The 5 Most Common Work Stress and Anxiety Issues and What We Can Do About Them.

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Burnout

By Sarah Kopinsky – Burnouts are anything but new. The term was first introduced by Herbert Freudenberger in an article published in Scientific American Mind in 1974. Freudenberger explained a burnout as being in “state of mental and physical exhaustion caused by one’s professional life”. A state not easily reached, but the severity of which must not be underplayed. A state of Burnout may occur to highly competent, mentally healthy and mostly well-adjusted people who were adept at handling highly stressful situations. The problem would arise when stress became constantly and consistently applied in the workplace – the responsibilities and requirements became increasingly more difficult and even burdensome to fulfill.

Professionals were often required to perform highly efficiently – some without receiving any further necessary training that would accompany working longer hours, operating potentially advanced systems and machinery. The demands became too high. (Rajvinder, 2019). 45 Years later, researchers found that professionals still reported high exhaustion and disengagement. 40% of the participants explained that their challenging work conditions, in closed environments, caused much stress (Demerouti, Veldhuis, Coombes, & Hunter, 2018). 

“Burnout is a state of mental and physical exhaustion caused by one’s professional life”

Freudenberger (1974)

Anxiety

Anxiety is derived from the human ‘fight or flight’ instinct mechanism. When humanity was in its “hunter/gatherer” infancy, a skeptical mindset attuned to danger served us well and kept us, and our family and village alive. However, when stress is constantly applied to the human nervous system, and, indeed, reinforced – by environmental, survival and predatory factors – the human body will often take over and reach a state of what we would today call an “overreaction”. Symptoms of this natural phenomenon include increased heart rate, hyperventilation, panic attacks, dizziness, chest pain, headaches, sweating, feelings of suffocation, tremors, emotional instability and a state of detachment – the emergence of which may have to be dealt with in psychological therapy. If these symptoms are ignored, the body will often engage in a “system reset”, which, de facto, causes the burnout.

Problems arise when stress becomes constantly and consistently

The Global Cost

Studies regarding worldwide costs (resulting from a wide, global misunderstanding of the importance of an individual’s mental health and well-being) are starting to surface and the results can very much be deemed “unsettling”. In a study conducted by the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics in 2014, it was found that, on average, 1 million Dutch employees showed symptoms of burn-out. The study reported a loss of 7.555.000 workdays, costing employers €1.8 Billion.

Hence, health and research organizations urge companies and institutions to push for the creation and application of a new work-culture where employees will be given more freedom and space. If untreated, Burnout symptoms can develop and evolve into (sometimes) chronic depression, which would naturally negatively impact and affect both the worker and the workplace. Estimated mental health costs, for depression alone, could cost companies, worldwide, 12 billion working days and around $16 trillion by 2030 (Lepine & Briley, 2011; WHO, 2012). British hospital admissions have already increased by 37% between 2008 and 2018 (Thomson, 2018). 7 out of 10 of these admissions were caused by “work-related stress” issues. In The UK 115.913.000 days were lost costing £7.9 billion a year. ISMA-USA (2001) estimated a 300 Billion stress-related industry cost for the U.S.

Benefits of Organisational Care:

1) Heightened company profits, enhanced employees’ life quality and lower turnover rates

2) Increased customer satisfaction, loyalty and (existing) client base growth.

3) Less absenteeism, lower illness rates and fewer incident risks.

Research demonstrated how coaching programs helped prevent burnouts and increased employee and corporate health and productivity (Navare 2008; Hicks, Carter & Sinclar, 2013).

Researchers recommended organizations to make coaches or psychologists part of their company culture. Tools and techniques could be taught, where needed, using skype/ calls/ emails or at the office. Providing courses around employees’ collective topics of interest was also recommended.

Coaching was found to increase a sense of wellbeing, job satisfaction and (client)engagement.

Employees who engaged in coaching programs and had learned basic counselling skills were also effective in training colleagues. The human unprepared condition for an abundance of choice and stress impulses is a global concern. In addition, increased screen time was recently found to higher depression and suicide-related outcomes (Twenge, Joiner, Rogers, & Martin, 2018). It filled children, as young as two, with anxiety while crushing their curiosity. 4 hours of screentime impacted anxiety, behaviour, and well-being levels. 14-year-olds demonstrated attention issues, lower performance and little curiosity (Twenge & Campbell, 2018).

