Event Date: 12/12/2018 (2:00 pm EST - 3:00 pm EST)
Speaker 1: Broadcast is now starting. All attendees are in listen only mode.
Sara: Hi everyone. And welcome to today’s webinar, Working Through Stress: Practical Tips for Performing Under Pressure, hosted by HRDQ-U and presented by Dr. Kayla LaBarge. My name is Sara and I will moderate today’s webinar. We’ll last about an hour or so and if you have any questions, go ahead and use your chat box that you have there in your GoToWebinar control panel. You can type those in. I’ll answer some as they come in while the presentation is going on. We’ll have time at the end to answer some questions and any questions we don’t get to answer we will reply back in our blog and you’ll get an email with that as well.
Sara: So let me welcome today’s presenter. We are fortunate enough today, and you should be able to see her here hopefully on webcam.
Kayla LaBarge: Hello guys. Nice to meet you all, I’m so happy you’re here.
Sara: This is Dr. Kayla LeLeux LaBarge. Kayla is a highly skilled organizational psychologist and executive coach at Equilibria Leadership Consulting. She received her doctorate in clinical psychology from Georgia Southern University. Kayla believes that with awareness and willingness, we have everything we need within us to be our best professional selves. It just takes commitment and hard work. She has a strong research and assessment background and is a well published author with publications in the fields of positive psychology, resiliency, clinical outcomes and stress related challenges.
Sara: Welcome Kayla, and thank you so much for joining us today.
Kayla LaBarge: Thanks Sara, and thanks for that wonderful introduction. I wanted you guys to all get a chance to see what I look like so that way throughout the rest of this webinar you get a sense that there is a real person on the other end of the webinar. I will be turning my webcam off once we get started just to kinda turn down any distractions that it may cause. And I just wanted to take a second to elaborate on the purpose behind this webinar, it’s really to get down to the nitty gritty around workplace stress. We all experience stress at work and it’s my hope that by the end of the webinar today you have a practical toolbox of tips that you can take with you, metaphorically, to work to help you to decrease the negative impact that stress can have.
Kayla LaBarge: So, I’m going to shut down my webcam down, it’s very amazing that you all are here, and we’ll move forward with the presentation.
Kayla LaBarge: So, to get started we’re gonna do a poll. And really this poll is just to kinda get a sense of what our audience looks like, how are they viewing stress? And so Sara is going to take over in a second to run the poll, thank you Sara. And, so, the first poll question that I’d like you all to read and answer is, first, “Slowing down in not possible in today’s 24/7 world.” So, I want you to select either true or false for that, because we all live in this really unique technological space where everything, information, our knowledge base is growing at ever rapid paces and so tell me, is it true or false that slowing down is not possible for you in today’s 24/7 world.
Kayla LaBarge: And we’re gonna give a few seconds for polls to kinda gather in.
Sara: We’re getting a good response. It’s really neat to see how fast it jumped at one point but then how it’s kinda like evening out here a little bit, sorta interesting. So, I’m gonna go ahead and share these results. So, everybody should see them.
Kayla LaBarge: Wow, so we have about 40% of people feeling like slowing down is not possible. And this is a really interesting finding, I want the people who answered that they don’t feel like they can slow down, I want you to know that is a normal experience today. So, for the 60% of people who found that to be false, I’m happy that you’re finding that time to slow down and we’re gonna discuss ways that you can continue to do that.
Kayla LaBarge: And so let’s switch to the next poll question to get a little bit deeper insight into stress and how it’s impacting people. And the second poll question, which Sara’s gonna bring up now, is, true or false, “Performance depends on one’s ability to make sacrifices in order to meet demands.” And so these sacrifices could be in order to be highly productive at work, I have to sacrifice my physical health. In order to be highly productive at work, I need to sacrifice time with my kids, time with my family. So take a moment now to answer true or false, “Performance depends on one’s ability to make sacrifices in order to meet demands.”
Sara: We’ve still got people responding, so I’ll give it another couple of seconds here.
Kayla LaBarge: Perfect. And thank you, I’m so excited about the enthusiastic response on these first two polls. I know that stress is such an evocative topic and I hope that we can make it a little bit less scary by the end of this webinar.
Sara: Well, this is interesting.
Kayla LaBarge: Wow, very, very interesting. So, pretty much a flip, right? And we kinda expect that based on what we saw earlier. This question is kind of a flip on that last question, and so we have 60% of people that believe that maintaining high performance depends on one’s ability to make sacrifices in order to meet demands. Where as 40% of people are feeling like, “I’m able to find more of the balance where I don’t feel like sacrifice is happening,” and that may be due to support, that may be due to organization, and we’ll talk more about some of the coping resources we can bring to make sure that the 60% of people who feel like they’re sacrificing a lot to stress, that they have something that balances out, that makes it feel like there’s reciprocity, like what they’re giving is also what they’re getting.
Kayla LaBarge: Sara, thank you so much for pulling up each of these polls. I think they, again, provide us some insight into what our audience looks like and so I mentioned earlier, for the people who are feeling a lot of workplace stress, this is the norm. In fact, 24% of adults report experiencing extreme levels of stress. This means 1 out of every 4 people on this call, right now, are experiencing extreme levels of stress at work.
