While we’ve spent the last 15 months watching Covid-19 derail the world, there is another pandemic that has spread like wildfire, stress. Changes to how we go about our daily lives, our work, our hobbies, finances, lockdowns are triggering us and exacerbating existing problems.
Stress has had a massive impact on how teams are coping and operating. Working from home comes with its own challenges. Working from the kitchen table and trying to homeschool at the same time is no easy feat. With the boundaries between work and home blurred it is no wonder that so many of us are feeling stressed out.
Stress not only causes problems with productivity but can also manifest in our bodies as sleep problems, poor digestion, respiratory and heart problems. While short-lived stress can help us stay alive and alert, most of us are not living with short-lived stress right now.
Our typical stress management tools may not be available; going for a walk or having lunch with a colleague, team lunches or drinks, or simply walking over to someone’s desk to have a quick chat.
So here are some tactics that will help your team manage stress:
Movement is medicine. Any exercise is a stress reliever. Encourage your team to go for a run or a walk, organise online fitness classes or team challenges. When we move our body, we flood it with endorphins, a feel-good neurotransmitter. Endorphins improve our mood and help manage stress.
Even though we are confined to our homes, we can be creative in how we get moving. There is an abundance of yoga and fitness classes online. You can go for a walk or a run within the restrictions. If you have a garden, you are in luck. It’s the time of year when you can start mowing the lawn or doing a bit of gardening. If you don’t have a lot of space, yoga, pilates, stretching can all be done in a small area.
Tools to help with the mind
A stressed mind operates in flight or fight. Our thoughts can often be all over the place, which doesn’t help us concentrate or focus on work. When it’s difficult to focus on work, it is difficult to switch off from work, and it becomes a downward spiral to burnout.
To reduce your team’s stress, offer them tools that will help tame their mind. We can train our brain to switch off, to let go of circling thoughts and manage anxieties. Simple practices like focusing on your breath for 2-3 minutes can lower your heart rate, stabilise your blood pressure and lower your stress level.
Meditation can help with reducing stress. There are so many different styles of meditation; you just need to find the style that works best for you and your team. The great thing about breathing and meditation is that they can be done anywhere, at any time, by anyone.
Have a laugh
Laughter does wonders for stress! Not only does laughter feel good, but it releases and soothes tension in our bodies. It can also strengthen our immune systems, boost our mood, and it helps us cope with difficult situations.
Organise team get-togethers via Zoom, have a glass of wine, let your hair down and have some fun together. Encourage your team to organise their own social activities online. You can organise comedians to do shows on Zoom, have a laughter yoga class, send funny memes to the team. We have had a tough 12 months, so give the team permission to have some fun and laugh.
While stress has become an inevitable part of our lives, it is possible to manage it. Try out different things with your team, not all of them are going to be the fit for you, but you will find something that works.