Photo by Bernard Goldbach, 2011, Used Under Creative Commons License

Photo by Bernard Goldbach, 2011, Used Under Creative Commons License

Approximately 80 percent of Americans report experiencing stress at work, according to the American Institute of Stress, and one in five people surveyed  quit a job because of stress. Stacy Shaw Welch, director of Evidence Based Treatment Centers of Seattle, says stress can have a negative impact on health and well being, but is not wholly a bad thing, but harnessing stress for good takes focus and attention.

Shaw Welch participated in a webinar focused on finding a healthy balance of stress and preventing burnout produced by Bellevue-based Limeade on Tuesday.

“Stress is not all in your head. The mind and body are completely connected, and part of the same response system,” Shaw Welch says.

Stress is a demand on the physical, cognitive, and emotional resources, and is a natural response. Two or three generations ago we were supposed to suck it up when it came to stress, but that expectation is changing.

Shaw Welch says the demand for help in dealing with stress was very high 10 years ago, and a huge economy has been built around managing stress. There are more than 57,000 stress-related apps, but she is concerned that people are not utilizing them to their full potential.

“There is no silver bullet. To create change that is impactful you have to take on the environment and structure, as well as the indivudual,” Shaw Welch says.

Shaw Welch and Limeade CEO Henry Albrecht gave a few pointers on how to prevent burnout.

1. Find your sweet spot
There is a perfect intersection of performance and stress, and it’s different for every person.
“As stress kicks in the body and mind engages and you find the sweet spot. Finding that sweet spot is one of the most important things you can do. You have to do that by asking questions, knowing yourself, and knowing your team,” Shaw Welch said.

2. Use stress as a motivator
“If people don’t have meaning or challenge or anything they’re engaged with, you actually see them unhappy, underperforming, not coming to work, and it affect all of work too,” Shaw Welch said.

3. Take a break
To perform well over time the best stress has peaks and valleys.
“The healthiest way to perform well is to have bursts of activity, bursts of enthusiasm, energy, nervousness, all that wonderful stuff, and then settle. That’s were the body’s break gets to turn on,” Shaw Welch said. That break could be sleep, walking around the block, writing in a journal, expressing gratitude, light-hearted conversation with a coworker or family member, or an entire weekend. Explore what helps you recharge and do it.

4. Watch for signs of too much stress
The body shows signs of physical discomfort during a period of prolonged stress, such as digestive issues, sleeping problems, fatigue, change in appetite, easily succumbing to distraction, frustration, and moodiness.
“It’s a catch-22 where you get stressed, then you get sick, and then you get stressed because you’re not performing. It can really be hard on people,” Shaw Welch says.

5. Individual stress can translate into workplace strategy
“Think about how you structure job roles, schedules and autonomy. These all impact workplace culture,” Albrecht says. “Be intentional about culture and the amount of stress you want to introduce,” Albrecht says.


Tell us, what do you do to manage your stress?