Kayla LaBarge: Now, let’s continue to understand what that statistic means. 43% of adults report that in the past month, stress has caused them to lie awake at night. And I know I’ve been there, I’ve been there where I’m trying to go to sleep at night and my mind is on about everything I did that day or everything I have to do the next day and when stress starts to get so strong that it’s impacting sleep, it’s having this almost double compound effect because not only is our mind and our brain really stressed out, but our body is now not getting to recover and we only have one body and one brain, so these are important statistics to take note of.
Kayla LaBarge: And then lastly, around 34% of adults, 1 in every 3 adults, report that their stress has only increased over this past year. Now, take a moment to think about that and take a moment to think about over this past year, we’re coming to the end of the year, we’re coming to the holiday season, where we’re in the holiday season, really, and 34% of adults are reflecting back on this past year and thinking, “Wow, this year has been more stressful than any year before.” So, if you feel like you’re one of those 34% of people, I encourage you to please listen with an open mind today. Again, my goal is to provide you with some ways to decrease that stress.
Kayla LaBarge: So, before we go any further, let’s just define stress. As a clinical psychologist, I’m trained in clinical psychology and for me, as a scientist, the best way to face any fear is to just name it. And so first let’s just name and define what stress is. Stress is defined as the non-specific response of the body to any demand made upon it. Now notice, this does not say stress is a negative bodily response. This just says it’s a non-specific response. It’s the brain’s response to any demand, okay?
Kayla LaBarge: So, for example, I know that later this week it’s my partner’s birthday. I know that I have a list of things that I need to do and when I think of that list I have a response, right? ‘Cause my brain is responding, “Oh, you’re turning me on, you’re turning, you’re trying to figure out the way to meet this demand,” right?
Kayla LaBarge: And change can trigger stress. That change can be positive or negative. So, for example, a positive trigger might be you’re getting married this weekend and you’re stressed because you’re just so excited and you want everything to go perfectly. Whereas a negative trigger might be you missed a deadline and it resulted in you kinda getting some really negative feedback from your boss.
Kayla LaBarge: It can be real or perceived. So, stress can be the deadline that you know you’re working up towards, that you might miss. But it can also be perceived. It can be, “I’m worried that in the future I won’t reach my long term career goals.”
Kayla LaBarge: And it can be recurring in both short or long terms. So, when I think of this I think of people who have gone through divorce proceedings while also having to maintain being at work and being highly productive at work. And I think of the long term recurring stress, as a trigger, that you’re having to kinda work around the ickiness and negotiation that a divorce can sometimes bring. So, it can also feel recurring.
Kayla LaBarge: So, I write this because so often we confuse stress as being something negative, something that we don’t want to have … and I am experiencing some issues changing my slide, so if, Sara, you could help me out. Thank you.
Kayla LaBarge: So, we’re moving right along. We have an idea of how we perceive stress, we have an idea of what stress actually is. So, now I want you to take that paper and pen, your handout, and on the note section for this slide, or on a pad that you have around, I want you to take a moment to list some of your most common workplace stressors.
Kayla LaBarge: So, common workplace stressors could be you have a colleague that works next to you that’s really loud all day and it’s really stressful for you, it distracts you. Another common workplace stressor is maybe you just have a bad boss and it’s not always on the boss but sometimes you just have a bad boss and waking up every morning and thinking about going to work, it’s stressful, right? Maybe one of your common workplace stressors is that you run a startup and the inherent risk that comes with running a startup is part of your everyday stress being an entrepreneur.
Kayla LaBarge: So, I’m going to give you just about ten more seconds to list some of your common workplace stressors before we flip this slide to the next slide.
Kayla LaBarge: Okay, so moving right along. Now we know the things that trigger our stress, those common workplace stressors. We’re moving right along to this. When things are stressful at work, when you’re triggered, when these things are all happening, how does it impact your performance? So, we’re doing a functional analysis of stress at work. What happens to your performance when these stressors get evoked? When you have to wake up every morning, go to work, with a leader you don’t believe in or with your noisy colleague who might work next door, or even with just the high performance and motivation that you have for your startup to survive. How does it impact your performance?
Kayla LaBarge: And, again, stress is neither good nor bad, in most cases at work. So, identifying some positive ways, if you can, as well as some negative ways to kinda expand our perspective on stress and how we’re beginning to conceptualize and respond to it. So, again, I’ll give about ten more seconds for you to finish kinda jotting down, just free associating, what comes up when you think about when things are stressful at work, how does it impact your performance?
Kayla LaBarge: Wrapping that up, going onto the next slide. Taking it a bit deeper. We’ve all experienced stress, and I don’t want to come into this webinar assuming that you haven’t tried many, many logical, practical, amazing things to cope with it, and I imagine that some of these have been quite successful whereas others have been less successful.
Kayla LaBarge: So, now I just want you to list a few things that have worked. ‘Cause, again, my goal is at the end of this webinar, you have an idea, you have this toolbox that you can bring with you to work to help decrease stress, and part of that is knowing what is already working for you in terms of managing workplace stress.
