There is a sabre-toothed tiger in your office!
A new email has just arrived in your inbox and only after seeing a sender name you feel that your body gets tensed, your breath pace changes. And your heart starts to beat faster.
So, although you’re seating in the aircon office and you can see no sabre-toothed tiger around, nature pumps a powerful cocktail of survival hormones into your veins. The same one that was bolstering our cave ancestors to run from danger or to fight it immediately.
We no longer need to confront the sabre-toothed tigers hiding in the darkness. But, we do have to deal with the harmful impact of the stress reaction triggered in inappropriate situations. Or in the circumstances that cannot be instantly evaded or fought.
How often do we meet our tigers?
Our “modern tigers” – things, events or people that make us stressed – many times form a part of our lives and we come across them every day without a possibility to run away.
Money, work, health concerns and failure to get enough sleep – these are the most repeated causes of stress, according to the recent study conducted by Forth on the diverse British group of 2000 participants.
Also, the same research revealed that 85 % of UK adults are experiencing stress regularly. Over a third of the participants claimed that they were too stressed throughout their day to day lives. What is interesting, even more Brits taking part in the survey were seriously concerned about the impact that stress can have on their health and life. Do they have a reason to worry?
Can your tigers really harm you, your beloved ones…or your employer?
While an instant reaction to the situation of danger has been helping a mankind to survive, a long-lasting exposure to stress without releasing the tension can lead to such severe disorders as general physical and emotional fatigue, frequent headaches, colds, and digestion problems. The high dose of cortisol in the long term can also influence sugar and blood pressure levels and have a negative impact on the libido.
When you go into a mode of the fight because of the stress state, you can find yourself irritated and even show aggressive behaviours towards others. While this attitude can help when facing a predator, it can negatively impact your personal and work relationships when triggered in the inappropriate situation.
In contrast, when instead of fight mode, flight mode is activated towards adverse circumstances you will try to avoid facing the situation instead of solving it. This approach can be a cause of stress level escalation as the problem will not disappear only because you´ll leave a room where you were discussing it.
Working with not domesticated tigers
Stress is a physical reaction designed to prepare us to take immediate, also physical, action. When blood flow is going only to the most important muscles needed to fight or run, brain function is minimized. It can explain why we´re getting disoriented and dazed, losing a capability of thinking clearly.
While work is cited as one of the most widespread stressors, it’s interesting to see how stress influences the productivity, engagement, absenteeism and at the end of the day a company’s outcome. Knowing the physical and mental syndromes of excessive stress, the results of The Global Benefits Attitudes survey conducted on 22,347 employees across 12 countries shouldn´t be a big surprise:
Over 50% of employees who reported an excessive level of pressure also felt disengaged. The number of sick days was doubled by highly stressed employees in comparison to their colleagues not suffering from increased stress level.
According to Rebekah Haymes, Director and GB Flex Practice Lead at Towers Watson the research made evident a relation between high levels of stress and reduced productivity:
“A third of respondents said they are often bothered by excessive pressure in their job and this can lead to higher instances of disengagement and absenteeism –clear indicators of low productivity in the workplace.”
How to tame your tigers?
How to keep our minds calm and teach our body to perceive a troubling email as an email and not as a sabre-toothed tiger? How to enjoy our favourite weekend TV series, about this insanely handsome doctor, without switching to our ancestral flight or fight mode when suddenly, out of nowhere we remember our “to-do” but “not-done” list.
There are dozens of suggestions what to do to calm our minds and reduce stress impact on our lives. To mention some of them which for sure are worth trying:
- Physical Activity: helps with relaxation and pumps you with the feel-good endorphins
- Breathing Break: slows your heart rate and decrease blood pressure
- Quitting Caffeine, Alcohol, Nicotine and…Sugar: as those substances are strong nervous system stimulants