Stress is a major factor in the onset of cardiovascular diseases. At i3Group, as providers of online payroll services, we have been witness to many Australian workplaces and many stressed employers. Along with many Australians, we’d like to know the secret to making stress productive.
Psychologist, author and lecturer Kelly McGonigal wonders: “Can changing how you think about stress make you healthier?” According to a study conducted over eight years in the U.S. “[w]hen you change your mind about stress, you change your body’s response”. In her 2013 TED Talks presentation, McGonigal refers in detail to this particular (unnamed) study and relates that if we cease to perceive stress signals (such as an increased heart rate or sweating) as signs of anxiety and begin to view them as signs that our bodies are rising to the challenge then we can actually decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. This study is causing ripples through the medical and psychology fields, but what can be said for its implications for workplace productivity?
Speaking about her work processes in an interview with LifeHacker, McGonigal muses in detail over the importance of facing, or rather chasing, one’s fears in order to achieve success at work. So if we can combine these two elements, the transformation of stress into a positive attitude toward challenges and proactively chasing down fears then we are addressing two major obstacles to workplace productivity – or productivity on any level, by extension.
Common stress management tips range from esoteric pieces of advice along the lines of “trust yourself to handle the situation” and “stay focused on the now” (often with the help of meditation or other mindfulness training) to more basic (and possibly less achievable) techniques like “reduce your workload” or “avoid the stressor”. But what do negative and positive perceptions of stress actually look like? During her presentation, McGonigal says that in this particular study, “the researchers estimated that over the eight years they were tracking deaths, 182,000 Americans died prematurely, not from stress, but from the belief that stress is bad for you”. While this fact elicited a grim, tentative laugh from the audience, its gravity remains.
In relation to positive perceptions of stress, it turns out that the neuro-hormone oxytocin acts on both your brain during times of stress, encouraging you to seek human contact and share your problems rather than bottling them up, and on your body. It is the hormone’s effects on the body that protect us from cardiovascular disease, as it acts to protect the cardiovascular system from the effects of stress. The physical benefits of oxytocin include natural anti-inflammation, assisting the blood vessels to stay relaxed during stress and helping heart cells regenerate and heal from any stress-induced damage. But the real crux of McGonigal’s findings is this:
“all of these physical benefits of oxytocin are enhanced by social contact and social support, so when you reach out to others under stress, either to seek support or to help someone else, you release more of this hormone ,your stress response becomes healthier, and you actually recover faster from stress.”
How can we apply these findings to workplace productivity? By asking “what is the main inhibitor of productivity?” And the answer, for many of us, is invariably avoidance. So if we combine McGonigal’s proactive chasing of fears with positive perceptions of stress, then we will be well on our way to not only tackling projects that we would otherwise avoid, but being healthier for it.
So what, exactly, is the secret to making stress productive? Chasing our fears, recognising stress signals as signs of our bodies rising to the challenge, and reaching out to others in times of stress.
We know that managing payroll can be stressful, so we provide external online payroll services that make life easy for Australian employers.