How to reduce workplace stress with one quick tip

ShowUp Team | Published: September 22, 2020
Workplace Culture

When it comes to building a better culture at work, having trust within the team is the ultimate advantage. With trust, team members are engaging with authenticity as there is a sense of belonging built within the working relationships. Individuals work harmoniously with each other in that they are in alignment with the direction of the vision and understand where their responsibilities are. In his article on building effective teams, Andy Coombe emphasize that trust in a workplace comes from an aligned culture. It is based on an unwritten collective agreement to make decisions that benefit the team and honor the self-discipline to leave the ego at home.

Deepak Chopra refers to this as “giving to someone without hesitation” to advance the team as a whole vs individual pursuits. Chopra distinguishes between being a giver and taker and sees a giver as someone who incorporates empathy into their decision making while acknowledging the needs and concerns of the team; whereas a taker is all about “what’s in it for me”.

The difference between being a giver or taker at work stems from the ability to incorporate kindness and openness in discussions and a want to build on gaining new perspective to guide decisions. This interpersonal phenomena is essential for a company to sustain growth and recognition. But the best givers can becomes takers when stress dictates their emotional response in decision making. It is not possible to be open to new perspective when the biological stress response is in overdrive and personal energy is being consumed with learning how to survive in a stressful environment. Where there is ongoing stress in work environments, there is a lack of trust within the team.

People at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress

Trust is not linear. Rather it flows back and forth between the lines of interpersonal relationships. Once trust is lost in a relationship, it takes a lot of work to get it back. This starts with you and your own awareness of your emotional reaction in any given situation. Impulsive reactions are one example of a stress driven emotional reaction. These type of reactions can shut down conversations and add fuel to angry words. When you find yourself in such a reactive state, it is a warning sign that you are acting from a place of a “fight or flight” biological force. A result from an overactive stress response. The outcome of a prolonged reactive state leads to further criticisms, dysfunctional communication, and unresolved conflicts. The domino effect includes the unwillingness to trust others and then gaining someone’s trust is beyond reach.

One of the most frustrating things about impulsiveness and lashing out at others is knowing that you are stressed out and not being able to do anything about it in that moment. With a background in Nursing, I understand the biology of the stress response, and I have see first hand the consequences of unresolved stress. Having been immersed in the field of Science in Nursing, my profession affords me the advantage of working with a variety of stress theories. Sure it’s a no-brainer to know what is causing you stress, and there may be times or transitions in your life where you will need to endure ongoing stressful situations. What then becomes crucial is knowing how your body reacts to stress, what activates your own stress response and the symptoms it leaves you with. For more on the different stress theories check out this link.

One constant fact is that we are biologically hard-wired to deal with stress; if we weren’t, the human species would have died off long ago. Stress is a natural part of everyday life and that’s not going to change, but your ability to change the physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral impacts you endure from an overactive stress response is what you have the power over changing. This can lead you to greater success in managing your emotions in stressful situations all the while protecting your relationships at work. I want you to focus on how you can help yourself by helping your stress response get back to its resting state. This is such important work because when living in a heightened stress state, your work relationships suffer and there will come a point when your biological processes start to work against your own health.

Some clear signs are:

  • You feel stressed all the time (never ending).
  • Your emotional response is out of proportion to the given situation (impulsive reaction).
  • Your symptoms disrupt your ability to complete tasks at work.
  • You are unable to relax at work or at home.
  • You start to isolate yourself from your co-workers.
  • You feel physically ill with the thought of going to work.
  • You experience physical, mental, and emotional side effects.

How to recognize the signs and stop the cycle.

No one can think clearly when they are living with the biological percussion’s of cumulative stress. The key is to interrupt the emotional reaction before it becomes a severe debilitating response that ruins work relationships.

You can start to recognize that your stress response activates physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral symptoms unique to you. Make a list of what you need to watch out for. When you are aware of what is happening and can understand the biological component that is making it happen, you are giving yourself the best chance to interrupt its intensity.

Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.

Some examples include:

Physical symptoms

Any symptom that has a measurement. This can include an increase in heart rate or heart palpitations where you feel you heart is skipping beats, any change in breathing pattern, chest tightness, a change in your voice - either to a high pitch or becoming hoarse, ringing or burning in your ears, increase in thirst, sweating or clammy skin, and many digestive issues. What is happening is that your body is responding to your increased need for oxygen and energy which is triggered by the activation of your stress response to release more cortisol.

Mental symptoms

Any symptom that affects your thought process such as the inability to concentrate, or you start to second guess yourself. It also affects your trust in others as you start to obsess over things and second guess what your co workers are doing. This impacts your ability to make sound judgements, or to think critically. Accumulation of cortisol directly impacts the process of storing and recalling information so you may find yourself at a loss for words, or having short term memory issues.

Emotional symptoms

Ongoing sadness, irritability, anger, guilt, anxiousness, and fear. With an increase in circulating cortisol, your feel good neurotransmitter serotonin decreases thereby decreasing your ability to feel happy, calm, or get a restful night sleep. These emotions can also trigger further self destructive thoughts, depressive episodes and a decrease in self worth.

Behavioral symptoms

The secondary effects of the physical, mental, and emotional symptoms can result in restlessness, being easily distracted, clumsiness, constant fidgeting, and a heightened startle reflex also known as “jumpiness”. You may also find you are clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth. This is a common behavior at night when you are trying to sleep.

For more on stress related symptoms check out:

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Article #2

When you notice any of the above symptoms in yourself give yourself permission to take a step back, concentrate on your breathing and ask yourself:

  1. What is it that’s really pushing my buttons here?
  2. Why am I reacting so strongly?
  3. What’s the worst thing that could happen?
  4. What can I do to honor my integrity and maintain trust in this relationship?

How to maintain trust in your work relationships starts with keeping yourself in check by being aware of your warning signs. Once symptoms emerge, it is up to you to acknowledge that you are in a stressed state, be honest with yourself and do what you need to do to remove yourself from the situation. This is to give you time to concentrate on your breath, and to seek out a support. Even with this minimal thought process detour, you are breaking the ‘fight or flight” activation and allowing your body to start the process of getting back to its resting state.

Your personality can be a signal to why you may find a situation more stressful than the next person. Drawing on psychology and behavioral science, your personality is made up of your life experiences in each environment you were exposed to as a child and the learned behaviors your memory stored long term to prepare you should another similar event happen. All it takes is one trigger, even when the situation is completely different, to activate your fear response and put yourself in defense mode. Together, your personality and your emotional attachment to past experiences make up your unique perception on how you perceive your environment and what meaning you give to the situation. It is in this sense that you may find yourself encountering many physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral symptoms in a particular situation that another person may not.

Reflective questions to build self awareness include:

  • Are you confident or unsure of yourself in this situation?
  • Are you self secure (honest with yourself) or a people-pleaser at work?
  • Can you handle change that is out of your control at work?
  • Can you remain calm and reasonable in any work crisis?
  • Are you forgiving of others mistakes and criticisms at work?
  • Can you handle constructive feedback even when it comes across as a criticism?
  • Can you articulate your needs with assertiveness?

For more on personality check out this article

My biggest lesson on stress has been that if you don’t get the message your body is sending you from the symptoms you are experiencing the first time, you are apt to get a more intense message the next time. Having trust within your team at work can decrease your stress level in your work environment. Becoming self aware of your own stress response, owning it, and being able to maneuver your once emotional reaction into an appropriate assertive response will signify to others that you can be dependent on to handle yourself and others with kindness in stressful situations.

With that skill you will be able to gain the trust of others.

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