healthy manner. They can range from partaking in exercises or hobbies to seeking professional help or employing in relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation. One method that has presented itself as a reliable form of reducing stress is practicing mindfulness.
To put it simply, mindfulness utilizes of meditation techniques to pay attention to the present moment in a non-judgmental way (New York Times). The non-judgmental part of the equation is key as an individual’s self-imposed ambitions and, consequently, judgments can be a source of a lot of stress. Further, by focusing on the present moment, one enables themselves to stop dwelling on the past, and worrying or setting expectations over the future – which can also be a source of anxiety when done excessively.
Several individuals may shy away from stress relieving practices by referring to the fact that they lack the time to dedicate to it. However, some meditation practices can be quite short and do not take much time away. It is important to instead, focus on the several positive effects that a 20-30 minutes brake can have on one’s personal and professional life.
Conveniently enough, in light of COVID-19, there are several resources online that can assist individuals on starting their mindfulness journey. Below, we have listed some:
Contrary to the common belief, mindfulness is not about emptying one’s mind of every and all thoughts that take place when one concentrate/ practice mindfulness. Rather, it is about paying attention to such thoughts, the impacts they have on body and mind, and then coming back to the present after analysing said instances. As a result, practicing our ability to focus on the present moment and better understanding our sources of stress, and then, hopefully, being better equipped to dealing with them.
Such skills can be incredibly powerful while undergoing a crisis as individuals are subject to highly stressful situations and, normal activities such as surfing the web or watching TV can also be perceived as stress inducing. By enhancing our ability to stay focused in the present through the issuance of kind acceptance in a non-judgmental light, one enables oneself to be better focused while following a good quality of life.
Stress is part of being human and, being able to learn how to cope with it is an essential skill that can help individuals and companies achieve their short and long term goals while sustaining a healthy quality of life. It can help companies lower their sick leave requests and health care costs, while also boosting employee performance and engagement. It is never too late to start focusing on enhancing your emotional and psychological resilience and, in light of recent events, everyone can benefit from a deep, mindful, and focuses breath.
The opinions in this article is of the authors and do not reflect clients or other’s views.