How do you cope with pressure?
Drive reporter Saif Rehan caught up with European talent Acquisition Intern, Aaron Sherwood, to find out more about SMART – the Stress, Management & Relaxation Techniques Society that Aaron co-founded at EU99.
Aaron, to the best of your experiences, how would you define stress and pressure?
We are living in the midst of profound and sustained shifts in demographic, economic, cultural, social and technological conditions which all combine to create a sense of extreme pressure and overload. If not quickly addressed, they can easily escalate out of control.
Did you know that 11.3 million working days are lost each year to stress? And that stress is directly responsible for 25% of all sickness absence according to data from the Health & Safety Executive report 2013/2014? In my experience, the degree of stress experienced is determined by how much choice (control) we have and how it is handled. So, stress has a bad reputation...but I question whether is also actually necessary to perform well. It’s really a question of moderation.
Too much stress and you will experience burnout and a subsequent decline in productivity. Too little and you may experience a decline in productivity anyway.
How would you advise someone out there that is currently undergoing stress or pressure?
Make yourself part of the solution! Stress management is about control. Of your lifestyle, thoughts, emotions, and the way you handle problems. The toxic combination of stress and pressure overload leads to employee burnout and harms organisational productivity.
While people may not have control over stress factors at work, mindfulness-based exercises are a scientifically proven, natural way to manage one’s responses to them.
You will always have something to learn. Be ready to take it in when someone is generous enough to share their experiences with you.
In many ways stress and anxiety are cumulative and therefore keeping communication open between your line managers is really important. Withholding issues while you try to work a solution will not work. The more you hold back, the more stress you will experience. You should actively try to build a support system at work that encourages colleagues to share their stresses.
When in doubt, take deep breaths. If you feel stress or anger coming on, pause and take three deep breaths. You’ll be amazed at how differently the world looks afterward.
Do you have suggestions for support and resources available for those wanting help?
Neither businesses nor employees can prosper and be successful without both being healthy. I’ve used the app HeadSpace which provides guided meditation sessions and mindfulness training. There’s more than six million people using this app and I can truly say this has helped me manage my stresses. It does so with simple exercises.
For example, ask yourself how important will whatever is causing you stress today be in the long run? Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it really worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere. Perfectionism is a major source of avoidable stress so set reasonable standards for yourself.