Kayla LaBarge: So, it could be that you’ve taken up the really nasty habit of smoking, right? And it works to decrease your stress at work, but we need to start to identify if it’s really useful in the long term, right? Writing it down, if it’s decreased stress. Maybe as a part of your new regime you started to walk over lunch to decrease kinda the physical agitation associated with stress. I work with an executive team that they spend 30 minutes of every lunch walking in circles around their complex and just catching up on what’s happening and being together as a team and just the physical exercise paired along with that interpersonal contact has decreased their executive team stress in numerous ways.
Kayla LaBarge: So, wrapping that up and going to the next slide now. Starting to go deeper into this idea that they have both good and bad types of stress. And so often, again, we get focused, we get stuck, on the bad stress. And so distress is the negative stress. Distress has a deleterious impact on our functioning. It causes anxiety or concern. It can be short or long term, so it can feel like really acute like, “Oh my God, in this moment I am overly stressed and overwhelmed.” Or it could be long term where it feels more chronic, “I’ve been at this job for a year now and I feel like I’ve been stressed every day of it.” It can be perceived as outside of your coping abilities and most of the time distress is, it feels like something out of your control, that your not equipped to handle, and, again, that’s the importance of building this toolbox, that you’re equipped to handle many various types of stress.It feels unpleasant. And bad stress decreases your performance, so that’s how you know the difference, is that distress decreases your performance and the quality of your work over time, and it can lead to mental and physical problems, which we will talk more about, but that, as you saw, between 1 in every 4 and 1 in every 3 individuals is experiencing these mental and physical problems related to distress.
Kayla LaBarge: On the other hand, we also have eustress, and eustress is that good stress. Eustress is the stress that we’ve all tapped into to motivate us, to focus our energy. When I think about the stress that must go into being an Olympic athlete, right? The stress on the body, the stress on the mind, in terms of meeting stringent goals, being very disciplined, that is taping into the eustress, getting your physiology, the physiology of stress to work for you. And as a result that is short term because our brain and body can only function for so long at a stressful state. It’s perceived as within our coping abilities, so when we perceive, “Okay, this task ahead of me, this thing that’s making me really stressed, I can deal with it, I have what it takes to overcome it.” It changes that essential perception of stress as being distress. It feels exciting, instead of feeling like, “Oh my God, I’m going to have a panic attack,” it feels more like, “My adrenalin is pumping, I’m ready, I’m ready to go.” And this type of stress has a tendency to improve our performance.
Kayla LaBarge: Now, I wanna make a note here on the research between stress and performance and what we find is that there’s actually a U-shape relationship between stress and performance. All this means is that there’s an optimal level of good stress to impact performance. So, we don’t wanna be too stressed when we have to perform and we don’t wanna be too laid back and laissez-faire when we need to perform. We wanna find that middle point where stress is both pushing us but also making sure that it’s not going into that maladaptive level of stress where we start to feel it impacting the balance in other areas of our life.
Kayla LaBarge: And so, as a part of this, and this is not to negate anyone who experiences stress on a daily basis or anyone who experiences the resulting anxiety that can accompany it, but really what this comes down to is that perception is key. And that perception is everything when we deal with stress. What one person perceives as stressful, can feel challenging and motivating to another person. And so I like this quote because I think it really differentiates that distress and so, “High amounts of stress and the perception that stress impacts health,” these are two things,” are each associated with poor health,” individually. So, when they become combined it’s like a combined effect, right? “Individuals who perceived that stress affected their health and reported a large amount of stress had an increased risk of premature death.”
Kayla LaBarge: Now, this is a scary quote but this quote is not meant to scare anyone. This is just to show how powerful the combination of stressful life events, which are inevitable, when paired with a stressful perception and a negative perception of those events, over the course of time, correlated with premature death. Dying before the average rate of mortality for your age group. And this is a striking finding because, again, when we think of stress as physiological, it only echoes the fact that we need to take more time to take care of our body and take care of our mind.
Kayla LaBarge: So, some common responses to stress that you may be experiencing include digestive issues, things like your stomach feels upset. Yawning, fatigue, you feel tired all the time ’cause you are, your body and your mind are literally on over drive trying to continue to function through stress. Might experience panic, mood instability like anger or sadness. The more common acute types of stress responses include things like starting to sweat or fidget or your mouth might get dry, your heart might start to beat faster, you feel those palpitations in your chest. You might start to breath shallowly and quickly. Might get quite and isolate yourself. Or you might self sabotage either through negative thoughts or self sabotaging the support system needed to help you work through the stress. Again, these are common responses to stress because this is what it looks like for most people. And so if you’re noticing some of these might be repetitive from what you wrote early, in terms of triggers and responses, I wanna, again, reiterate that you’re not alone.
Kayla LaBarge: And so, now I wanna show this very scientific video, and I say that pun intended, about what stress might look like. The ten stages of your work day and I hope, if nothing else, this video provides a respite from a very serious topic like stress and allows you to decompress and take a few moments to reflect and laugh on what it looks like when we show up to work. So, I’m gonna let Sara now take over to play this short video on workplace stress and the ten stages we may all experience.
