Stress - Can It Lead To Workplace Happiness?

Stress. The word itself has such a negative connotation to it. As the dictionary defines it, stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. Even the definition sounds draining.

So, how can we change that? How can we shift our mindset such that when we think about stress, we are able to tell ourselves that it isn’t always a bad thing?

Do you believe it when I tell you that one of the ways to get employees to fall in love with their companies is actually stress? There’s something very unique and extraordinary when people band together during times of mental or emotional strain. Shawn Achor, an American happiness researcher, author, and speaker known for his advocacy of positive psychology, writes in this article that when people go through stress 1) with the right lens and 2) with others, they create meaningful narratives and social bonds that they will talk about for the rest of their lives. And these bonds might just keep people in an organisation. From there, culture is derived and employees feel a certain pride of being able to overcome challenges together.

Changing our perspective to stress doesn’t happen overnight, it takes effort to create new neural pathways in our brain. We need to constantly tell ourselves and put into practice that stress and obstacles in our daily lives are challenges to overcome, and not a threat to happiness. Individuals can learn to see stress not as a personal burden, but as a shared experience in seeking team potential.

Let’s talk about three ways that we can turn stress into something positive.

1) Understand The Situation

It may seem obvious, but taking a step back to understand and find meaning in a seemingly stressful situation can help to turn the stress from threat to challenge. Think about how this experience can make you a stronger person or teach you a new skill. Reaching out to others facing a similar problem, talking about your experiences and issues you are facing, are some ways people find meaning in difficult events. This journal feature from the American Psychological Association talks about how mindfulness positively affects your daily life, from the way you think to the way you behave and communicate with others.

2) Don’t Hesitate To Find Support

When stress hits, we tend to feel alone and dejected. But more often than not, a colleague or friend might have been in your shoes before and can offer some advice or even just a listening ear. Share your thoughts and challenges with your team mates when you’re working on a project together and you’d be surprised at how you can overcome stress together as one. Studies have shown that finding support may give you a deeper understanding and make you more aware, help you to find purpose and provide the stress relieve you need. 

3) Find Someone Who Needs Help More Than You

This seems counterintuitive, but do it anyway. This empowers you and gets you out of your worry cycle, and will provide you with a clean slate and fresh mind to tackle your issues again after. Sometimes, some good old kindness among friends can give you the lift you need.

When we start to perceive stress as a challenge and not a hindrance to happiness, we are able to break it down into manageable steps and deal with them one at a time, and as a team. Think of the end goal; how happy you’d be, and the memories you’ll have when you overcome these challenges together. People say friends cannot be found at a workplace but perhaps those who experience stress with you can be your closest pals outside of work as well.


Article by Andy Pan, the Director of Training at Right Impact Training and the author of Happy Companies, Healthy Profits.

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