Is there anyone out there in our beloved printing industry who never feels stressed? According to Merriam-Webster, stress is "a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation." Although the word ‘stress’ has a negative connotation, it’s not always so. Winning the lottery or a round of blackjack at the casino causes stress, but in a good way.
A certain amount of stress will help your job performance, thus making it good for you and good for the company. Too much stress becomes a negative. Job performance and productivity decrease, mistakes increase, accidents happen and absenteeism rises.
In a high stress position such as a bindery supervisor and or commercial printing company manager, it can be beneficial to welcome the level of stress brought on by a full, very busy schedule. It feels good to be challenged by the workload and there is satisfaction in being productive. Up to a point. After two, three or maybe four weeks of high level, non-stop activity, especially with lots of overtime, it can turn counter-productive. Mistakes become more frequent, production starts to taper off, co-workers and employees begin to arrive late and leave a little early. It is at this point that you may feel the need for a break and it becomes obvious that the non-stop pressure is taking a widespread toll on the print shop.
Because we each have a personal, unique level of 'acceptable' stress, no one can truly define it. What's delightful for you might be completely unbearable for a co-worker. To make it even trickier, ANY level of stress, even at low levels, sustained over a long enough period of time can have negative consequences to the extent it causes disease.
Hans Selye, a scientist who spent his life studying the subject, when asked to define stress told reporters "Everyone knows what stress is, but nobody really knows." There does however, seem to be a scientific consensus "that the sense of having little or no control is always distressful – and that's what stress is all about." (www.stress.org)
We can't eliminate stress; it is part of our humanity and it makes the world go round. But can we manage stress? In a roundabout way, yes we can.
The one thing that we can always control is our behavior and our response to stress. Stressors, or those things outside of us which are causing stress, may or may not be subject to our influence. So in the spirit of focusing on that which we can control, (ourselves) here are 5 popular tips that can help change your response to stress.
- Approach your life and work with a more positive outlook. Find a positive side in every aspect of your life. Research involving women age 50 and older found those with an optimistic view were much less likely to die of any cause during the course of the study.
- Exercise. It reduces blood pressure, improves sleep and helps with the positive outlook. Walking from one end of the folding machine to the other doesn’t count! Try going to the gym 2-3 times a week, it’s good for the head.
- Develop a sense of gratitude for life. Gratitude is sometimes called a combination of humility, grace, love and acceptance. Having an attitude of gratitude is often cited as #1 on the list for reducing stress levels. If you don’t feel grateful, you can start by identifying at least one thing that enriches your life every day. If you don’t believe this works, try this test. Write down 10 things you’re grateful for today (you have them) and then see how hard it is to feel angry or negative. Repeat tomorrow. And the day after.
- Volunteer. Research shows that participating in meaningful volunteer activities promotes emotional and mental well-being. A study reported in the Journal of Aging and Health found that volunteers had lower blood pressure than non-volunteers. Can it become a lot of extra work? Yes. But, it adds a dimension to life that’s not available through our normal work alone.
- Improve your relationships. Forgive yourself and those closest to you. It doesn't mean you condone a wrong or necessarily feel differently towards those who wronged you. Forgiveness is the decision, not the feeling, and it’s associated with improved mood and lower stress.
Naturally your workplace has procedures and systems that might need to be changed to address stressful situations and as a manager that might be part of your job. By all means work on fixing and improving those systemic items that need to be fixed. No matter how much fixing you do, the bottom line is that stress is our lifelong companion and most outside stressors can not be controlled. Yet with the right attitude and response, we can turn even the most negative stress into a positive.