Kayla LaBarge: Perfect, so I hope you all could see that video. Sara, just to interact with you a little bit, I couldn’t see it on my screen so I just wanted to check in that all went well in terms of flow for the rest of the audience.
Sara: Oh, no! I have a couple that did chime in that they couldn’t see it but I do have some that did say they could see it. So, it looks like it’s a split mix there. I’m not sure what happened ’cause it’s like half the people coming in are saying, “Oh, yeah, I saw it fine,” and others are saying they didn’t. So, behind the scenes here I’ll have to do some tech support on that but I can also email the video so you can guys can see it after the session, too. So you get the feel for what it was.
Kayla LaBarge: Perfect. And I apologize to anyone who couldn’t see the video but it’s really funny, so one Sara sends out the link, check it out. But really what it was was just a funny video about how babies sometimes respond so similarly to how we might respond to stress at work. And so for those of you who could see it, I hope you got a laugh out of it. I know when Sara and I were preparing this webinar, we certainly got a laugh out of just drawing the parallels to just how sometimes the responses we have to stress even show up in babies and so we really just laughed about it.
Kayla LaBarge: And so, now, for the rest of the webinar, I really wanna focus on this toolbox that I’ve been talking about. I feel like I’ve given you this nice foundation of what stress is, you should be getting a better idea through your own reflecting, through these prompts, what it looks like for you and how it might show up at work. And now I wanna talk a little bit more about what can you do about it?
Kayla LaBarge: Stress is inevitable, I’ve said that many times throughout this webinar, but what can you do to face it? When stress knocks on your door at work, what can you do? What tools can you bring with you? And when I was thinking about it, I kinda broke it down into four main domains. So, four areas that I think if we could build so tools, some tolerance around, they would definitely impact workplace stress and these include the first domain, which is physical and physiological. The second, which is relationships and dynamics. The third, efficiency and organization. And four, the intrapersonal and mental. And, basically, what I’m saying is, when I point out these four domains, is that these are the areas where stress is gonna have the biggest impact on your life and so intervention should be aimed at decreasing these.
Kayla LaBarge: So, let’s look at the first domain, the physical and the physiological. And I start here because really when we get down to it, our brain and our body, they’re just physical things. And if we don’t care of them, they won’t last. The brain, I compare it to a computer because it is the most powerful computer that we know. And just think about it. If you left your computer running and you just challenged it to have unending tasks, your computer would eventually crash, and your brain is no different and your body is no different. So, we only get one body. We only get one brain. We have to take care of it. And there are easy ways to take care of it. For those people who at the beginning of the poll said that there is no time in today’s world to shutdown and shutoff and slow down, I challenge you on that. It’s that perception. It’s about being creative and finding small ways, every day, to recovery.
Kayla LaBarge: So, the first way’s the easiest way, is finding ways to take breaks. I recommend 15 minutes every four hours, and it doesn’t have to be all at once. It could be seven minutes every two hours. It could be five minutes every hour, right? I want it to be so you feel like your mind is having brief moments to shut off.
Kayla LaBarge: Sleep. If you find that you’re one of those people who, again, in the poll, stress is keeping you lying awake at night, you’re one of the 1 outta 3 people who are saying that, sleep is essential. Finding ways to get the appropriate amount of sleep. I’ll talk about the Headspace app a little bit later when we talk about mindfulness, but I love sleep sounds. They’re a way for your mind to both be focused on something while also it’s not requiring any sustained focus that’s actually attentional and so I recommend sleep sounds if you’re one who has an active mind, allowing your mind to be active but on something neutral.
Kayla LaBarge: Next, exercise. I’m totally guilty of this, I think most people, when they get stressed, their personal care falls to the wayside and that’s the worst. In fact, when we’re stressed is when we actually have to show up the most for ourselves, in terms of physical. And, so, making sure that you have two or more days a week, if you’re feeling really stressed, of exercise, and this can be thirty minutes of just walking, of making time.
Kayla LaBarge: Nutrition. Consuming a healthy variety of foods. I work with an executive who is so overloaded, and who has been for a long time, and has somehow sustained on a diet of Cheetos for lunch, and let me tell you, think of how you can function if your body is sustaining on Cheetos. Not gonna be great. Gonna be cheesy but not gonna be great. So, making sure that you’re consuming a healthy variety of foods.
Kayla LaBarge: And making sure that you’re also scheduling time for recovery. And when I say scheduling time, I mean it doesn’t have to be strictly scheduled it can just be that you’re making time for it, so that could be counting breaths. When you noticed you’re triggered and you’re stressed, you notice your heart pounding a little bit faster than you’d like it, take a moment to take a few deep breaths. Walking … one tactic that I used to use when I was in practice, when I was in a clinical practice, is … your clients, you’re with clients back to back to back, individual clients all day, and so where I would find recovery was in my walk to the restroom. In between clients that would be my time to just like be in my space, to just only focus on the present and being there. And then, like I mentioned for sleep, using calming sounds. So, if you find that work is a stressful place, activating some of those calming sounds, if appropriate, within your workplace or at home.