Coaching can help to lead the way in difficult times

The 5 Most Frequently Expressed Work-Stress Issues:

1) A lack of individual autonomy in the workplace.

2) Having extremely high work demands and an overabundance of responsibilities.

3) Encountering undesired conduct outside of work.

4) Undesired and unprofessional conduct in the workplace.

5) Being mistreated in the workplace (usually by a supervisor/employer).

Furthermore, the following 5 insights could help you manage these – Should you encounter them:

1: Create Your Own Life Plan.

Work with other colleagues and departments and learn from the best in your company. It will help you use time effectively, work smarter, earn trust with leaders, and (in the case of great results) help you (re)negotiate your position and create more autonomy.

Call it love, nature, God, consciousness, being or the Universe… (Minuchin & Fishman (1981) described people as holons (wholes) which are both wholes within themselves and part of a bigger holos (wholeness). Your connection to your own definition of whatever you call this is crucial. Make appointments with life: Exercise (walk in nature, do Pilates, Yoga or any other sports which need full attention). Eat well (70% of Seratonin; the happy hormone that influences your mood, starch cravings, self-esteem, behaviour and depression, are located in the gut). And get at least 7 hours of sleep.

Do things you love. Socialise with family and friends, Have your own priorities in life and keep these sacred. Research shows time in time again that the happiest people have high-quality relationships (read about this in my next blog!). Invest there!

Visit beautiful places. Your adventures don’t have to be abroad to matter, just remote enough to have horrible phone and internet reception and some lovely people and food.

The human brain is not designed for constant device connection. Give yourself permission to disconnect. We all feel suffocated when belonging too much without being given space in return. Try to create more freedom and success on your own terms and try to discuss alternative strategies. It could work best for you to slow into this and see how things settle in time. You can then decide if any further actions are really required. Whatever happens; guard your health! 

2: Be Assertive, Set Healthy Boundaries and Be Curious About Your Fears.

Feel your emotions and allow them to be, rather than resisting them. Becoming curious instead of anxious can help you explore and re-examine your thoughts. Most thoughts will drive you away from wanting to be in this situation. You will tell yourself that you must be the first in the office and last out, that your bills are not going to care. I hereby congratulate you on the opportunity to gain great skills for designing your own life as you want it to be. I congratulate you on the greatness of your body and mind which protect you from possible severe illness.

Bills are there, but listen to your body when it tells you it is time to find, set and trust your own limits. Trust your intuition and your creativity. Try doing one thing at a time with great focus, not everything at the same time. Learn about your own limits and learn to kindly say “no” when you are struggling to remain connected. Prioritise and plan your tasks and timelines and feel where it becomes too much. Set your boundaries and ask for help accordingly.

3: Share Difficult Feelings With People Who Have Earned Your Trust.

We are here to learn. Most of us (even those who studied for it) can lack some life skills we hadn’t learned yet, especially those which address handling difficult life experiences. Discussing decisions, problems, communication issues, critical and creative thinking, our feelings, and (psychological) health can be hard. Traumatic or painful situations can deeply effect emotional states, productivity and general functioning. Reach out to friends/ family and professionals (there are also some wonderful doctors and therapists out there) when needed. Anyone you feel can help you navigate through and support you in managing crises. People who have earned your trust and who you can share difficult emotions and experiences with. This will help you to embrace uncertainty in difficult and painful situations and it can help get through them.

Sharing Difficult Feelings With People Who Have Earned Your Trust Helps

4: ‘Perfection’ and Successfully Pleasing Everyone Do Not Exist.

Both illusions will make you very miserable and they are a waste of time. You will miss all the fun exploring, messing up and learning. Marry imperfection; It is beautifully liberating! Humans are flawed and everchanging. Perfection would mean nothing, including you, would ever move or evolve. Being liked is a social survival mechanism, but overdependending on others (limited) views of you is a burden. Some managers will not create a healthy workplace. Some will never approve your time off… These type of managers will cost their companies great amounts of money (see above).

Here is the good news: There are 7.7 billion people in the world and some of them are managers. Most managers love to increase productivity and want to attract and keep more clients. Set your boundaries! If the company culture feels far removed from your values, ethics, professional and personal goals, it might be time to change. Rogers (1961) called the process, which describes the feeling of the current self and ideal self-being too far apart, incongruence. It results in an inability to self-actualise while lowering self-worth, and you want to avoid that.

