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Stressed About Stress? A Tactical Guide for Managers

May 2, 2023
By Pivot
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Stress is more contagious than Covid. Step One is diagnosis. Not all stress is the same.

“Stress is like spice. In the right proportion, it enhances the flavour of a dish. Too little produces a bland, dull meal; too much may choke you.”

—Donald Tubesing

Stress is omnipresent and, according to leading indicators, on the rise. But here’s the great news: this is not a problem that requires megaton solutions. “Go big or go home” is the wrong approach. Stress reduction requires: a science-based approach; individualized strategies, as not all stress is the same; and steadily practicing proven skills to tackle day-to-day hurdles and their root causes. 

The American Psychological Association’s 2021 Stress in America report found that 84% of Americans were feeling emotions associated with stress. By 2022, as acute fears about Covid decreased, new concerns came on the horizon, such as fears of inflation (83% of adults), attacks on civil liberties (64%), violence and crime (75%). The APA said of their survey, “[it] shows a battered American psyche, facing a barrage of external stressors that are mostly out of personal control.”

These fears translate into real-world health impacts. In the same survey, one-third of adults reported feeling completely overwhelmed. About three-quarters experience health impacts such as poor mental health and eating habits, as well as loss of interest in physical activity and hobbies. One-third report being completely overwhelmed by stress most days – with that proportion significantly higher among Black men, young adults and the LGBTQIA+ community. Other studies put women ahead of men for risk of burnout.

To cope, people often turn to unhealthy mechanisms like overeating, digital binging, or smoking – a “solution” that may give a moment of relief, but actually increases long-term stress. It also decreases workplace productivity

For managers, stress stats are not just scary numbers. They translate into challenges you must tackle every single day. In addition to growing the business and out-competing the competition, you must nurture a workforce that often feels like it’s teetering on the edge – and afraid to be honest about it. Employees fear revealing their concerns to employers, especially those related to mental health. They worry about job security, being labeled negatively, or losing a competitive advantage. We have a society that goes to great lengths to cover potential vulnerability—even though cutting-edge research reveals that vulnerability is a strength in leadership

You have a heavy lift. Pivot is here to help. Our in-house experts put together the cliff notes on how stress functions – a Stress 101 for HR managers (the course we all missed!). You can access it here. In it, we review key points. 

1. The brain has no off switch.

2. Wiring systems vary, human to human

3. Stress has a cost

4. Stress is additive

5. Stress is highly contagious, like the flu.

The stress reaction takes enormous energy at the expense of the healthy functions of the body (think immune system, digestion, memory, emotion regulation, etc.). This explains why stress plays a role in 70 to 90% of healthcare visits and is responsible for the majority of presenteeism. According to the American Institute of Stress, the annual cost of work-related stress in the U.S. is $300 billion. 

When stress is prolonged, overwhelming, or repeats without recovery, it increases the risk of burnout. Burned-out employees (and managers!) have moved beyond fatigue to feeling like the situation is impossible to change. They have lost hope, feel detached from purpose, and are often more withdrawn than revved up. 

Pivot is dedicated to breaking the stress cycle and building resilience, one moment, one human at a time. In service of that goal, we have developed Pivot Flex, a behavioral change solution created to tackle burnout, anxiety, and stress. Members gain the tools they need to become more resilient in the face of obstacles.

As an HR manager, you need to start by taking care of yourself first. It’s the same advice you get on every flight: place your own oxygen mask first! Most high achievers have a strong self-critic. They often ignore self-care, preferring to advance their careers or take care of others. You will likely roll your eyes at the following advice: practice some self-compassion. This may sound counterintuitive, but it’s essential. You don’t have to have all the solutions for everything and everyone. You do need to feel (and be) supported to create a meaningful change. 

We’re here to walk alongside you on this personal and professional journey. Feel free to get in touch with us here.

FAQs About Workplace Stress

Is stress always bad for you?
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No, stress is like spice. In the right proportion, it enhances the flavor of life. Too little can result in a bland experience, but too much can be harmful.

What percentage of Americans are feeling emotions associated with stress?
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The 2021 Stress in America report found that 84% of Americans were feeling emotions associated with stress

How do many people cope with their stress, and what are its implications?
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Many cope with stress through unhealthy mechanisms like overeating, digital binging, or smoking. These methods might offer temporary relief but can increase long-term stress and reduce workplace productivity.

What are the consequences of prolonged or overwhelming stress?
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Prolonged or overwhelming stress increases the risk of burnout. Burned-out individuals often lose hope, feel detached from their purpose, and become more withdrawn.

What is the advice given to HR managers regarding their own stress management?
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HR managers are advised to start by taking care of themselves first, practicing self-compassion, and understanding that they don't need to have all the solutions. Prioritizing self-care is crucial for them to create meaningful change.

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Looking to learn more about stress in the workplace?

Check out our Tactical Guide for Managers

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