Learning & Development

Imbuing a Sense of Control to Combat Stress

Everyone experiences stress from time to time, both in their everyday life and at work. It can be an unpleasant but necessary part of the job. In fact, many managers engage in behavior that increases stress in their workforce in an attempt to keep their organizations operating at a high level. This can be done unwittingly or even intentionally.


Stress Can Do Damage to Individuals and Organizations

Despite the idea that stress leads to greater productivity, hopefully most managers and companies understand that stress can have long-term negative impacts on both employees and organizations.

For one, stress is simply bad from a physical and mental health standpoint. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “[O]ver time, continued strain on your body from stress may contribute to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses, including mental disorders such as depression or anxiety.” Moreover, long-term stress reduces an organization’s morale, which manifests itself in reduced productivity, absenteeism, a lack of engagement, and turnover.

Managing Stress by Understanding its Causes

A powerful way to manage stress is by understanding its causes and addressing them. One of the major sources of stress is feeling like things are out of control.

“The stress we experience is based on our perception of what’s going to happen next. If we anticipate a threatening situation, our body releases stress hormones to prepare us to face the threat,” writes Nir Eyal and Todd Snyder in an article for Forge Medium. “But if we believe we have control over a threatening stimulus, then we don’t need to prepare for that threat in the same way. We don’t need to be on full alert with the fight-or-flight response gearing us up for survival.”

Building in a Sense of Control

Creating a sense of control to fight stress might seem like a dubious suggestion. Of course, people would always prefer to have situations under their control. If they could do that, wouldn’t they do it all the time? But building a sense of control isn’t the same as actually being in control of every situation. In fact, it’s far easier.

Eyal and Snyder go on to write that one way to build a sense of control and thereby reduce stress is to focus on the things that are under one’s control rather than dreading those that are not.

Stress often accompanies success, which may make it seem like it can be a tool to create success. But correlation does not equal causation. Long-term stress has many negative consequences for both employees and their companies. Finding a way to establish a sense of control is one way many people have become successful at combating stress in their lives.