Kayla LaBarge: The second domain that stress impacts at work is efficiency and organization and this is probably the domain that gets us most in trouble with supervisors or when we work on a team where our performance is really necessarily for the overall performance of the team, and it’s no surprise that if your mind and your body have been stressed, and you’ve been kinda in that physiological high stress response, that it would be harder to be efficient, right? ‘Cause you’re already being pulled in so many different directions, it feels like you’re juggling a million balls.
Kayla LaBarge: And so, the first tip is stop juggling. Quit multitasking. When you’re at a point of distress, when stress gets too strong at work, you can’t multitask effectively anymore. In fact, multitasking could be your downfall, so quit multitasking, sustain your attention on one thing at a time so that way, again, it doesn’t feel like you’re juggling a ton of balls and dropping a ton of balls at the same time.
Kayla LaBarge: Next, reduce distractions and notifications. So, again, I work with another leader who she knows about herself that she needs an hour and a half a day alone to get tasks done. She has a very high task driven job and she really values people and she really values an open door policy. But she also knows when her door’s open, people are coming in, people are talking, and she’s less likely to get the things done that she needs to get done. So, making sure that you’re reducing distractions and notifications, if you can. This also includes your phone. I just wanna point out, just for fun’s sake, how many times you’ve picked up your phone during this webinar to check it. Maybe you got an email and your phone dinged and it activated all the dopamine receptors, the reward receptors in your brain, and you’re like, “Yes, people like me, I’m getting emails.” Reduce that when you’re stressed. Again, the idea is to sustain focus on one task to get the most efficient, high quality product out of that task.
Kayla LaBarge: Time management … time management audits, specifically, is key. So, if you’re saying you’re overwhelmed and stressed at work, but the first hour you’re at work you’re scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, there needs to be an audit on that time because that time could be used spending productively. Now, on the other hand, I do wanna say, that if getting five minutes of Facebook or whatever is part of your recovery, that scheduled recovery time we talked about before, go ahead. But that has to be intentional and used as a reward for managing your time effectively. And one way that the most productive people do this is by scheduling. They forecast what their day is gonna need, this doesn’t mean that they’re inflexible, but they forecast what time they think is gonna be allotted where and they stick to time deadlines. They don’t let deadlines pass and they push themselves to stick to their schedule.
Kayla LaBarge: Delegate where possible. So, if you find that you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed and you work on a team, ask for help. See if there are other people on your team who’s strengths you can leverage in this time to take advantage of your support system. This can also be at home. So often our family members are people we delegate some of that venting to. Again, where possible.
Kayla LaBarge: And then create a productive workspace. So, a lot of times organization is impacted by stress and that, again, is not a surprise. But your work space doesn’t have to be disorganized because your mind is. In fact, getting your workspace organized can sometimes help to organize your approach. So, making sure that if you have a ton of things everywhere and you can’t find things and your desk is a mess and your office is a mess, making sure that you’re creating a productive workspace that lends itself to organization and time management and scheduling.
Kayla LaBarge: The third domain is our relationships and the dynamics at work, and at home and other places in our life. And when we’re stressed, take a moment to think of how that impacts our relationships with ours. We don’t show up to be our best selves when we’re overwhelmed in our relationship. We need a bit more from our relationships when we’re overwhelmed, and as a result, a lot of times we need to be able to give a bit more.
Kayla LaBarge: And so being aware of those dynamics. Awareness, of first, to your reactions to stress. So, if when things go really bad at work you have a tendency to come how and scream at your kids, being aware of that reaction to stress. If when you’re at work and your boss comes down on you hard and your reaction is to shut down, being aware of that reaction to stress and how it will impact relationships with those people.
Kayla LaBarge: To add to that, understanding your own conflict style, as well as the conflict styles of others. So, an example of that. If you have a tendency to get really aggressive and energetic and to yell when your stressed or overwhelmed, considering what impact that conflict style might have on others, who, maybe in the office when they get stressed, have a tendency to hide under the desk, or to isolate. And understanding how, again, the intent you have versus the impact that might have on others. So, if your intent is to release the stress by yelling, being aware of the consequences that will have on your relationships and those dynamics and choosing appropriately to get the most out of what you need at work.
Kayla LaBarge: For all those yes people out there, the setting clear boundaries is for you. Because a lot of times we get overwhelmed at work because we say yes to everyone and everything that they’re asking us to do and so setting clear boundaries, being able to say no whenever you need to say no, when you do feel really overwhelmed. And the same thing goes for at home. And at work, if you need time alone to process what’s happening, ask for it. Again, in the scenario where you just got tough feedback from your boss and your boss says, “Tell me how you feel about it. What are you gonna do to change?” If in that moment you freeze, being able to set a clear boundary and say, “I’m processing what you’re saying. I’m feeling overwhelmed right now. I’m gonna need a second to just process, to come back to you with an answer for that.” That’s another example of setting clear boundaries.
Kayla LaBarge: Avoiding enacting old patterns. So, this goes back to that awareness of reactions to stress. Avoid enacting old patterns, specifically ones that don’t work. So, again, if you’re the CEO who, when a mistake is made, they come down hard on their [inaudible 00:38:19], acknowledging what has that pattern resulted in? Especially in terms of relationship dynamic, productivity, engagement, buy-in, all these things necessary for productivity and satisfaction at work. How is stress impacting it? And being avoidant of enacting old maladaptive patterns.
