Stress — How Much Can the Individual Really Do About It? Reflections About Stress Awareness Day
This Wednesday 4 November, was National Stress Awareness Day in the UK. Stress is a topic that I think is of huge importance and we should discuss it more. Nevertheless, if I hear one more tip about mindfulness and meditation to combat stress I will scream out loud. I’m not saying it’s wrong but, please, acknowledge that there are many factors beyond our personal control that increase the stress we experience.
How should we combat the kind of stress that is increasingly influencing all of us? That is, badly organised workplaces, i.e. as poor leadership and management, a never-ending flow of information and society’s high expectations.
There are countless coaches and therapists around to help us get a clear picture of what’s wrong and right with us. Self-development seems to be the cure to everything. But is it really helping us fix the big, overall problem of stress? Self-medication is also a popular way to combat stress; common treatments are yoga, silent retreats, pizza, cookies, and a few sizable glasses of wine.
In the last few years the use of smart digital devices has increased hugely; we are now available twenty-four-seven. When are you working? And when aren’t you working? There are no clear boundaries, so how can we relax and calm down when there is always a new message or notification demanding our attention?
In the workplace we need to stay up-to-date with new technology. The web delivers new information all the time and there is a never-ending flood of data around us. Also, there are plenty of technology systems that are mixed together in a non-smooth way that steal our time and energy.
Statements about lifelong learning leave us feeling unsatisfied because we are never fully trained and there is always something new to learn. There are hundreds of articles confirming that the only thing we know for sure is that change is a constant. How healthy is this for humans, really? Then, on top of that, we are asked to live ‘in the moment’ and be present. If you are still stressed after your mindfulness course you can only blame your own mind-set. Something is wrong with you.
A fast-paced workplace that’s badly structured will be okay for some individuals, but then there are more sensitive people, or people who are less resilient because of something that has happened in their life. What do we do with them? Is there space for more vulnerable people?
On a larger scale there is a need for compassionate and inclusive leadership, which will lead to better results and less stress.
Is it time to use the awareness we get from being more mindful to develop better leaders and sustainable work structures?
And, finally, it would be great if we could all meditate together and create enough energy so we don’t care about all the stressful expectations that are so deeply embedded in our culture.