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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Coping With Stress


Written By: Bryan Baines         

  People always talk about how stressed out they are. Everyone wants to be stress free, but whether people want to admit it or not, stress is an integral part of our lives. It can frustrate us, motivate us, shut us down, or build us up. Many times stress is the driving force behind our productivity, but we don’t realize it. The truth is stress will always be present in our lives, and it’s how we cope with this stress that shapes who we are.
            Often times, the most stressful part of someone’s life is their job. Job deadlines and multiple projects create a sense of urgency and time pressure. Along with social stressors and responsibility pressures, job stress can mount up dramatically. Built up stress can have serious effect on people. Stress can decrease the usefulness of the body’s immune system; weaken the cardiovascular system, cause problems in the musculoskeletal system, and gastrointestinal system troubles. Along with these physiological areas, stress can affect the psychological areas of the body and cause depression, anger, memory loss and many other sociological issues. When stress becomes too much, the body suffers from burnout. Companies have taken notice, and many have begun to take steps to help their employees deal with stress. This benefits both the employees and the companies themselves. According to Dr. Paul Rosch from the American Institute of Stress, he estimates that annual stress-related costs to employers are as high as $150 billion.
            Stress management programs have been the most common way that employers help their employees to deal with job related stress. These programs can teach employees methods as simple as take a deep breath and counting to ten, or how to engage in peaceful meditation. Since every employee is different, companies know that they need to offer a wide range of possible programs. Newer programs teach employees cognitive-behavioral skills. These programs teach employees to view failures as learning opportunities. While company-sponsored stress management programs are effective, the company can’t rely on them alone. The company needs to also look at how they can reduce organizational stress. They can do this by offering extra training to employees to reduce the feeling of incompetence in their jobs, or experimenting with performance-based bonuses. Other companies allow employees to work from home some days, or allow them to take every other Friday off provided their work is completed.
            From a personal perspective, one can cope with stress using coping strategies. These strategies include behavioral methods and cognitive methods. Behavioral coping includes the physical activities used to deal with a stressful situation. Cognitive coping includes thoughts used to deal with stressful situations. In order for these methods to be utilized effectively, they need to have a focus. The textbook divides the focus into either problem-focused or emotion-focused coping. Problem-focused coping involves the behaviors and perceptions that people take on to control the stressful situation as a whole. This often consists of adaptive behavior – people will change the way they act in order to address a certain stressor. This type of stress response will often give a person a better sense of control over the situation. For example, if someone has a tight deadline and they are stressed about getting it done, they can make a list of the things they need to do before the deadline. This will help them feel as though they have a grip on things and will be able to accomplish their goal before the deadline. The other focus of coping is emotional-focused coping. Emotion-focused coping involves the different ways that people control their emotional responses to stressful situations. This can include seeking support, venting anger, taking your mind off of things by doing something else, avoiding the situation, or looking for the ‘silver lining’ in a bad situation.
            By understanding how people cope with stress, we will become better at helping people when they experience stress. To learn how people cope with stress, we look at the method, or in many cases methods, they choose to handle stress. Do they seek support or do they shutdown? People will most often choose the method that best caters to the situation they face. For example, when people face tight deadlines at work they may make a list of the tasks they have to complete before the deadline. They probably will not reach out and seek support. However, if someone experienced a death in the family, they would probably seek support over making a list of tasks to get done.
            Stress in the workplace often arises when people are faced with a task or situation that they are not familiar with or not comfortable with. At Dow Chemical in Midland, MI, workers cited boss interactions as a prominent stressor in the workplace. In response, the company taught employees about “mindful communication” to be able to effectively communicate with upper management. Companies are realizing that their employees’ physiological and psychological well being directly affects the companies’ productivity, so it is in their best interest to help them.

References

Eisenbarth, C. (2012). Coping profiles and psychological distress: a cluster analysis. North American Journal of Psychology14(3), 485. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA312401773&v=2.1&u=lom_oaklandu&it=r&p=HRCA&sw=w
Freudenheim, Milt. "Business and Health; Coping With Stress at Work - New York Times." The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/1987/05/26/business/business-and-health-coping-with-stress-at-work.html?src=pm>.
SHELLENBARGER, SUE. "The Best Ways to Manage Office Stress - WSJ.com." The Wall Street Journal - Breaking News, Business, Financial and Economic News, World News & Video - Wall Street Journal - Wsj.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2013. <http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872
Vernarec, E. (2001). How to cope with job stress. Rn64(3), 44-46.

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