Managing workplace stress is the same as managing driving stress or parenting stress or marital stress, since stress is a physiology which happens inside me after my Central Nervous System responds to a perception/thought I have about the external world.
Here is an example I use in my domestic violence classes. Imagine buying the winning lottery ticket, and saying to yourself, "The state has cheated me, it is not enough!"
That thought will trigger a stress hormone filled body, when most people would fill their bodies with eustress hormones, maybe even joy.
If I were hunting for my next meal, and suddenly a saber tooth tiger leaps toward me, I need to have a tremendously fast response time (perhaps four times faster than I can blink my eyes) in order to save my life, because a saber tooth tiger has greater physical assets than I do. Faster, stronger, meaner, ect.
In the olden days, if I and my teammates either got away from the saber tooth tiger or killed it, then we would rest and clear the neurotransmitters and hormones of the stress response from our body.
So we see the stress response was not meant to be turned on continually to help me produce more widgets, which is how we use it today, the stress response was meant to supply a burst of survival energy, and then I rested.
John Gottman,Ph.D. in his marital workshop describes how detrimental this burst of stress hormones, which he calls diffuse physiological arousal, (DPA) can be when it gets cued in marital conflict.
The same detriment happens when DPA gets cued at work. I perceive a facial expression, or a tone of voice, from a co-worker, customer, a superior, and how many of us have made ourselves really angry over an e-mail, by interpreting those flashing pixels on the computer screen as about our talents and resources or the lack thereof?
A very important aspect of workplace stress management is to understand that my stress response will happen very fast, and it will be in response to non-verbal communication, facial expressions, a tone of voice, a gesture, and the physiology in my body happens so fast that I may be flooded with adrenalin and cortisol faster than I can create words, so workplace stress management has to happen just as fast, or as close to that fast as I can manage.
(Ever heard of Paul Ekman,Ph.D.? Ekman says that we can respond to a look of contempt, even a very subtle look of contempt, in 1/25th second, which is about 2 and 1/2 times as fast as I can blink my eyes. Those of you who parent have seen this in yourselves when your kids look at you like as if you were really unintelligent).
I use the analogy in my anger management and domestic violence classes that your inner physiology needs to be managed heart beat by heart beat, because if your heart stops, there is no need to worry about workplace stress management anymore is there?
Is it possible to manage your physiology that effectively?
Yes it is, and the cheapest tool is deep breathing. If you have ever watched a newborn breath, they breath all the way into their belly, making it move up and down, which keeps their interior chemistry DHEA based rather than adrenalin based, broadly speaking.
If we train ourselves to remember deep breathing frequently, we will be able to cue up that response as frequently as our computer monitors need us to, and we will actually open our higher perceptual centers for excellent brainstorming.
If we forget our deep breathing, in about 1/25th second, I will be throwing my computer, and if throwing my computer monitor does not burn up my stress hormones, then I may throw my neighbors computer monitor, and so on.
Workplace Stress Management Back-up Tool....
If I forget my deep breathing, and decide to keep my stress physiology going for awhile, is there a back-up tool that I and the folks around me can use to relax?
Try heart rate variability biofeedback, which is an easily learned biofeedback process that feels good.
In fact, everyone at your workplace could learn heart rate variability biofeedback and everyone could conceivably get on the same heart beat and stay there, which would sure change the nature of the work place, could it not?
Heartmath is based on recent discoveries about the heart's own affiliative and cooperative nervous system.
Not too long ago, no one knew the heart had its own nervous system, nor did anyone know that the heart and a coherent heart beat could impact the brain in my head so powerfully.
But a coherent heart beat which I can learn to cue on any give heart beat does keep every cell in my body, and any body doing heart rate variability biofeedback on the same 'beat", and a dazzling kind of team work emerges.
In fact, the team or workplace heart beat begins to take on a life of its own, and folks start to smile a lot more, absenteeism lowers, resignations slow, customer service ratings go up, and staff Doctor visits slow.
Anyone ready for a coherent New Year?