Mental Stress At Work – How are you handling it?

I’ve been working for more tha 20 years now and as I learn to become a certified Safety and Health Officer, I am exposed to wide range of safety and health issues faced at the workplace. Way back when, mental stress is not one of the health related issues faced by workers. In 2008, Malaysia Health Ministry release the statistics that 400,227 mental patients sought treatment in government hospitals. I wonder how many did not venture into getting treatment and instead goes for the local medicine man for relief.

Stress in itself has 2 sides – the good stress causes you to be on your toes, alert, efficient and effective. It provides you the adrenalin to be incredibly good at what you do. Then there is the stress that stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships, and your quality of life.

When is stress too much? It definitely differes from one person to another. We are unique individuals and this applies to the level of stress. For some people, the stress tolerance are so high, we just wonder when they are going to just go “pop”. For some, the stress tolerance is so sensitive, they crumble under the simplest of situation. The limit differs based on the lifestyle we lead. I strongly feel that this would depends a lot on many factors including the quality of your relationships, your general outlook on life, your emotional intelligence, and genetics. It makes a lot of difference on how you lead your life.

I have noticed that throughout the years as head of my department, I could point out a person in a happy relationship quite fast. You could see it in their work, perspective towards life, time management and their priorities. They are more grounded, very sensitive with their surroundings and simply happy. Workers who are easily stressed at their tasks are those usually with monetary issues, family or in a problematic relationship and are very edgy and very confrontational. Some are very hardworking but could never produce the required result. The list goes on.

It is not very easy for a department head to actually solve the stress problems at work. There are a few things organizations should do:
i. Managers should be equipped with proper training and knowledge to detect employees with stress and the organiztion should have a simple guidelines in place as to what the next step is for example, meeting the right specialist.
ii. Organizations should review how they manage employees at work – work hours, rest areas with soothing and calming environment, feedback system etc
iii. Organizations should review their training to cover beyond technical skills – include emotional intelligence, stress management, time management, skills on how to be more effective (not just hardworking but work smart), human relations, spiritual etc. this could be used not just at work but also in their personal life. When employees has an improved personal life, their work automatically improves too.
iv. Employees themselves should always be encouraged to discuss their grievances with their superior.
v. EHS Promotions is crucial to expose the employees to safety and health related diseases etc.

My views are mainly from courses I’ve taken, experience with the stress at work and dealing with it and witnessing first hand how an individual change from a good worker to plunging himself to death as he decided the mental stress is just too much for him to handle. The best thing is to make everyone aware of the danger lurking in the dark before it is too late.

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye has stressed numerous times – Mental Health is nothing to be ashamed of.

Go get help now, someone out there loves you!

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