Kayla LaBarge: And then being transparent and reaching out for help when you can. Being vulnerable is so difficult, so I don’t want to discount that. However, I’ve found that so many people at work when they just finally breakdown and reach out for help, they’re so much better off for it because they’re able to get the help and support that they need that they weren’t otherwise able to get when they were just kinda sticking themselves in this lonely island of stress. And so being able to acknowledge, “I have reached my limits. I’ve reached my leadership limit, I’ve reached my limits to cope with stress, and I need some help now,” and that’s okay and I wanna acknowledge that just being on this webinar today is a part of that transparency, a part of that reaching out for help. I know it’s a little bit different ’cause we’re disconnected through this webinar but this is a perfect example about a way to reach out for help. So, I wanna say I appreciate every single person who’s on the call that’s been vulnerable enough to admit to themselves that they can grow in this area.
Kayla LaBarge: Before I jump into the intrapersonal and mental side, I just want you to read this for me. Take a moment, I’m gonna give you a few seconds to just read this for me. So, I really, really love this as an example of just how powerful our brain is at solving problems. If you can take a look at this, now you’ll notice that you were able to read this nonsense because your brain is taking in the big chunks of information, deciphering it for you and organizing it for you, before you even have to do it intentionally. Take a moment to just be aware of how powerful your brain is.
Kayla LaBarge: So, as a result of it being so powerful, our intrapersonal, that self state, that internal state, and that mental state, can be impacted by prolonged stress. Our ability to … If you could go back, Sara, to the previous … Actually, I can do it I think. Coming back to this previous slide, over time, if I were to come and bring this to you when you were at a time of heightened stress, your mind would have a little bit more difficulty organizing these patterns and I think that’s important to note. It shows the impact of stress overtime on our mind’s ability to just do simple functions.
Kayla LaBarge: So, what are some ways that we can keep ourself, that internal well being and our mental space, our mental health, in check? Well, look, the number one prescription to stress is mindfulness. For those of you who are saying, “Mindfulness-Smindfulness,” or, “I don’t do mindfulness. I don’t meditate.” I wanna challenge you here because the research in this area is profound and I wanna bring your attention back to that premature death quote. The research in the area of mindfulness and it’s impact on reducing stress is just as profound as that quote. And I recommend the Headspace app, I think it’s this beautiful, well approachable, it’s a wonderful app on your smartphone that you can get, you can also do it on the computer, it takes ten minutes or less a day to just kinda get present, to give your mind that space to shut off. Going back to the mind as a computer, we want it to be able to recover, we want it to be able to sleep and have moments of rest. So, practicing mindfulness is one of the best ways to decrease stress.
Kayla LaBarge: And mindfulness, it isn’t anything spiritual or crazy. It’s defined as being present in a non-judgemental way. Just being engaged in the present moment with whatever’s there. Not judging. Not using your brain as a machine to solve problems. Just being.
Kayla LaBarge: The next thing I really like for dealing with the intrapersonal stress or the mental stress from work is identifying your strengths and encouraging your coworkers to do the same. I love the VIA Character Assessment, I use it both in organizational and clinical settings to help clients and executive coaching clients figure out their strengths. It ranks 24 factor analyzed strengths, the top five being the core strength that you bring to work everyday and the bottom three being ones that you could bring to work to better manage stress. And I find that knowing what your strengths are and where they lie, really allow you to show up with your armor on when stress gets really bad. So for example. For me, I have a very high stress job. I work as a consultant and organizational psychologist with very, very successful people and, as a result, I need a time to decompress, to de-stress, and one of my highest strengths is appreciation of beauty and excellence and so if I know that I’m going to meet with a client who I’m having to give 150% with that session, I’m gonna make sure that on the way there I’m taking in the beautiful flowers and how beautiful the day is ’cause just those small seconds decrease that negative perception of stress and the negative outcomes it has on me mentally.
Kayla LaBarge: And, again, another strength that you’ll find, if you choose to take this assessment, is love of learning and I would say that all of you have activated that strength by choosing to be a part of this webinar and just learning more about what you can do to manage stress and what you can do to perform when it’s around ’cause, listen guys, it’s gonna be around.
Kayla LaBarge: And then focus on maintaining some type of work-life balance. So, again, this importance of having time to shut off and making sure that you’re giving yourself that time.
Kayla LaBarge: And then, lastly, savoring moments of happiness, wellness, and goodness that happen at work. So, when I say that, again, our mind is a problem solving machine and as a result it sometimes gets caught up on the problems and so making sure that at work you’re noticing when things are really good amidst the chaos and the stress, noticing whenever you’re having lunch in the common lunch room and everyone’s together and noticing what that feels like despite the stress being around. Or moments where you just notice other human beings just being really supportive around others and taking time to savor those moments, to kinda counteract that negative effect of stress.
Kayla LaBarge: And so to finish up this webinar, I wanna remind you that adopting new habits takes time, patience and recognizing that there will be setbacks. As long as everybody on this webinar is a human being, you are not perfect and there will be setbacks and mistakes and obstacles and it’s important to acknowledge that on your journey through managing stress, to know that when those things happen they’re just part of the ride.
