Our Dynamic, Adaptable Mind: Can We Grow Through Stress?

New eBook explains how to adapt to stress, increase cognitive abilities and boost performance at work

It’s no secret that the rate of stress in our lives has accelerated - driven in large part by the complexity and chaos of daily life. Stress is significantly impacting our work, and we know that it's not being adequately addressed in the workplace as research shows that less than 40% of employees talk to their employer about their stress, preferring “self fixes” like coffee or prescription medicine1. In addition:

  • 12.8 million working days were lost to stress in 20192.

  • 16% of healthcare costs can be predicted by stressful work events3.

  • $7.7 billion was spent in 2019 to combat rising stress levels at work4.

In our new ebook, The Dynamic, Adaptable Mind, we explore how stress is impacting us at work, and why the following are crucial to developing a dynamic, adaptable mind:

  • finding a balance between the job demands we experience and our ability to meet those demands,

  • feeling a sense of control over our environment, and 

  • having adequate physical and cognitive resources to respond to stress in a healthy way.

Learning how to achieve stability through change

The concepts of homeostasis and allostasis figure prominently in the field of stress management - and we discuss this in our ebook. Homeostasis is the body's drive to regulate and maintain body functions - things like blood pressure, temperature, blood sugar, and pH levels - within particular ranges, so you can function properly. But putting stress management into this context leads to a fixation on balance - on reducing stress as much as possible so that we don’t “tip over the edge”. Unfortunately, this approach to understanding stress has not been found to be as successful as it would seem to promise.

More helpful in thinking about how to adapt to stress is allostasis, which emphasizes anticipation - how we can adjust our physiology and behavior to prevent the conditions which would make homeostatic corrections necessary before they start. So, while homeostasis pursues balance, allostasis seeks flexibility. Homeostasis is reactive, while allostasis is proactive.

Sounds reasonable, but how can we anticipate stress?

We can anticipate stress by using a stress management approach that can detect the timing and size of stress response coupled with an understanding of what is causing the stress. Stress management programs are important to any organization, but without measurement of “the dose” of stress we are experiencing, we can’t predict the outcome of any strategies we might use to regulate it. Therefore stress management programs should always be accompanied by systems that enable employees to identify:

  • when they are stressed,

  • what may be causing the stress, and 

  • how they’re adapting, and what they’re doing to recover from stress.

Today, there are apps like Optivio which use biofeedback and wearable devices to analyze subtle changes and detect when you are stressed, and then provide data-driven recommendations to help manage stress, enhance recovery and improve overall performance.

In this way, we can actually harness our body’s physiological response to stress to improve cognitive ability and boost performance. Of course, there’s more to this… and that’s where our ebook comes in.

How stressed are you? Take our test and find out

A good way to start to understand how measuring the three factors of perceived stress, job demands, and a sense of job control gives us a better ability to manage stress, is to take our stress test. These factors play an essential role in determining whether you see stress as a set of exciting challenges, as a passing feeling of tension, or as a permanent sense of overload. Your responses will be processed and expressed in the context of “low”, “medium” or “high”, based on ranges described in published research5

Take our stress test today, get your results, and then read The Dynamic, Adaptable Mind to learn what your results mean, and what data-informed, actionable steps you can take to boost performance, improve cognitive ability and yes, even grow through stress. 

Optivio is an enterprise-level stress management and performance optimization platform that can help you manage stress in the workplace. Learn more about it here: http://www.optivio.com/technology

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References

1. ADAA, Workplace Stress & Anxiety Disorders, 2006.
2. HSE, Work-related stress, depression or anxiety in Great Britain, 2018. Pp 1-10.
3. Hassard J, Teoh K, Cox T, Dewe P et al. Calculating the cost of work-related stress and psychosocial work factors, Int J Behav Med, 2006.
4. Research GV, Workplace Stress Management Market Size | Industry Report, 2016.
5. Gonzalez-Mule E, Cockburn BS. This Job is (Literally) Killing Me: A Moderated-Mediated Model Linking Work Characteristics to Mortality, J Appl Psychol, 2020

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