There’s a lot of it about. Work related stress costs us more than £3.7 billion a year. Everyone has a different tolerance level, is affected by different triggers, and will respond differently to stress.
There are four kinds of stress:
- Good stress
- Referred stress
- Made-up stress
- Real stress
There is a level of pressure without which it would be very hard for people to get up in the morning. No stress at all could for many people be depressingly bland, and indeed stressful. For people who are deadline driven, the stress associated with an approaching deadline is highly motivational. Working against seemingly impossible odds and getting the job done can produce a real high for some people. And then, of course, there are the adrenaline junkies. All of this is pressure, but not pain-inducing stress. It could be called good stress.
People can’t compartmentalise their lives. A stressful situation at home can make them unable to cope at work. It is entirely appropriate that their employers be understanding and supportive. They are not in a position, though, to fix things, and yet they do bear a lot of the cost.
Call me a cynic but I’m sorry, I just don’t believe that all the people taking vast amounts of sick leave are really stressed. A manager makes a decision that an employee doesn’t like, and two second later they’re off with stress. I am reminded of the child who didn’t get cast as Titania, and locked herself in the loo for the rest of the day. Sorry, it’s not real.
Of course there is real, work related stress. It causes untold misery and pain. It can be nobody’s fault, although it is usually caused by bad organisations and bad managers. There is no excuse for organisations causing this kind of stress in their employees. It is cruel and wasteful of human life and energy.
We often don’t recognise that we are in a stressful situation until quite late on. We tolerate a slow slide into discomfort and unhappiness, but don’t see it for what it is until we hit the point of pain. Learning to recognise your personal stress response can give you a very valuable early warning mechanism. A stressful situation recognised early is far easier to challenge and change, or if necessary to step away from, before the damage is done.