Work Related Stress
‘I feel like I’m juggling a thousand balls at the same time’
‘I always feel like I’m never on top of things’
‘I didn’t know I was suffering from stress until the physical symptoms became apparent’
Whatever it is my hypnotherapy clients come to my clinic for, one common pattern I see is that they often also suffer from work related stress. Perhaps their anxiety has meant that work has become a chore or it could be that the nature of the clients work itself is to blame. Long hours, new rules, or new management all pose potential challenges.
Pressures leading to damaging stress levels can be low level and continued over a long period of time or be relatively short in duration but very intense, such as experienced during particular traumatic events at home or at work.
According to the labour force survey of 2012 the major causes of workplace stress are :
- Long Hours
- Pressure from management
- Lack of support or direction from management or colleagues
- Changes at work including reorganizations and staff reductions
- Workplace bullying
- Lack of clarity on what the job requires
- A general feeling of not being able to cope and being overwhelmed
The dangers of stress
Although stress itself is not an illness it can create serious health issues as a result of continued unrelenting pressures. If those pressures are not released then the body continues to respond and can create over-production of various hormones. In normal quantities this is fine, but in excess it can create serious difficulties for the body and mind.
We are biologically programmed to deal with threatening situations by producing higher levels of certain hormones including cortisol. Adrenalin is the hormone which increases heart-rate and puts our bodies into a state of arousal, often called ‘the fight or flight’ response. This response is only intended to be short term. The effect of excessive pressure is to keep the body constantly in such a state, which leads to harmful symptoms such as:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Aches and pains in the body
- Cardiovascular disease
- Unusual tearfulness, irritability or aggression
A 2012 study undertaken by researchers at the Columbia University Medical Centre found a 27% increase in the risk of heart attack in highly stressed individuals, the equivalent of smoking five cigarettes a day.
The Problem of Presenteeism
There is growing evidence that many employees are choosing to take leave days rather than calling in sick for fear of disciplinary actions and of scoring high on the Bradford Formula Sickness Absence scoring system.
The Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD) in 2012 reported that one third of employers said there was an increase in the number of their employees going in to work ill and of these more than half reported an increase in stress related absence and mental health problems.
All this does is store up trouble for the individual in the future. It also represents a hidden cost for the employer as their employees start to suffer from poor concentration, focus and low motivation and energy.
Prevention and cure..
In some ways, recent well being initiatives such as counselling services are just an excuse for companies to put the blame or responsibility of change on their employees. The ideal scenario would be for these companies to take action to reform workplace practices to make sure their employees are fully supported and their voices heard.
Unfortunately, it is still the case that mental health at work is still a dirty word and many companies refuse to take any responsibility themselves. Hopefully this will change as people now start to fully acknowledge the fact that workplace stress is one of the most important health and safety issues of this century.
Hypnotherapy and stress management
Stress management workshops have been around for years. Consultants in expensive suits have taught attendees how to identify the risk factors and understand exactly what stress is. The problem though is that, by and large, people leave these often dull courses without the practical tools and techniques to reduce stress and anxiety in the long term. If the environment at work doesn’t change, any hope or extra motivation can quickly evaporate.
Hypnosis is a viable solution for when you cannot change your work environment. It can teach you a mind-set which will help you respond much more effectively to those things you can’t change straight away.
How I help people with hypnosis for work related stress
I have a tried and tested 3 step process to help people deal with stress and anxiety at work:
- Release excess mental tension through self-hypnosis, mindfulness and body relaxation
- Reorganize and reprogram negative thoughts, beliefs and feelings about work
- Reinforce these new positive thoughts and feelings through practice and homework exercises.
Every client who comes for a stress related session has carried inside them a considerable amount of pent-up tension and negative emotions which if not released or given new meaning, will make change an uphill struggle.
Think of a bottle filled to the brim with fizzy liquid with the cap firmly on.
You can’t make room for anything else or let some of the liquid out until you unscrew and take off the cap. In the same way, clients can use hypnosis and relaxation skills to let go of the excess tension and anxiety. This then paves the way for new learning.
Client Case Study – How hypnosis can help
One lady I saw felt an immediate improvement in her stress symptoms simply by using her imagination to visualize all her stressful feelings as dark, murky areas in her body and mind. I asked her what a soothing and relaxing colour for her would be and she immediately answered- orange. She then used her imagination to ‘spread’ an orange liquid into those stressful areas.
For this particular client, the symptoms of stress were also felt in the neck and shoulders and when the session was completed, my client discovered that the pain in her neck had almost disappeared. This might seem strange but what I have learned over the years is that when a person is relaxed and ultra-focused they often surprise themselves with how creative their thinking can be.
Once this excess tension is reduced we can then focus on the negative thinking, emotions and beliefs which contribute to the problem. And that problem is really about that clients individual perception of what is happening to them. Hypnosis can’t change a persons work situation but it can help them think and feel completely differently about what used to overwhelm them.