Kayla LaBarge: So, to close out, I want you to take out your journal again and as we’ve done this functional analysis we’re coming to the end. Now, what are you gonna do differently? So, consider what benefits can result from making small changes to your current approaches to workplace stress. So, using some of the skills that I’ve talked about today, which ones are you gonna try? Commit to experimenting with these small changes and note the impact that they have on your stress levels.
Kayla LaBarge: So, right now, again, we’re just gonna take a few more seconds to just … any of the interventions or tools that stood out to you, making note of them, and also making note, possibly, of situations where you might want to try them. So, for example, with the noisy neighbor, the noisy colleague neighbor, maybe those calming sounds might be a helpful block for your office that decreases your stress instantly. It might be something you wanna try. Maybe the physical exercise component really spoke to you and you’re gonna get people in your office together to start maybe a daily exercise routine that decreases the overall stress of your team. So, just taking time not only now but throughout the rest of the day, throughout the rest of your life, to consider the small changes you can continuously make to decrease workplace stress and the negative impact that it has on you, making stress work for you.
Kayla LaBarge: And so, again, I hope that we can pop the balloon on stress by the end of this webinar and I appreciate all of you tuning in. I am done with the information that I am now presenting and so I would love to take any questions that haven’t been covered throughout the presentation. Sara is gonna come back on and moderate some of that throughout the remainder of the webinar. But, again, thank you all for being here and I hope that there are some great takeaways that you can practically use today and moving forward.
Sara: Great, thank you so much Kayla. We do have some questions that have come in so go ahead and keep sending those in, we’ll get to as many as we can. And we had a question really early on, Kayla, and I know you covered a little bit of it, but I thought you might be able to speak towards this a little more thoroughly but it’s about … The question is here, what about those who don’t think they are stressed but actually show physical signs of it?
Kayla LaBarge: Yeah, so, again, perception is a very powerful think, right? So, if you’re showing signs of stress, you are stressed. If we get down to how we define stress, it is a physiological response. Your mind is a tricky, tricky thing and I hate to tell everyone this but your mind, it lies to you all the time and it tells mistruths and it makes errors. It’s a part of being human. But if your body, if you’re noticing your heart is beating, if you’re noticing you’re not sleeping well, if you’re noticing you’re crying, you’re sweating, stress is there. And the next step is … obviously as a coping skill this person is using telling themselves, “I’m not stressed. I’m not stressed.” And so, taking a second to acknowledge what does that coping skill do ’cause that’s like smoking cigarette. When you smoke a cigarette it’s telling your mind you’re not stressed, you’re not stressed ’cause it’s activating other physiological responses. Same thing with this response, in my mind, is that telling yourself you’re not stressed …
Kayla LaBarge: First question, has it made you not stressed? If you’re still feeling physiological responses the answer is no. So it’s not a good coping skill if it doesn’t work in the long run. So, then asking yourself, “What am I willing to do differently? What am I willing to commit to that isn’t telling myself I’m not stressed?” To deal with the actual stresses there.
Kayla LaBarge: I hope that answers that question.
Sara: Yeah, that definitely was really insightful. Absolutely. So, early on when you had asked people things that were stressful, one of the patterns that came out was having multiple managers or having multiple deadlines that were really pressured by managers and so this concept of kinda boss-stress seems to really be present with the group today and so we’ve got a couple questions around that.
Sara: So, just to kinda summarize that, one thing I thought you might wanna talk about is how to kinda cope with that workplace stress when the boss is more kinda either controlling, whether it’s workflow or deadlines or a lot of involvement there. Can you speak towards that a little bit?
Kayla LaBarge: Yeah, sure, and I’m so happy that we’re getting that response because I think a lot of people who are really stressed at work, it sometimes does have to do with just being in the negative culture or environment or just having a bad boss. Again, I don’t wanna blame it all on the boss but bosses are human beings too, so acknowledging that.
Kayla LaBarge: I think that any of the skills discussed today are individual things that anyone can do to counteract the negative impact of a bad boss or a negative manager or multiple deadlines. So, specifically, anyone who asked about the relationship side of things, I wanna turn you back to the slide on relationships and dynamics. So, the reason why I broke it down into those four domains is so you could break down for yourself how stress shows up for you at work. So, if the stress is around interpersonal conflict with your manager or interpersonal influence from your boss, I wanna redirect you back to that slide that talked about being aware of your old patterns, being aware of the difference in your conflict style, your communication style, as compared to your manager or your boss and how those things might flow and how they might not and ways you can initiate more balance for yourself.
Kayla LaBarge: And then, when we talk about poor leadership, and some of the blogs that I submitted, they actually speak to this, I believe, but when it comes to a bad boss it really is my greatest feedback kinda has to be that you have to find a way to bring strength to work. Will this cure your boss? No. But you have to find a way to create safe spaces at work that feel productive and meaningful for you and I also wanna acknowledge the fact that many people have probably tried that and that if it is within your means, after a certain time, if you have done everything that you can to function under poor leadership and you just feel like, “Okay, no, now this is not a me thing, this is a them thing,” which it sometimes is, being aware of when you need to cut your losses, if you can, and I wanna acknowledge that’s not a privilege that everyone has, to be able to leave their job under such situations like this. But I do wanna acknowledge that there is a certain point where not cutting said losses can be deleterious in other ways, for the individual, that make it so you can’t preform at work anyways. So, it becomes a negative loop.
