Stress-resistant personality – how to increase stress tolerance at work?
October 27, 2021
We all experience stress in life. Excessive stress not only negatively affects our health and well-being but also work performance and earning capacity. You can adapt to or overcome stressful situations at work. The current individual’s ability to deal with stress and resilience will determine one’s success. You can turn challenges and adverse events into positive ones by developing a stress-resistant personality. So, read the article to learn how to increase stress tolerance at work.
Stress is generally indicated as a deviation from the normal functioning of the body and mind
Table of Contents:
What is stress resistance?
Overall, stress resistance is the ability to “bounce back” when you face troublesome challenges. Psychologists define it in more detail – as a process of adapting in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, or threats resulting from family, personal, health problems or significant stress in the workplace.
However, whether an experience or situation is stressful, and to what extent, is always subjective to the experiencer. Most people understand when and why they suffer from stress but it is harder for them to estimate how much or how long they can handle. It results from the stress resistance level being generally innate.
What does high and low stress resistance mean?
People with a high stress resistance can delay the “critical point” before experiencing unfavourable effects or quickly return to relative normality after crossing it. As a result, they require less time and/or treatment to recover from the adverse effects of stressors.
And people with low stress resistance feel the negative effects of certain situations faster and have lower ability to control the emotions caused by stimuli. It is more difficult for them to cope with stress overload, which can bring them to a spiral of negative symptoms difficult to escape from. And extended exposure to stressors can trigger anxiety symptoms and even lead to depression.
What is the difference between resistance, tolerance, and resilience?
Those terms are often used interchangeably; however, they do not always mean the same. There are subtle differences that we will clarify in the context of stress.
Resistance is the ability to remain unaffected by something, especially adversely. People resistant to stress do not feel the negative factors of a stressful situation and can continue an activity without an impact on their frame of mind.
Tolerance means a decrease in response to something that we are subjected to repeatedly. Tolerance to stress is an adaptation to stressful situations that grows gradually. It usually involves the necessity to change a person’s habits to be able to tolerate the stress.
Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from harmful stimuli. Resilience in the stress context means that a given situation negatively affects a person, but they can quickly deal with the effects and return to the pre-crisis state.
Stress-resistance in research
A study from 2019 presents the results of a psychological study conducted among 90 employees, which determines the level of organizational stress and the degree of development of two professionally important features – tolerance and resistance to stress. It was stated that:
- approximately 75% of employees are behind with their tasks due to a low overall level of organizational stress while having a high level of stress tolerance and resilience;
- 17% of employees showed a high level of organizational stress, of which a low level of stress tolerance characterized 6%;
- the more active and productive employees are, the higher is their resilience, and vice versa – the older they are, the lower is their stress control rate;
- along with the increase in professional experience, the flexibility of employees’ behavior increases;
- there are significant differences that came up during a comparative analysis by gender, firstly in the overall level of stress tolerance (higher among women) and secondly self-awareness (more developed among men).
A new measure of stress resistance
Researchers at the University of Zurich conducted a study in 2021 that identified an objective neurobiological measure that can predict a person’s response to stress. In it, they show that increased sensitivity in one area of the brain (specifically LC-NE) contributes to the development of anxiety and depression in response to stress in real life.
“Having an objective measure of a person’s ability to cope with stress can be very helpful, for example when it comes to choosing a profession […]”, explains Birgit Kleim, member of the research team.
Stress in a workplace
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), stress has been classified as the health epidemic of the 21st century
Numerous studies show that work is the primary source of stress among adults and that it has significantly increased over the past few decades. Stress factors can be associated with, for example, organizational changes, staff reduction, tight deadlines or competition.
Sources of stress at work
Work-related stress emerges as a response to demands and pressures that do not match an employee’s skills or knowledge, undermining their ability to respond appropriately. Some everyday stressors in the workplace include:
- Bad work style – excessive workload, infrequent rest breaks, long working/shift work, hectic and routine tasks of minor importance, failure to use employees’ skills.
- Inept management style – lack of employees’ participation in decision-making, quick changes without consultation, poor communication, no pro-family policy.
- Poor social environment – no support/help from colleagues and superiors.
- Conflicting or uncertain job expectations, too much responsibility.
- Uncertainty of employment and the lack of opportunities for development, promotion, quick changes for which employees are unprepared.
- Environmental conditions include unpleasant or unsafe physical conditions such as crowding, noise, air pollution, or ergonomic problems.
A NIOSH research favors the view that working conditions play a significant role in creating stress at work. And exposure to stressors at work can have a direct impact on safety and employee health.
Symptoms of stress at work
- fatigue and exhaustion, lack of energy;
- frequent headaches, muscle aches;
- upset stomach, diarrhea or constipation;
- chest pain, rapid heartbeat/changes in heart rhythm;
- sleep disturbance;
- frequent colds and infections.
- irritability, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, depression;
- mood swings;
- discouragement, pessimism and lack of interest in work;
- difficulty concentrating and making decisions;
- aggression or isolation.
- decline in productivity and creativity at work;
- difficulty communicating with colleagues and superiors;
- increasing the number of sick days;
- failure to meet deadlines.
How do people become stress-resistant?
To deal with stress, specific techniques and strategies will help you change your attitude, perception or allow for partial tolerance of a stressful situation (in cases where you cannot control it). So, what can you do to increase stress tolerance at work?
To develop stress-resistant personality, the American Psychological Association proposes:
- Keep track of stressors, e.g., by keeping a diary of what situations trigger your stress, what you feel and how you respond to them. It will help you find patterns in causes and reactions.
- Develop healthy responses when you feel the tension build-up. Then try to create distance, distract yourself and make healthy choices. Physical activity, devotion to hobbies, reading, going to a concert, playing with family, and good-quality sleep can help you manage stress.
- Set up schedules for work-at-home tasks, such as restricting emails or answering your phone .
- Reset your mind – use relaxation techniques such as meditation, walking, deep breathing, savoring the moment, or just mindfulness. The ability to intentionally focus on one activity without being distracted improves with practice.
- Talk openly with your manager to find a way to deal with stressors in the workplace and improve your performance. Detail what resources you need and what can be changed so you can improve your productivity. Your employer may have access to stress management resources through the Employee Assistance Program.
- Get the support of friends and family; and if you still feel overwhelmed by stress at work, consider talking to a psychologist who can help you deal with it and teach you how to resist.
- Be assertive and clearly communicate what you want, need and what bothers you.
- Limit stimuli by turning off technology, screens, and other things.
- Distinguish between urgent and essential things.
- Manage your time – organize your tasks so as not to be busy all day long; create a routine that includes pleasure and joy.
- Prioritize and don’t let others’ needs override your own, which will help you take control and respect yourself.
Stress management is an ongoing process that needs to be monitored. Sometimes stress can be overwhelming with negative consequences, sometimes it can be positive and provides opportunities for development inside and outside a workplace. If well managed, stress can act as a motivator and incentive to achieve the best possible results. Reducing its negative effects and consequences through prevention is more important than just identifying its causes. Organizations should promote a healthy work environment with the benefits of a non-stressful workplace, productive, and satisfied employees.