Shifting Stress from Workflow Obstacle to Productivity Key

Shifting Stress from Workflow Obstacle to Productivity Key

When it comes to getting the most out of the day ahead, one of the most common things standing in the way is stress.

Not only does stress pose a significant risk to our health, affecting the immune system and our mental health, but so too can it have a real impact when it comes to our productivity.

Managing and reducing our stress is extremely important for these reasons and it is therefore vital that businesses work to consistently maintain a low level of stress across their workforce, putting good mental health at the very top of their company’s concerns.

Whilst this is true, the truth remains that even the most caring, successful, nurturing and stress-free workplaces are always going to present some inevitable workplace pressure that can lead to stress.

What we actually do with this remaining stress is therefore what’s important. After all, research suggests that with the right tools, we can harness our stress in positive ways, transforming back into productivity.

And it makes sense. The Harvard Business Review challenged its readers to think about a time when they’ve been most successful and productive, whether that was their university dissertation, a transformative project or just a really tight deadline.

They then posed the question: was stress a part of what motivated you during this?

The answer is most likely to be a ‘yes’, highlighting the potential value in the stress we experience to act as a driving force as we get stuff done.

So, whilst avoiding stress altogether is the first step in remaining happy and productive, learning to reposition our perspective when it comes to inevitable stress, and transform it from aggregator to motivator, can be pretty helpful all-round.

Acknowledge – then reposition 

The first thing to do when it comes to harnessing stress a little better is to actually acknowledge that it’s there. Only once you’ve accepted that its present can you think about how to use it better.

One you’ve done that – a decision has got to be reached. Is this going to be damaging or empowering?

According to Alicia and Thomas Crum in the Harvard Business Review, this is a fairly important one, citing that ‘Owning this realization unleashes positive motivation — because deep down we know that things that are important shouldn’t always come easy’.

One we’ve recognised that we can actually – with a bit of work – change our relationship with stress, and see it more as the force behind us as we challenge ourselves, not only does our perspective change, but so do the physical effects too.

According to positive psychology expert, Shawn Achor, we can see improvement in our brain function just by reframing challenges as positives. The more positive and curious we are as we look at an upcoming project, the more our brains are able to expand, allowing for faster processing and increased productivity – just be thinking of stress as a byproduct of success, not failure.

Put it to work 

The experience of stress was never supposed to be a negative thing. In fact, going back thousands of years, stress was a helpful tool to keep us on our toes (and therefore improve our success) in moments of danger. And whilst the physical effects of stress can feel like they don’t quite translate as well in the modern world, that’s not quite the whole story.

Whilst adrenaline and cortisol can be helpful when it comes from running from a bear, it’s important to remember that in the modern day world of work, these hormones also have plenty of benefits.

Alicia and Thomas Crum further explained how stress hormones not only give us the energy we need to be successful, but actually release chemicals into the body that can rebuild cells, synthesise proteins and enhance immunity, leaving the body even stronger and healthier than it was before’. This effect, coined “physiological thriving”, is undoubtedly valuable when it comes to pretty much any project – neolithic or not – at hand.

Look around you

A lot of the process when it comes to transforming our stress involves repositioning how we think about it – realising it as a support in our success rather than an obstacle.

This all comes down to positivity, and as we all know, the people around us really can make all the difference.

Adapting your mindset means positioning ourselves around people who can listen to us and support us, and avoiding those who complain and focus on what cannot be changed.

Leave perfection at the door 

It’s a popular and accepted fact in the eyes of many of the world’s most successful business leaders that perfectionism is more unproductive than otherwise. After all, striving for an unattainable goal is not going to get you any closer to any actual achievements.

With that in mind, ignoring what you can’t control and focussing instead on what can is a better positioning of the motivation and energy you have, whatever the task.

All in all, whilst workplace should be managed carefully by your business, occasional stress is something that we all come to face during our careers. Focussing on our perspective and relationship with stress when we can will not only make the process feel a little less taxing, but could also dramatically boost your productivity.

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1. Productivity Frameworks – A closer look at multiple popular strategies for effective overall time management & personal organisation.

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