5: You Don’t Have To Interact With Unkind People.

You could try and read some of Eckhart Tolle’s work and watch this. Bullying is often a reflection of pain, anger, suffering and fear. Bullies believe that they are worthless and have so often heard this, that they have grown to believe it. They want to transfer their burden by “gifting” it to you. Refuse this, don’t let it in, and make it clear you are “not the absorbing other’s insecurities” kind of person. Not complying to this behaviour can be more difficult if you are already stressed and have received such messages before (at school, home or in other relationships). Remember that you are loved and hold yourself in high regard. It will help you to discard any nonsense. This might also be that great opportunity to, once and for all, straighten out your own belief system. Tell yourself who you are and reconnect to that imperfect, (un)stable human self which is so worthy of love! Be kind to yourself, your mind and your body. You deserve to enjoy every minute of your life.

Unbound by the Rules

It is possible to make more money by cutting work time while honouring both employee and business health. Ankur Shah, Mahabis’s founder, gave employees one (paid) day off while increasing revenues to £20m in 3 years. The companies’ attention was focused on “being present while working” instead of “clocking hours”. Adopting new strategies might seem unorthodox, but they will likely encourage employees to work extremely productive anywhere and encourage smarter technology use. This allows, especially those in demanding jobs, to have more time for themselves and their loved ones. A complete overhaul of unproductive strategies is necessary when sickness, burnout, and stress rates rise. Addressing these will not only help save billions, but it will also serve society as a whole.

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References:

CuttingEdgeConsciousness (2018). Eckhart Tolle: Bullying as Conditioned Behavior and Mindfulness as a Conscious Response, Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ujLdcaqeHI

Demerouti, E., Veldhuis, W., Coombes, C., & Hunter, R. (2018). Burnout among pilots: psychosocial factors related to happiness and score on simulator training. Ergonomics, 1-39.

Freudenberger, H. J. (1974). Staff burn‐out. Journal of social issues30(1), 159-165.

Hicks, B., Carter, A., & Sinclair, A. (2013). Impact of Coaching on Employee Well-Being, Engagement and Job Satisfaction. Retrieved from https://www.employment-studies.co.uk/system/files/resources/files/hrp8.pdf

International Stress Management Association (2001). Newsletter (3,1). Retrieved from https://workplacepsychology.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/isma-usa_spring2001.pdf

Lépine, J. P., & Briley, M. (2011). The increasing burden of depression. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 7(Suppl 1), 3.

Minuchin, S. & Fishman, H.C. (1981). Family therapy techniques. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Navare, S. (2008). Counselling at work place: A proactive human resource initiative. Indian journal of occupational and environmental medicine 12(1). doi:10.4103/0019-5278.40807

Rajvinder, S. (2019). Is there an answer to millenial Burnout? The Open University retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20190122-is-there-an-answer-to-millennial-burnout

Rogers, C. R. (1961). On Becoming a Person: A Therapist`s View of Psychotherapy. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.

Rogers, C. R., Stevens, B., Gendlin, E. T., Shlien, J. M., & Van Dusen, W. (1967). Person to person: The problem of being human: A new trend in psychology. Lafayette, CA: Real People Press.

Thomson, A. (2018). Smartphones have driven hospital admissions for stress and anxiety to rise by 37% in the past decade as people never ‘switch off’. Retreived from https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-6462293/Hospital-admissions-stress-anxiety-risen-37-past-decade.html

TMO/CBS (2014) Factsheet Werkstress. Retrieved from https://www.monitorarbeid.tno.nl/publicaties/factsheet-werkstress

Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, W. K. (2018). Associations between screen time and lower psychological well-being among children and adolescents: Evidence from a population-based study. Preventive medicine reports12, 271-283.

Twenge, J. M., Joiner, T. E., Rogers, M. L., & Martin, G. N. (2018). Increases in depressive symptoms, suicide-related outcomes, and suicide rates among US adolescents after 2010 and links to increased new media screen time. Clinical Psychological Science6(1), 3-17.

World Health Organization. (2012). Depression: A Global Crisis. World Mental Health Day, October 10 2012. Occoquan: World Federation for Mental Health; 2012. Accessed Dec, 3(7).Retrieved from https://www.who.int/mental_health/management/depression/wfmh_paper_depression_wmhd_2012.pdf