Welcome Stephanie De Flora. In this edition of ”News & Tips to Combat Workplace Violence – the Blog, Stephanie De Flora lays out plausible rationale for how you and I can manage stress just because, it’s conducive to good health, good relationships and healthy workplace experiences all around.
In an interim world where the return to the workplace reflects a variety of emotions and experiences ranging from quarantine at home, loss of family or friends or the impact of social protest. One is never without the exposure to stress in one way, shape or form. Even working from home or remote worksites attaches unique emotions that elevate our stress levels.
Managing our stress by managing our attitudes, mood swings and behaviors is easy to say in a world full of volatility and unpredictability. Your job is to understand that the workplace is not the time or place to let it all hang out. We have to protect our employment at all costs.
In fact, in a Covid-19 workplace full of rules seemingly designed to get you upset, are really intended to protect you, protect coworkers and stakeholders from emotional outbursts that when left unabated escalate to verbal exchanges and physical confrontations, yes, blame it on the rules. Rules designed to inject organization and structure can have unintended consequences.
It doesn’t stop there. The potential for defiant expression and insubordination is all around us today. Not wanting to follow Covid-19 risk mitigation rules and OSHA compliance procedures to name a few.
Maybe you don’t want to wear a mask just because you think you have the right not to. Or maybe you don’t want to submit to testing. Or you are angry at others who aren’t under the microscope you think you are under. You feel picked on. Or what if you are told to isolate pending adjudication of your eventual removal from the premises. The stressful moments are apparent to us.
All rules we must follow that add to our stress and fuels our anger. But all is not left to the rules and procedures without considering your value as employees, people and family members. You are on Stephanie De Flora’s mind so take a deep breath and enjoy the advice she offers.
Find yourself losing your temper more often these days? Wondering how family and work life can coexist in the time of COVID-19? Let’s face it, this global pandemic caused the merging of these two aspects of life together in an unexpected and highly stressful way.
Pressure regulation controls exists across industries working to regulate and balance operating systems, to warn of impending risk of destruction. Same as mechanical systems, the human experience of pressure does not come undetected or without warning.
More than simply balance pressure through repeated outbursts, although some do manage stress in this way, we humans have the capacity to work towards allostasis or achieving greater stability through change. We can change our behavior and become healthier for it. If we have this ability, why doesn’t it always work?
Admitting we feel pressure may be seen as a weakness, an interesting concept given that admitting stress means we’re managing the stress. Without acknowledging stress, pressure develops gradually, the slow burn leading to the “last straw” that finds you yelling at your co-worker or getting upset with the kids because of a “terrible day”. Release the pressure or it will literally wear you out – physically, mentally, and emotionally. And we’re all too aware that outcomes including outbursts of negative emotions, instigating arguments or inflicting violence can be devastating.
So what, you might say, I yell in the car, I have outbursts when things don’t go my way, who cares? It’s the difference between repeated explosions and controlled pressure management via a pressure valve. Understanding why pressure is building is key to regulating it. For us humans more times than not, especially these days, FEAR is a common culprit. Fear for our health and well-being during Covid-19, fear for our jobs and livelihood, for example.
Extended fear also causes us to lose our perspective. In the book Factfulness, author Hans Rosling explores The Fear Instinct concluding “Critical thinking is always difficult, but it’s almost impossible when we are scared. There’s no room for facts when our minds are occupied by fear”.
Fear as a stressor is very real, blinds our perspective and can lead to a host of unpleasant outcomes. We cannot live our lives in fear nor can we continue to ignore it. We can find allostatis and actively regulate pressure in our quest to be happy and healthy.
With all this said, I offer up the following thoughts on working with and enhancing your internal pressure relief system.
- Just Breathe: Take 2 minutes to notice your breath working to gently stretch the exhale to match or be just slightly longer than the inhale.
Benefit: Lengthening the exhale moves the body from the sympathetic (flight or fight response) to parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system. Have a watch that monitors heart rate? Watch what happens to your heart rate over a span of 2 minutes simply by breathing.
- Take a walk: Go for a 10-minute walk, slowly repeating “pick up, move, place” each time you pick a foot up, move it to step forward, backwards or even sideways.
Benefit: By linking slow intentional movement with words or a phrase allows nervous mind-chatter to be redirected from the head to a natural, physical outlet.
- Be Curious: When a physical response such as aggravation or anxiety arises as agitation in the body notice what thoughts have been moving through your mind for the last couple of minutes and in the present moment. Is the dialog real or playing out what could possibly happen? During observation simply meet each thought with “That’s interesting” and be genuinely interested in understanding the storyline.
Benefit: Becoming aware of thoughts and the physical response are indicators of situations that are building internal pressure and need a healthy way to release. (see take a walk above!)
- Learn Control & Predictability: As the Serenity Prayer goes “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” We cannot control everything, nor can we predict all outcomes. But we do have control over how we react and often, we can predict the effect of stressors through awareness.
Benefit: Working to understand our stressors, to predict how stressful events impact us and working to control not situations but rather our approach to releasing stress develops our resilience to life’s challenges. Like a hurdler, it takes dedication, commitment to show up and practice to clear the obstacles in front of us over and over again. Trip and fall you may, but with practice predictability around what to expect builds and reduces stress.
The year 2020 is one for the history books but let us choose not to live it in fear. Use these trying times to become more aware and proactively release the stress!
Stephanie De Flora is taking the year 2020 to evolved old processes with new approaches, making humanity the priority. To learn more about how organizations and individuals are learning how to manage through the effects of stress, email firstname.lastname@example.org