What if stress was all in the mind (and why it’s a good thing!)

What if stress was all in the mind (and why it's a good thing!)

What if stress was all in the mind (and why it’s a good thing!)

As we enter into a new year and a new decade, I’m excited and optimistic. In the past ten years I’ve witnessed a positive shift in the culture of many organisations who’ve gone beyond the ‘wellbeing is nice to have’ mentality and shown true commitment to enhancing the wellbeing of their people. It’s a step in the right direction. But for wellness at work to be truly tackled we must address one key area – stress.

We know that stress affects the bottom line. The most recent Labour Force Survey cites stress, anxiety and depression as the cause of 44% of all work-related ill health and the loss of over half of all working days. The Centre for Mental Health puts the annual cost to employers at nearly £35 billion.  As the issue continues to pervade the workplace, the question we’re all asking is – ‘How do we eradicate stress?’ And here’s the surprising answer – we don’t. At least not in the way you might think.

Turning the tables on organisational stress

 There’s a long-held belief that stress is directly caused by external factors. If an employee is on a tight deadline or has had a disagreement with their boss, for example, it’s thought that the incident triggers hard-wired emotional circuits in their brain, causing them to experience stress. Despite being unsupported by scientific evidence, this deep-seated thinking is so ingrained in our psyche that we don’t even question it.

But the truth is, we’ve been coming at organisational stress from completely the wrong direction. And this misguided belief has adversely affected our approaches to minimise its impact. What we need now is a paradigm shift in the way we understand stress so that we can start turning the tide of organisational stress and burnout.

Circumstances don’t equal stress

How would you feel if I told you that our minds don’t react to the world? That our feelings aren’t triggered by external factors but are created by us? Do you feel sceptical, doubtful, confused? That’s understandable. It goes against our decades-long belief, for one thing.  It also implies greater responsibility and so can be met with a degree of resistance and unwillingness.

Yet this is exactly what modern neuroscience tells us. Our feelings and emotions – in fact our experience of life, including stress – is created within us. It’s generated inside our psychology or inside our human minds. Which means we need to stop looking outwards at external triggers and start looking inwards.

Stress and the mind connection

This new thinking about stress sets us in a new, positive direction. By learning how our minds work, we can gain a better understanding of how we construct and experience stress – and harness that knowledge to use our minds in a much more effective way.

Giving people insight into this process has tremendous impact on stress and wellbeing. Even the slightest insight into the mechanics of our mind gives us more choice and more freedom. It’s an exciting realisation. And one that has the power to create more wellbeing – and turn stress into success.

If you’d like to rethink your approach to stress and wellbeing and make a real difference to your team, get in touch.

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