“My life is a mess. I am always anxious and i am constantly screaming at my children for absolutely no reason. My business is collapsing. I have no saving. I have no one to help me.”  Margret* (not her real name) uttered with tears rolling down her cheek. Mother of 4, recently divorced, Margret’s once booming event planning business is on the verge of collapse.
 
Since the declaration of covid 19 as a global pandemic, researches have indicated an elevated level of stress and anxiety among people. Worries about money, job security and businesses have been rampant.
 
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                             Photo credit: apnews
 
Contrary to public knowledge, stress is not always detrimental. It can be positive (eustress) or negative (distress).  While eustress can motivate and improve performance, distress can cause anxiety and reduce performance. People are generally remembered for two things: the problems they solve and the problems they cause. Eustress can force an entrepreneur to re-strategize, think differently and adapt their vision to this new normal. Distress, on the other hand causes depression and can be fatal. Employers and employee must be able to differentiate these two phenomenon to manage alarming reactions and adapt accordingly.
 
Stress can have several consequences on an individual. 
Physically, chronic stress can reduce ones immune system’s ability to deal with bacteria and viruses, making him or her prone to diseases. Psychologically, stress can cause high anxiety and depression and affect ones quality of life. In terms of behavioural change, a person with increasing stress is more likely to smoke more, become violent, get involved in sexual intercourse with different partners and consume more alcohol. These changes always affect  work outcomes. An employee with increased stress is less likely to concentrate, be less motivated, committed and become more absent.
Stress is an imbalance between demand and resource- where resources refers to ones ability to control or cope with the stress and demand, corresponds to demand from work, family or general responsibility . When demand is higher than resource, the organization must take the necessary steps to manage the stress. 
 
“Referred as the health epidemic of the 21st century by the World Health Organization, stress is said to cost American businesses up to $300 billion a year and $30 billion a year in Australia.” (Stress to strength, 2019)
An effective organizational structure can help employees manage stress and maximize return on investment.
 
Goal-setting:
Research shows that “employees who are highly committed to their goals and see purpose in their jobs experience less stress.” Challenging positive goals can motivate and reduce stress.
 
Reassurance:
Many times, employees who are stressed are uncertain about goals and expectations or unsure about job security. Involving employees in decision making show that your care and give them an opportunity to embrace their role within the organisation.
 
Open communication:
Establish an open communication policy at work to share concerns, clarify misunderstandings and minimize stress.
 
Encourage time off:
Now that employees have transitioned from office to work office, zoom meetings are increasing. Allow one sabbatical day in the week to recharge, when a staff is feeling overwhelmed. 
 
As an employee, know that your employer can only do so much, the rest must be done by you. Some effective initiatives to manage your stress can include: increase physical exercise, relaxation training, support system and positive thinking exercises.
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Photo credit: Synergy Natural
 
Most importantly, “pause and remember: every single event in your life, especially the difficult lessons, have made you smarter, stronger, and wiser than you were yesterday.”
 
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