Killer at Work

No one is immune from an invisible killer which stalks silently through every office, factory floor and work-place. It doesn't discriminate against age, sex, race or occupation and its grip tightens as the social and economic pressures of 21st century life increase.

An epidemic of stress-related illnesses has driven unprecedented numbers of the population to bail out of the workplace. Countless others resort to antidepressants to help them face the day.  So, just what is going on in this age of unparalleled prosperity and comfort?

Heart disease, stroke, hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, crohn's disease, psoriasis, allergies, insomnia, depression, anxiety and even cancer can all be triggered or aggravated by stress. It compromises the immune system and symptoms like exhaustion, muscular tension and an increased heart rate all put tremendous pressure on the body. Health is further undermined by mood swings, poor eating habits, lack of exercise and an inability to concentrate, which all take their toll on emotional well being.

Most employers now recognise the commercial benefits of keeping employees happy and legislation goes some of the way towards offering protection from stress factors like overwork and poor working conditions. But corporate culture often demands long hours and there is no such thing as a job for life any more. Add to that our 'buy now pay later' credit-funded lifestyle and you have a recipe for stress overload.

On the one hand, stress gives us our drive and motivation to get out there and achieve our potential but too much of it has the opposite effect. Once there is a gap between our ability to cope with stress and the amount of pressure we are under, problems appear overwhelming, confidence shatters and performance goes into meltdown. Job security is compromised, relationships suffer and habits can easily turn into addictions.

Ask around among friends and colleagues and you will find this grim scenario is all too commonplace. Being in a job which doesn't make the best use of your skills, working for a company which doesn't provide adequate training and being given too much responsibility causes stress (too little causes boredom which is also stressful). And so do 'toxic' companies where bullies thrive and staff are motivated by fear. It only takes one or two insecure, unsupervised personnel in key positions to make the working day an absolute misery for their colleagues.

Throw into the mix poor internal communication and exclusion from relevant decision-making and a business could be severely compromised by de-motivated under-performers missing targets.  And, of course, the most talented will get out quick, adding the expense of high staff recruitment costs to the burden of failing productivity.

So whether you're a credit-crunched boss or debt-laden worker, workplace stress is unremitting torture, with days spent in frustration and despair often followed by broken nights of sleepless worry.  I see many examples of this in my hypnotherapy clinic at Helios in Tunbridge Wells, people with different jobs, different issues and experiences seeking solutions to their distress. They share the same sense of hopelessness in many guises, varying from nail-biting or teeth-grinding to the heart-pounding terror of panic attacks or gut-wrenching urgency of IBS.

Their recovery can be rapid with the use of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) strategies and techniques. These can take the form of coaching in methods of dealing with a difficult manager, honing communication skills to deflect bullying behaviour, setting goals for career development, building confidence and encouraging assertive behaviour. All these changes become embedded in a positive mind-set with the support of hypnosis.

My final job before becoming a hypnotherapist was at a big publishing firm. I was bullied by a mediocre middle-manager in a dead-end job whose career had peaked many years before.  He took great pleasure in humiliating and undermining me at every turn. I didn't deserve this treatment and did nothing to invite it. I carried out my duties to the best of my ability but it made no difference.

He was vile to me and if I bumped into him tomorrow I would shake his hand. This nasty piece of work gave me the drive and impetus to take the plunge into a completely different career, to take a risk with no guarantee of success. I may never have done so if I'd been in a nice cushy number with supportive colleagues.

Now, my work is inspiring, fascinating, challenging and stimulating. The job satisfaction is immense when I am able to help those who come to me achieve positive changes. My nemesis is still a mediocre middle-manager in a dead-end job.

Author: Karen Martin
Copyright © 2023 Karen Martin. All rights reserved

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