I'd been thinking recently about the fact that my clients use the word 'stress' more than any other. It came as no surprise therefore to read that the Health and Safety Executive has ordered a leading NHS trust to improve how it tackles stress or, wait for it … … face prosecution! But this isn't going to stop the firecrackers going off in this organisation. Certainly, wanting to reduce the incidence of workplace stress is great, but my heart sinks as I see that the NHS's plans will involve yet more research, consultation and 'risk assessment' surveys. It's what I call the 'Catherine Wheel' effect - makes lots of noise, goes round and round and fizzles out with no lasting impact!
We usually associate stress with mental and emotional problems, but it so often manifests itself as a physical disorder, most often: headaches, back-trouble, sleeping problems, stomach disorders or general exhaustion. Paradoxically, to try and alleviate these, people sometimes go into overdrive, become workaholics or thrash themselves at the gym, or they may spiral downwards into slow motion, depression and 'learned incompetence'. There is a third and effective way, but it may involve a coach placing strategic fireworks under you by asking relevant and challenging questions that enable you to switch from a debilitating passive mode to an active constructive one.
When a company asked me recently to help one of their staff, I found a person who was depressed, disorganised, and relatively direction-less. He was working part-time due to chronic fatigue syndrome. Our sessions have unblocked him and unlocked his energies. He tells me he feels 'shaken out of himself' and is now achieving 'sub-goals', some as immediate and comparatively simple as tidying his room and organising bills. He has also talked constructively to his boss to sort out improved working arrangements and we are now discussing jobs more suited to his personality and interests. His sparklers had burnt out and he saw decisions and change as frightening, stressful and even impossible. Now, he's starting to take control and responsibility for re-lighting them and enjoying the consequences.
Our series of meetings with Caroline were exceptionally useful for us to get insight into the historical issues in the department. This is going to give us a common understanding and a firm base from which to build a working and productive relationship.