I had a calling, not from a higher power sadly. Instead RRC contacted me to ask if I would write a blog on “Stress & Wellbeing”. My initial reaction was: why me? What makes me an expert on this topic?
OK, I teach “NEBOSH Certificate in Managing Stress at Work” & “Working with Wellbeing”. I know the syllabus and have the experience of implementing stress management standards in workplaces. I am a mental health First Aider and also teach that course. Last year, I took a long sabbatical and went to the Far East. Why you may ask? To spend time with monks and attend meditation sessions to see if it is at all possible to tame my restless mind. I have read numerous articles around this topic and have been practising meditation for over 5 years. Yet, it doesn’t make me an expert or give me a ticket to dish out advice and write blogs on this topic. But, what I have is a decent amount of experience and truckloads of passion on this subject. Hopefully some of my thinking may make sense to students, employers, and anyone remotely interested.
Is stress an issue that needs addressing?
Back in 1974, the UK saw the introduction of a legislation which had a positive ripple impact felt even today by British industries, commonwealth countries, and many parts of the world. Yes, you know it. The birth of a revolutionary way of managing safety in the workplace; the famous “Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974”. I am in awe that even back then, our forefathers gave priority to “Health” first than “Safety”. Health & Safety. Health first, followed by Safety. Somehow we seem to have missed out the spirit of the law. Instead of focusing on Health issues, we are conveniently focusing on safety issues, introducing systems to prevent accidents and injuries. Health issues are given low or even no priority.
Recently, on a course I was delivering, a fierce looking senior director of a company asserted with fiery authority, “Many people are milking the system. All this stress stuff is being blown out of proportion”.
As he loved number crunching, I showed him the below numbers, happening year on year in the UK:
- 4.5 million days lost due to safety related injuries.
- In comparison, 25.9 million days were lost due to work related health issues.
- 595,000 workers suffering from work-related stress, depression & anxiety.
His sedated response was, “SO?”
As the session continued, a few attendees started opening up. Some said they know of colleagues and family members struggling with mental health. I could see the director looking circumspect and pointed out that what doesn’t get measured, doesn’t get managed.
My appeal to everyone, “Start a conversation and see where it takes you.” Reassure others, “It is OK not to be OK.”
So, let us start at the beginning. What is stress?
The HSE says it is “Adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demands placed on them”.
Everyone has pressure. If we are alive, we have pressure. Start the conversation and see where it takes you. Everyone carries their cross and we do not have control at what life throws at us. But when the pressure gets excessive, when we are unable to cope, then it leads to Stress. Maybe the word Stress has a negative connotation. You may want to give it a positive spin and use other creative words like “Wellbeing” instead. It is not just a label. Call it what you want. What’s is important is for the organisation to know how to create a state of wellbeing in the workplace. I strongly encourage employees to try out the “NEBOSH Working with Wellbeing” course which will guide companies to identify the branches of wellbeing.
“Branches of Wellbeing?!”
As mentioned, we have no control over the pressure dished out by the world or flung by others. But with the right tools, which are covered in the course, we can prevent pressure (especially from the workplace) getting excessive. “We cannot stop the waves, but we can learn to surf them”. Altering the way we think and taking actions can help improve our level of wellbeing. There are multiple tools that can be deployed, as one size doesn’t fit all. Those tools are like a tree with different branches, where each branch represents something which influences our ‘wellbeing tree’.
Still not clear? Well, attend the course and one could be enlightened like Siddhartha Gautama – the spiritual teacher, also known as the Buddha, who attained enlightenment under a tree.
For those who prefer to introduce firm stress management standards in their organisation, the “NEBOSH Certificate in Managing Stress at work” may be a good choice. Whatever the decision, here is a reality check. There is no magic wand that can be swung to remove or manage stress or improve our wellbeing. It is a long-term commitment by everyone, especially management. Allow me to wrap up this post with a quote: “We meet in an hour of change & challenge, in a decade of hope & fear, in an age of both knowledge and ignorance. We choose to do things not because they are easy, but because they are hard”. John F Kennedy
Marshel Rozario MSc, MBA, CMIOSH, MIFireE, MIFSM, MCIOB, IEMA