BY JUDE KAFUUMA
Stress as a condition of pressure exerted on you can be so devastating and uneasy to cope with depending on your personality, perceptions and past experiences.
It is a reaction to excessive pressures or demands placed upon you. By worrying over them, you are stressed the more. This causes an interference that disturbs your health, mental and physical well being. You will subject the body system to perform beyond its normal range of capabilities causing it to knock at the point of diminishing returns.
Stress is such a common challenge that almost everyone has faced in life depending on age, profession and marital status. It relates to family, workplace, decisions, education, future plans and a lot more.
Students will tell their ordeal of tests and competition for jobs just the same way as parents will grapple with work management, providing food, education and housing for the family.
Surprisingly, some people will function well and better yielding results under stress, whereas others will not dare advance any project once stress sets into their way. It may be necessary in order for you to perform your best at work while under pressure, but this is not the ideal condition.
The key here is for business and family managers to determine the Eustress, which is the right amount of stress that will give employees and family members enthusiasm and ambition to realise their goals, versus the overflowing amount that can harm their health and well being.
Workplace stress may be exacerbated by external stressors from home or social relationships. How well you cope with it, depends on the actions you know that can be taken to reduce it.
Signs that you are stressed
The game here is how to manage stress which you can only deal with after establishing the root causes.
These may not be explicitly visible but they produce typical symptoms of:
o Behavioural change like loss of appetite, aggression towards colleagues at work, prolonged silence, committing more errors than usual, increased alcoholic consumption and sleeplessness.
o Physiological tendencies never had before such as high blood pressure, increased heart beat, gastric ulcers and headaches.
o Psychological symptoms like tension, irritability, phobias, obsessions, job dissatisfaction and uncalled for interruptions.
Dan Rebero, a Marketing Manager in a leading media house in Rwanda outpoured himself with an incredible list of causes that would push any reader to conclude that stress is a reality. First he says; “failure to keep time makes me feel stressed.”
Dan talks of a feeling of work under pressure to meet deadlines, confusion in the head with so many things coming up, lack of appetite, going to bed and failing to catch sleep but think of work; these to him are signs of stress.
Dr. David B. Posen based at the McMaster University Medical School in Ontario Canada is a lifestyle Counsellor and Psychotherapist. As a long time family doctor, he describes stress as an anxiety disorder and one of the most causes of ill health in society.
He talks of the TMJ (Tembromandibular Joint). This is the joint that connects the mandible, the moving part of our head, to the skull, the non-moving part. It’s a ball and socket joint that has a piece of cartilage in between for smooth opening movements.
When this cartilage gets damaged or worn out, some of the problems start appearing.
Many of us have no symptoms at all but just hear a clicking sound in front of the ear, when our jaws are opened or moved. For some, however, this can become a very painful situation.
TMJ pain seems to affect more women than men.
The source talks of symptoms like headache, muscle spasms, non specific jaw pains that usually radiates, inability to open wide, tiredness of the face and unexplained tooth ware as well as filling breakage.
Another cause for TMJ that may also appear as a symptom is parafunctional habits. These include things such as fingernail biting, pencil chewing, ice crushing and a lot more. These habits not only put pressure on the TMJ joint, but also place it into odd positions when force is applied. This can produce a myriad of symptoms, which can only be diminished via the removal of that habit.
In such circumstances, our source advises one to seek diagnosis and opinion of the dentist. This is one way of ensuring rapid treatment and alleviation of your TMJ problems.
Effect of stress
Believe me or you, once these appear, they will certainly have a high cost to the family, organisation and society.
? Families with stressed heads will live unhappy; have broken marriages and deaths due to wrangles or road accidents.
? Organisations with high levels of stress will yield low organisational performances due to physical presence but mental absence, increased absenteeism, poor customer satisfaction and low quality products. Increase in accidents at work and poor decision making leading to financial loss for the organisation. Dissatisfied workers will contribute to the much time spent on settling disputes over pay and failure to yield good results. All this will eventually culminate into high turnover levels.
? Society will suffer with the inconvenience of stressed people who might turn volatile. At the same time leaders who will make incompetent and uninformed decisions will blindly direct society to ruins.
Dealing with such stress can be a personal or organisational strategy.
At a personal level, there are some actionable steps you can take as an individual at work or in the home to increase your ability and understanding to cope with sustained pressures. This tool will help you as a person to avoid stress symptoms.
• At this level if you feel you cannot do any overwork, learn to say NO and accept that you can not do everything by explicitly explaining your immediate supervisor.
• Know yourself by listing down your strengths and weaknesses considering what you like to work for or be married to.
• Make sure your job allows you to concentrate on your talents but still building on supportive relationships from colleagues.
• Discussing grievances with colleagues or friends and learning to talk openly makes you free of some stressors.
• Set aside time to relax. Have exercises and fun with friends and colleagues on occasional basis. This will re-establish fading relationships due to failures at work or social commitments. Resorting to the gym, massage, sauna, steam bath, or even yoga may not be the solution though it is a necessary tool in such situations that leaves the body and mind relaxed before resting.
• Constant update of your skills is a tool that will help you acquire new skills that will enhance your capacity to deal and competently manage areas that cause stress.
• Above all have proper and effective time management. By developing a system of prioritising and rating your work, will save you a lot of wasted time on unsubstantial areas that may lead to stress.
Dr. David mentions the causes of stress as external factors that include sick or dying relatives, lost jobs or too much criticism that lead to anger. However, most stress is internal or self generated. We create majority of our upsets indicating that because we cause most of our own stress due to factors that we can easily control, we can do something measurable about this anxiety disorder.
Mentioning that there are many ways we can relieve stress from going for a walk to quitting one’s job, he lists ten practical ways:
o Decrease or discontinue Caffeine
o Regular exercise
o Time-outs and leisure
o Setting realistic expectations
o Reframing ones vision
o Belief in practical world
o Gaining support by sharing
o Embracing sense of humour
He advises that one of the most important things one can do is learning about stress management.
Not knowing whether Dan applies any of the above, I asked him how he manages it; he gives his personal solutions to stress: “Sometimes I take a beer; I go for sports - jogging in the evening or going to gyms. After this I feel a bit relieved and the fatigue form those activities gives me a good night sleep. Prayer also helps me get connected with God and I do not feel alone under stress”
At the organisational level, there can be steps taken to reduce the likelihood of stress due to company or organisation policy, structure and style problems.
• The leading strategy here is designing jobs in a style that permits use of skills and discretion by employees. This works well to let each individual maintain not only interest in work but also use personal endowments to yield results beyond the described methods.
• Allow exercise of responsibility and authority that gives employees autonomy over tasks. This reduces stressful moments for administrators and managers who may carry out responsibilities of juniors thereby failing to meet their own targets and goals.
• Recognise and reward exemplary performance to employees. This will reduce tension of unanswered questions among workmates: Am I performing to the expectations of the organisation? Why do I carry on without any complement? Is my boss not impressed or satisfied with my work? The same can be applied in homes and communities by rewarding best performing members in different areas. This not only encourages others to perform better, but also draws good performers who may have blind obedience closer to superiors.
• Encourage a one-to-one dialogue. This helps you and the employee feel more important before superiors. To parents it is a tool that will help you understand better what the child needs most, than getting stressed on issues that may be of less or no importance.
Stress being pressure exerted on you as an individual whether home based or work based, can be so devastating that it calls for attention to oneself and others to avoid or overcome it. A good stress manager will finally accept that what counts is one’s disposition to accepting the things you can do and leave out what you can not perform to the expected results.