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Stress management: how to use meditation to manage stress

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Keith Tatley
2019-06-04

Stress: it’s all about how you deal with pressure

Why do some people thrive under pressure, while others fold?

What’s different is how different people manage stress, and meditation is an effective tool to help everyone manage stress.

Stress causes a range of problems from minor discomfort, to poor work performance and in the worst cases, serious health issues. The temptation is to avoid stress, but we can’t get away from stress because it’s a fact of life. But what we can do is that we can get better at dealing with the negative effects of stress. Meditation is a proven method to quickly move our bodies from an unhealthy flight or fight response, into a rest and repair mode. And in the longer-term, meditation builds resiliency to stress for better mental health.

Log in to your Go1 portal to see this example of a stress release meditation.

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What's your stress score? Find out over here.

Because work is a significant source of stress, this article covers what you need to know about stress in the workplace for you personally and also for business owners and managers.

Myth: stress is always a bad thing

People hear the word stress and think it’s a bad thing. The thing is that stress is just pressure. When we stress ourselves, we grow in response. That’s how exercise works, that’s how we grow personally, this is called eustress or healthy stress. The problem is when we suffer unhealthy forms of stress or don’t have effective methods to deal with everyday stress. That’s when stress turns into distress and has disastrous effects of our health, productivity and work

Distress is bad for your mental and physical health

When we are suffering from stress, our bodies produce stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. This is an automatic reaction that happens in our autonomic nervous system. We can’t control this part of the nervous system. These stress hormones are bad for your health because these hormones increase blood pressure, increase blood sugar, suppress your immune system and stop digestion.

Negative mental health effects of stress include depression, anxiety and irritability. And the negative physical health effects include heart disease, fatigue, indigestion, insomnia and more. 

As you can see suffering from stress causes a lot of health problems. While we can’t directly control our autonomic nervous system, meditation works like a bridge by calming our nervous system which then turns off the unhealthy parts of our stress response. This is why managing your stress with meditation will help you to a healthier, happier life.

Stress is bad for your work

Most of the time a little pressure helps us to perform better. But pressure can also make us worse at our jobs. Clearly, when stress makes our mental and physical health worse that’s going to reduce our productivity, but stress also makes us perform worse in other ways too. We all have a limit when it comes to our capacity to work while under stress, but before we reach that tipping point, these are the sort of things that start to slide:

  • Poor decision making: When we are stressed, our decisions are rushed, driven by irrational emotions and lack planning & rational thought,
  • Lack of Focus: When there’s too much going on, we don’t know where to focus. We can get pulled from one task to another and we don’t prioritize work effectively. Struggling to focus is one of the symptoms of bad stress

Taking a few minutes to do meditation can stop you from making silly mistakes and can increase your focus. To find out how to use meditation to increase focus, see this short video.

Stress is bad for business

If you’re a business owner or a manager of a team then you need to be aware of the impact of stress on results and what to do about it. Employee productivity is a careful balancing act of being demanding and supportive at the same time. Great leaders know how to inspire their teams to give their best, but unmanaged workplace stress is bad for business. Clearly, if individual productivity falls then this is going to be worse for your results but here are some other ways that stress costs you in business:

  • Stress leave: 25% of workers take time off each year for stress related reasons ( based on a survey of 5000 workers(1)). And stress-related workers compensation claims are growing
  • Stress increases workplace conflict
  • Stress leads to disengaged, low performing, employees
  • Stress leads to higher employee turnover

But on a philosophical level, good business comes from creating a workplace where people want to work. Creating an environment where people are challenged and can grow is a good thing, but make sure you balance that out with employee wellbeing.

Now the tricky thing is that your employees are all different and one employee can thrive under pressure while another could have a totally opposite reaction. That’s one of the reasons I recommend that bosses have a weekly one on one meeting with their employees. Weekly one on one meetings will build up familiarity with your employees. You’ll know when you can push for better results and when you need to give your employee more support.

Tips:

Questions to ask your employees in One on One meetings include:

  • Always start with “How was your week?” It’s an open question, over time you’ll build a sense of when your employee has had a tough week, even if they don’t explicitly say something.
  • “Is there anything coming up (work or personal) that I need to know about?”

Give your employees the knowledge and skills they need to manage their own stress. Ask them to take the Stress Assessment so they know what signs to look for. Use the Go1 course assignment feature to assign them Desk Meditation for Stress Management before they end up calling in sick.

"It's important to differentiate between good stress and negative stress. Good stress is motivating. But as an employee's stress level increases, it reaches a tipping point where it starts to be detrimental and has a negative impact on an employee’s work. That tipping point will vary person to person based on personality attributes, such as the ability to cope with pressure, as well as job factors and aspects of the work environment,” Craig Bosworth, Medibank Private Industry Affairs Manager

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Managing stress for better performance

If you are feeling fatigued, struggling to focus, feeling overwhelmed, experiencing indigestion these could just be your body’s natural response to the stresses of everyday life. And if you’ve experienced a setback such as personal trauma, conflict or career challenges you can be sure that distress is going to be weighing heavily on your personal health and workplace effectiveness.

To get back to being your normal, happy, healthy self you have to manage stress in your life. This may include seeking professional help. But an effective, easily accessible method is to establish a regular meditation practice to manage stress and improve your focus. Take the 30-Day Meditation Challenge to see what meditation can do for you.

PS: This does not constitute medical advice. Stress can cause significant health issues. If you feel like you may be suffering from stress, please seek professional medical assistance. This article contains information from the Go1 Online Course Desk Meditations. Find out how to establish a convenient meditation habit right at your desk. 

1. Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) survey as cited at – Workplace Stress (2008)

About the Author:

Keith Tatley CA(SA) founded Manager Foundation and Karm.Academy to help people with the soft skills they don’t teach you in school. This includes skills such as Effective One on One Meetings, Performance Communications and Delegation. If you would like to start your journey to become a better boss, then find out your BOSS Superpower now.

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