More than 62% of people questioned in a recent survey said the current economic downturn is having a negative effect on their sense of wellbeing, according to new research carried out by workplace stress consultants In Equilibrium.
A further 38% said that it did not make any difference to them, with not a single respondent answering the downturn is having a positive impact on them.
However there was some room for optimism with 41% of those surveyed saying they expect to feel better than they do now by the end of 2009.
Jan Lawrence, Director of Dunfermline-based In Equilibrium, commented: “I don’t think anyone will be surprised at just how big an impact the credit crunch is having on people’s sense of wellbeing; many of whom are worried about their jobs particularly in the retail and banking sectors.
“Financial health and mental health are closely linked and job insecurity, debt and redundancy all contribute to mental distress. Some experts are suggesting that there could be a 26% increase in mental health problems, affecting more than 1.5million people in UK as a result of the downturn.
“A report released by mental health charity Mind last year found 91% of those with mental problems believed they were made worse by financial difficulties and debt.
“Along with financial worries the loss of traditional high street names such as Woolworths and Wedgewood which were almost part of the country’s national identity, also fuel people’s anxieties as they seem to herald the end of an era and the dawn of an age of great uncertainty.
“Despite all the negativity however, the survey shows that there is a strong contingent of people who see these difficult times as being temporary and believe that things will be brighter by the end of 2009.”
Lawrence says that companies must take steps now to protect their employees’ mental health by encouraging them to develop personal resilience, the most important resource for coping well in stressful times.
Lawrence added: “When people are suffering from stress and anxiety, they don’t work as effectively and handle challenges well, some people can find themselves paralysed by fear and unable to make decisions. It makes real business sense for companies to create an environment where staff can learn to manage their stress, develop strategies to deal with it and, vitally, develop a resilience to it.
“Resilient people turn adversities into opportunities. They view difficulties as challenges to overcome rather than pressures that might overwhelm them. Indeed, the ability to persevere despite obstacles and setbacks is probably one of the most important factors in succeeding in life and enjoying it too.”
In Equilibrium offers training courses and consultancy to help organisations create an environment where staff develop resilience to workplace stress, as well as a sense of wellbeing. This allows staff to respond positively to challenges and perform at their best. It works with some of the UK’s top corporate organisations, including Biffa Waste Services, Syngenta and Brighton & Hove City Council.
In Equilibrium’s top three tips to help employees manage increased workplace stress during the credit crunch include:
1. Turn your problems into challenges
Have you noticed that successful people rarely use the word problem? Instead, they prefer to use challenge as they know that the only way to learn anything valuable in life is from trial and error, and that learning from your failures breeds success. A worthy example is Thomas Edison. It took him around 10,000 attempts before he finally invented the electric light. Instead of giving up at any point, he believed that each failure was bringing him closer to success.
2. Keep Life in Perspective
If you’re having a stressful time and finding it difficult to see the wood from the trees, try taking a couple of minutes out with a piece of paper and a pen. Write a list of all the things you think make your life worthwhile, from your important personal relationships to the welcome a pet gives you when you come home at night. You may be surprised at how many positive aspects appear on your list and you may find that your next hurdle doesn’t appear to be quite so high.
3. The 60 Second Tranquilliser
This is a useful exercise to help you cope better in situations where you are likely to feel panicky or fearful. It is important to practise this controlled breathing technique regularly – away from stressful or anxious situations until you become quite skilled at it. Using a positive thought will activate the parasympathetic nervous system and help to switch off the fight/flight reaction.
1. Say firmly to yourself ‘Take control’.
2. Repeat – ‘I can do anything I want to’ breathe out slowly.
3. Slowly breathe in and allow your abdomen to soften and rise.
4. Pause slightly.
5. Slowly breathe out, slightly longer than breathing in.
6. Say to yourself ‘I am breathing in peace and blowing away tension’.
7. Each time you breathe out relax your face, jaw, shoulders, and hands.
8. Move and talk more slowly.
9. Repeat again until you feel fully in control.
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