One of the biggest barriers to good communication is stress.
When we respond poorly to adverse or demanding circumstances, our fight, flight or freeze response kicks in. This can go one of two counter-productive ways:
- Either we withdraw – cutting off communication altogether.
- Or interact with others without due consideration – leading to low-quality communication and an unravelling a healthy team environment.
Most NZ employers take their legal responsibility to manage risks to mental health and wellbeing seriously. It is no different from any other health and safety risk. Consequently, it is a topic our clients often ask us to include in our course content and one we are passionate about helping with.
Escalating stress in the workplace
Despite these efforts, workplace stress is on the increase. The NZ Wellness in the Workplace 2017 survey found stress was up 23% compared to previous years.
It is important to note here that not all mental or emotional tension is damaging. If manageable, it can help increase productivity and creativity. Used as a motivator, it can be very helpful for some. However, when stress is not managed well, it is one of the top three causes of poor mental health in the workplace.
How to cope
The Mental Health Foundation has some excellent resources to help reduce the impact of stress. When we are tense it is often difficult to take on board new information so its simple structured approach can be very useful:
The Mental Health Foundation recommends using three Rs:
Refuel | Whakatipu – looking after wellbeing and cultivating energy to refuel.
Resolve | Whakatika – identifying stressors and finding solutions that help resolve the causes of stress.
Relax | Whakatā – switching on the relaxation response to restore and rest.
For more details check out the excellent Fact Sheet Reducing the Impact of Stress and read more in Success Under Stress by Sharon Melnick, Ph.D., a business psychologist. Her recommendations are also summarized in this Forbes article.