Stress - it <strong>is</strong> personal

Posted 02 November 2015 by
Penny Moyle CEO at OPP and John Hackston Head of R&D at OPP

5 ways to a fitter you. 10 ways to be happy. The 6-step plan to get the job you really want. Spend five minutes on the internet and you’re sure to come across a whole slew of list-based “lifestyle” features. It’s easy to see why; they’re short, catchy, and easy to pass around to friends and colleagues on digital and social media. We’ve even used the format here on OPP’s own blog.

Given that this week, November 4th, is National Stress Awareness Day, you might think this is the ideal time for us to put together a list of top tips for stress relief. And, to an extent, you would be right; there are some general coping strategies that people can use to build their resilience. We’ve included some handy tips but we know no list works for all the people, all of the time.

Managing stress infographic

Work related stressOf course, no list works for all the people all of the time. OPP’s own research shows that many people choose less effective methods to alleviate stress, such as watching TV. And stress is a common workplace experience; we found that more than 70% of workers find work stressful to some degree, and more than a fifth (21%) regularly think about quitting their job. The truth is that we are all different, and do not all experience stress in the same way. The things that distress some people will motivate others; different personalities have different tolerances for different kinds of challenge, and different responses to it. 


Finding a long-term solution to managing stress

By understanding personality, we can identify the typical stressors for different people, and recommend coping strategies tailored to their needs. To really build our resilience, we need more than a list of standalone tips – we need something personalised to the individual.

Working days lost due to stressIt’s a bit like physiotherapy. A good physiotherapist may provide quick relief to a physical ailment, but a crucial part of their practice is to try and find out why the ailment occurred or keeps occurring. By doing this, they can offer specific guidance to the individual on how best to prevent the ailment happening again, or at least reduce its intensity or frequency. Treatment is holistic and includes an educational element which the individual can then use to take some control over their personal situation.

When it comes to building resilience, the key is to help people identify what their stressors are, what their reaction to stress is, and what strategies work for them – in other words, to build their self-awareness. For example, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI) framework provides plenty of useful information about the likely stress triggers for different people. Once a person has identified their psychological type via a feedback process, we can highlight likely stressors and the appropriate ways of coping with these to maximise productive outcomes.

It really is personal

Time off sick due to stressSomething else that is easy to forget is that each of us may need a certain level of stress to maintain motivation and energy at work. Every person has a different optimum level of stress and stimulation, and this optimum will differ depending on the type of task at hand. Sometimes people may need to increase their levels of stimulation, for example by setting more challenging goals, being more physically active, or creating a more exciting work environment. Sometimes people may need to lower their levels of stimulation, for example by using relaxation techniques, delegating tasks, removing themselves from anxiety-provoking situations or ‘burning off’ nervous energy with physical activity. Once again, self-awareness is the key to keeping this at the optimum level.

Stress is personal. It makes sense, therefore, that we don’t jump to solutions. If we learn more about a person, we can create personalised resilience strategies which have a real impact on their wellbeing. 

Your thoughts

What have you learnt about your personal stress triggers?  We’d love to hear your stories about building personal resilience or where you’ve coached and helped people on managing stressors.  Leave a comment below or contact us via our social channels.

More information on stress and resilience:

More resources related to stress 
Download the Quick Guide to Everyday Stress and find more resources including slide decks exclusively available to OPP registered MBTI practitioners. 

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