Kayla LaBarge: But, again, I would point everyone back to any of these coping skills, specifically the ones that feel like they’re under the domain that you’re pinpointing, should be helpful.
Sara: Great. One of the pieces we kinda haven’t gotten into yet but I think this audience, it would resonate really well with them, is for you to talk a little bit about some of the cultural aspects of stress and it almost seems a point of pride sometimes for people. Like, “How are you doing?” “Busy, busy, busy.”
Kayla LaBarge: I’m one of those people.
Sara: Yeah. But there is … and then you talk about a lot of the apps that are coming out. I use another app called Calm-
Kayla LaBarge: I love Calm.
Sara: Another free app and there is a lot more around reducing stress in the culture so it does to me feel like this kind of … two big areas and a push-pull there that I think is interesting. But could you speak a little bit towards some of your culturally thoughts around there?
Kayla LaBarge: So, I wanna dissect two separate meanings of culture in my answers to this question. So, first I wanna talk about culture on a ethnic-diversity-racial and how stress can look differently in different cultures. And, again, it could relate to a point of pride, it could relate … I’m southern, I’m from rural Louisianan, and I’m not from a place where if you’re stressed you talk about it. So, I’m from a culture where you suck it up, you pull yourself up by the boot straps and you do what you can with what you’re given. But that gets us into trouble because what we find is, for cultures like that, it goes right back to that first person who said they don’t think they’re stressed but they have all the physiological symptoms. The stress doesn’t go away because we say we need to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps or because we say our culture can’t accept it. The stress just gets manifested in a different way. The stress will get manifested in headaches, stomach aches.
Kayla LaBarge: So, I think when I think of culture in terms of different representations from a westernized versus an easternized culture versus more individualized to collective versus rural to urban, I think that we all experience that physiological response to stress in the same way because we are all human to our brains. But the presentation given one’s culture may look a little bit differently.
Kayla LaBarge: And I would also say that institutionalized kinda healthcare systems have also contributed to that where minority groups don’t feel as though they have a space outlet to talk about stress in the mental health or the medical realm.
Kayla LaBarge: So, first I wanna talk about it from that cultural perspective is that you can except that different cultures will experience and manifest stress differently. On the work place culture side, I think that every work place culture looks differently but I think on this side the individual has major impact on what they bring to work. So, when I think of workplace culture and stress and its impact, I wanna encourage everyone to bring positive vibes to work. To bring their strengths and their best self to work because when we do that it’s like a ripple effect and it only makes those around us want to do it and if only a few people do that we can change the way that workplace culture looks.
Kayla LaBarge: So, I hope that addresses that question, Sara.
Sara: Yes, great. Thank you. So, we are outta time today for questions. Feel free, I’ll stay on the line here for another few minutes, you can type those in, we will put those questions up on our blog so you can take a look at those. If you are interested in more on this topic in your organization, definitely check out Kayla and her consulting practice, Equilibria Leadership Consulting. You can get her contact information right on our website and check out her work and work with her directly as well.
Sara: And hopefully we will see you on our next webinar, you found today to be informative and we’ll be back on the line in another week. Have a great day everyone.
Kayla LaBarge: Have a great day everyone, thank you again!
The Working Through Stress: Practical Tips for Performing Under Pressure webinar will take a deep dive into how you can develop skills to combat the serious negative impacts of stress at work. Dr. LeLeux-LaBarge, an organizational psychologist and executive coach, will build your insight into how your brain responds to stress and share practical steps for handling workplace stress to maintain a high caliber of performance, decision-making, and executive presence. This webinar will also explore the journey of finding work-life balance, and what that balance might look like for you. Relevant examples of how professionals have successfully built their stress management skills and improved their performance will be shared.
You will leave this webinar with a greater understanding of how stress affects you and a toolbox of practical tips for managing your stress at work. With these insights and skills, you will be equipped to be a high performer, even when overwhelmed at work.
Participants Will Learn
- Better understand what stress looks like in the body and mind when stressed at work.
- Gain insight into how stress deteriorates or relationships and performance.
- Explore the concept of stress management and finding work-life balance.
- Learn practical cognitive, emotional, and behavioral skills for managing overwhelm in the future.
Who Should Attend
- Training and HR professionals
- Independent consultants
- Managers delivering training
Kayla LeLeux-LaBarge, PsyD
A highly skilled organizational psychologist and executive coach at Equilibria Leadership Consulting, Kayla received her doctorate in clinical psychology from Georgia Southern University.
Kayla believes that with awareness and willingness, we have everything we need within us to be our best professional selves… it just takes commitment and hard work. She has a strong research and assessment background and is a well-published author, with publications in the fields of positive psychology, resiliency, clinical outcomes, and stress-related challenges.
Connect with Kayla at LinkedIn.