Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Stress Resilience and Management

Written by:  Sonia Zafar

When observing stress in a workplace, it can be seen that some employees seem to be more resistant to stress than others. According to Dr. Redford Williams, this is caused by different personalities that people have. Some people do not experience negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, anger, etc. that can lead to stress. The people who are less resistant to stress are more sensitive when experiencing such emotions. Life experiences also tend to cause some people to be less or more resilient to stressful situations. People who have had a rough childhood tend to get stressed out faster than those who did not. The book discusses the “transactional theory of stress” which explains how stressors are perceived and appraised. When a person first encounters stressors, they evaluate the importance of the stressors. Those who are less resilient are also at a higher risk of developing psychiatric disorders such as PTSD and depression.

Guillén Fernández of the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behavior stated that “Exposure to stress causes fundamental changes in the state of the brain, and the brain’s response to stress differs widely among individuals” (Costandi, 2010). Stress causes hormones such as cortisol to be released which leads to high alertness and those who are more vulnerable to stress tend to stay alert long after the stressful situation is over. Fernández and his colleagues published a recent study in which they provide evidence that there is a link between sensitivity to stress and the variations in the gene encoding ADRA2B (Costandi, 2010). The research stated that the participants who carry a common variation in the gene receptor had higher response to stress than those who did not have the variation.  

According to Rebecca Maxon, “Three out of every four American workers describe their work as stressful…workplace stress costs U.S. employers an estimated $200 billion per year in absenteeism, lower productivity, staff turnover, workers’ compensation, medical insurance and other stress-related expenses…60% of lost workdays each year can be attributed to stress and 75-90% of visits to health care providers are due to stress-related conditions” (Maxon, 1999). As a result of this, providing stress management assistance would decrease employers’ expenses that are caused by stress. One would think that stress is something people would experience most outside of work especially during a major life event. But according to the Holmes-Rahe Life Events Scale, workplace related stress is one of the most common type of stress. Because stress management techniques are not very commonly taught in most workplaces, aggression and violence in the workplace has also been in the rise. The U.S. Justice Department estimated that each year roughly a million people are victims of violence at work which accounts for 15% of the violent crime in the country.

The issue of stress in the workplace can be solved if employees are given knowledge on how to manage stress. The first step is to assess the levels of stress. The book mentions a “stress audit” which is a way managers can question themselves about the jobs their employees have and whether high stress levels may be a problem for them. The second step is to try and reduce or eliminate the stressors. For example, if one person in a company is given too much of a workload, their job performance can drastically decrease. In order to reduce the stress, the company can consider job sharing which would split the work and decrease stress for all parties involved. The book also mentions another way of how companies can reduce stressors, which is an employee sabbatical. This is a paid leave opportunity in order to take part in another activity such as volunteer work or to go back to school.

Learning about how some people are more resilient to stress than others can help create a workplace environment that is comfortable for all employees. Just because one person may be able to tolerate stress does not mean that his or her coworkers/employees are the same. By keeping that in mind, employees will not experience stress from a large workload which ultimately can reduce costs incurred by stress related issues. If stress is already an issue in the workplace, it is important to assess the situation and make sure that employees are able to manage the stress.

Costandi , M. (2010, October 04). Stress and the brain: What makes some of us more vulnerable than others? . Retrieved from
Maxon, R. (1999). Stress in the workplace: A costly epidemic. Retrieved from
Williams, R. (2008, November 21). Do we know why some people feel 'less stressed' than others or just cope better with stress?. Retrieved from

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