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Stress tends to get a bit of a bad rap, which is a little unfair, as we actually need some stress to help us get out of bed in the mornings and rise to the challenges we face each day. It is experiencing too much stress that is generally being referred to when we talk about how “stressed” we are, and reflects the imbalance between what we know we can comfortably deal with and what we feel we can’t.

How much stress you can cope with will vary from day to day and experience to experience. What matters is recognising when enough is enough and how to deal with stress that is threatening to get out of hand.

Susie is a very capable employee. Smart, articulate and keen, she works hard for her employer and always aims to produce her best. Her boss wants  to grow his business and so has been taking on new projects and allocating new tasks to Susie. Initially Susie enjoyed the stimulus of this extra challenge but the ongoing additions has led to her feeling increasingly tired and sometimes a little over whelmed by all the extra work she is having to do. Trying to keep up she resorts to taking the work home to finish in the evenings and on weekends, but never feels she is getting any closer to catching up sufficiently.

A couple of months later, Susie’s boss calls her into the office and lambasts her for making a couple of very serious mistakes that have cost the business a good client. Her work performance has been noticeably slipping and he questions her as to whether it is appropriate she should be staying on with the company.

What Susie’s boss has failed to realise is how Susie’s chronic stress has impacted her ability to think well. His reaction is to assume that she just isn’t trying, is being careless or has other “issues” at home. What Susie has failed to recognise is that her stress levels have reached the tipping point where her brain’s executive functioning  planning, organising, deciding and remembering have been badly affected. All she knows is that she is exhausted, fed up and wants to quit.

Losing a good employee through inadequate or lack of stress management is not only very costly, it is harmful to the person’s physical and mental wellbeing, putting them at increased risk of mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. One in five Australians is likely to experience an episode of mental illness in any given year.

With depression now the leading cause of disability in the workplace, it would seem essential that all workplaces put in place those strategies and policies that will provide a brain safe environment.

  • Do you know how to recognise when stress levels are too high?
  • Do you practise stress reduction techniques that build resilience vs. stress induced cognitive impairment?
  • Would you know what to do if you recognised someone else was struggling with their stress levels?

To find out more about how stress management plays a vital role in promoting better brain fitness, why not come along to a brain fitness workshop? You can discover the essential elements that have been proven by research to make the biggest difference to assist your brain health and function.

The next public Brain Fitness workshop is scheduled for Saturday 21st September at UWA Extension. Tickets are available now.

Photo Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/70021771@N00/96735676/”>tim caynes</a> via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>

Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, podcaster, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.

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