In my career, I have had plenty of opportunities to think about and react to what I consider to be stress. The concept of stress is an interesting one, especially for those of us who work in a compensable environment where the word was removed and replaced by “psychological injury”.
We all know that a certain amount of stress in our daily lives is perfectly normal and somewhat necessary to ensure we perform optimally at work, especially when we are faced with the decision making process. But we also know that chronic stress can prove disastrous to our health, especially if it is a long term continuous process.
As health care professionals, we are all too well aware of the physical effects of stress and when chronic stress invades our lives and our bodies are in a constant fight or flight mode, we produce an excess amount of hormones that lead to changes in heart rate, blood pressure, metabolism and physical activity. We have also seen, often anecdotally, the physical and physiological states that can be caused by the conditions of chronic or repeated stress. These states being disease.
I was really interested in what Dr Zhen Yan and her colleagues at State University of New York, Buffalo have had to say on the matter of stress in a recent study of the mechanisms for the regulation of ligand-gated ion channels and synaptic transmission. It has already been documented that these hormones influence the prefrontal cortex (PFC) region of our brain and, as I mentioned above, a healthy amount of stress allows these hormones to enhance our memory and decision making. Too much though, and our mental flexibility and attention take a hammering and our performance in the workplace (and in our everyday lives) decreases.
What has been confirming for me is the impact that repeated stress, and continued stress actually has on memory function. This study has now identified the specific hormones and their effects on memory function when under conditions of chronic stress.
The discovery of how these hormones relate to cognitive function is extremely important to understanding the role that chronic stress can play on our ability to think and act optimally both in the workplace and at home. Various stress related mental disorders have been linked to PFC dysfunction and these findings will now help break down the disease process caused by chronic stress reactions within the body.
Living in today’s world, we simply can’t ignore the stress that is put upon us. Our adolescents and young adults are entering the workforce already under much more stress that could have been conceived off a mere 10 – 15 years ago. We live in a success-oriented society and it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to escape from the competition and desire to succeed from a young age.
It’s therefore vitally important that we address both the cause and effects of chronic stress in the workplace and come up with effective answers to address the problems that our current lifestyle predisposes us to.
We know stress is bad, we know it leads to ill health. Will this change the way you do your work? Will it impact upon the decisions you make for clients?
Does being reminded of the impact of stress on performance and health make you take notice of the potential stressors and cumulative stressors both at work and at home?
How will we talk to our children about stress?
What solutions and opportunities do we have to make stress work for us?
I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and experiences. Please leave your comments below and join the discussion over on our Facebook wall
Have a great week
Jo from Purple Co
About the Author
Jo Muirhead | Passionate Rehabilitation Consultant | Trainer | Mentor
Jo Muirhead is the founder of Purple Co, the Purpose for People Company. She has 18 years experience as a Rehabilitation Consultant and is passionate about changing lives, and about empowering Rehabilitation and allied health Professionals to build successful and sustainable consulting practices.
Purple@purposeforpeople.com.au | www.purposeforpeople.com.au