The beauty of stress

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(We wanted to call this “the joy of stress” but our solicitors said no…)

You like to be stressed? We mentioned that last time. Keep up at the back…

Latest research shows that in the UK:

  • People now work 44 hours per week
  • 4 million work a 48 hour week
  • Lunch “hours” are spent at the desk and only 5% of employees take an hour
  • 131 million days lost to illness, 15 million of which are attributed to “tiredness”
  • A 20 minute nap each day could make us all work more productively…
  • If we don’t take a full “lunch hour” we are more or less gifting who we work for an extra 19 days per year
  • The total number of working days lost due to stress, depression or anxiety was 11.3 million in 2013/14, an average of 23 days per case of stress, depression or anxiety

And we wonder why there’s stress about.

Years ago, when doing research into stress, a Stress Specialist asked me if I was stressed to which I replied a confident “No.”

“Ah,” he responded, “the worst sort, denial.”

Which is an important point; we are all stressed we just need to know where we are and if we have reached a tipping point. Stress is good as it helps us to perform but, at some stage, we lose control and then stress is bad.

Stress costs us more than £370 million per year here in the UK alone and if you have a bad back (like over 2 million people in the UK) or headaches or insomnia, guess what, you are probably stressed. And not in the good way.

There’s an interesting new book out which suggest we, in the 21st Century, have got it all wrong when it comes to how we cope with life and work and stress. Well, no “you-know-what”, Sherlock.

One of the key areas it focuses on is the concept of multi-tasking. Apparently, we can’t do it.

Research shows that our IQ dips by around 10% when we multi-task and, no, I won’t do the obvious joke

“Ah, but we do!” I can hear you saying (and note I didn’t say you don’t, I said you can’t) but consider this… when we “multi-task” and, yes, I did put them darned inverted commas in, we don’t really. We just do more than one thing worse than if we’d just focused on one thing we could do better. Research shows that our IQ dips by around 10% when we multi-task and, no, I won’t do the obvious joke.

So, why do we do this? Because we are idiots, I hear you say. No, we are not. But we are slaves.

During a recent training session, when I always politely ask people to turn their phones off, and all do, one delegate talked about needing the phone all of the time “because of the speed of business and our ability to respond”. Of course, this gave me the great opportunity to enter into a discussion about the dreaded phone and the impact on us as human beings.

Once upon a time, if people were late or an appointment we’d tut and order another coffee. Nowadays, five minutes before the meeting we are texting people to see if they are okay. And they normally are. But our phone and its ubiquitousness  now just leads to worry and concern, both of which get in the way of performance.

At a company I worked for, I was told “never” to have the phone off. Naturally, but sub-consciously, this led me to never really relax as that phone could go at any minute. Truth is, it didn’t but that wasn’t important. I pointed out to my above delegate that she had had her phone turned off during the training and, erm, nothing had happened. She looked at me, as people often do.

At another company, we are looking at minimizing the number of emails people send. During a fact-find meeting with individuals, we checked on the number of emails they received whilst our meeting was taking place. Most got, on average, one per minute.  Most of these were just not important. Not all needed action but all were a distraction. And we are, as I mentioned, slaves to technology. No wonder we are worried about robots taking over but the real truth may be they already have.

Just remember, we are not as important as we would like to think we are. The world turns without us. There are very few situations when a ten minute delay (or even more) will lead to genuine disaster. Phones were meant to AID communication, not increase stress. Now, they seem to do one but not the other.

Lauren Laverne is not noted as a great Business Guru, you may think, but she pointed out this in a recent column: “In English PLAY is the opposite of WORK.” But psychiatrists point out that the opposite of play is not work, it’s DEPRESSION. And, they tell us, nothing lights up the brain like PLAY. But, Laverne points out, we value “busyness” and those who look the busiest tend to get the most rewards. You are therefore more likely to suffer from mental problems if you don’t PLAY. And, we are told, five minutes a day is all it takes to make a difference. Which may be why you enjoy reading this…

Or may be why you have checked your emails twice whilst reading this. It is after all your choice, or the choice of your technology.

Stressed? Not you…

 

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Len Horridge

Training Design & Delivery of topics such as Customer Service, Note Taking, Business Writing, Presentation Skills, All Management/Team Leader areas, Sales, Sales Management, all tailored and run in-house for your personal requirements. Also, coaching and mentoring.

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