Controlling Substance Abuse, Stress, and Anxiety to Improve Performance and Productivity

L. John Mason

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Uncontrolled stress and anxiety cause poor performance and reduced productivity. Loss of focus caused by distracting stress can lead to costly accidents and mistakes. In an attempt to manage stress and anxiety, many people turn to some form of self-medication including alcohol, illegal drugs, over the counter medications, prescribed but misused medications, inappropriate eating behaviors, and other distracting behaviors like addictions to sex or shopping. Unmanaged stress and anxiety can also contribute to physical and emotional symptoms such as: insomnia (poor sleep, ) headaches, back pain, high blood pressure, abdominal symptoms, panic/anxiety attacks, poor concentration, learning disabilities, depression, poor impulse control (anger or rage), poor decision making, reduced ability to communicate, and reduced creative problem solving.

Stats on Substance Abuse:
Alcoholism accounts for 500 million lost workdays per year.
7% of full-time workers use drugs
7% of full time workers are heavy drinkers
This can translate to over $7000 loss to companies per employee.

Since 1985, businesses have been affected by huge increases in workers compensation claims for stress related incidents. Health care costs have increased dramatically and a large part of this can be attributed to accidents and health challenges that are either created or made worse by stress. 70-90% of visits to physicians are for stress related complaints. In a recent study, 55% of workers are now reporting that their work is very stressful and another 20% report levels of distractions due to work stress.

In society there have been dramatic increases in incidents of “road rage, ” “air rage, ” anger, “Going Postal, ” and other inappropriate behaviors that are driven by stress. Since 1985 there has been a huge increase in the use (and abuse) of caffeine and caffeinated products. Think about how many more coffee and Expresso shops are now available and what has driven this trend. Caffeine increases levels of stress and anxiety while reducing rest during sleep or interrupting sleep cycles. Poor sleep is proving to be an epidemic that reduces performance and increases accidents and mistakes.

The costs of stress on business are huge and yet there is still an attitude of denial that causes a lack of responsibility both for organizations and individual workers. People seem to expect that the stress is normal and that they do not have to do anything, positive, to counteract its effect. This “head in the sand” response does not take into account that when stress management is practiced preventively, it actually saves time and energy, improves the quality of life, and increases productivity.

Organizations that have adopted stress management philosophies have also benefited from increased worker loyalty, reductions in reports of burnout, reduced turnover, reduced health claims, increased morale and productivity, and better customer service.

Business leaders and progressive developing managers have found the personal and professional benefits of practicing preventive strategies which improve the work environment. There are cutting-edge techniques that have been developed for business from sports psychology models that have been used by “world-class” athletes to achieve better results in high level competition. When these are tailored to the organization’s requirements, the positive results are obvious. Increased sales, improved customer service, increased focus, improved quality of life, better communication, enhanced creative problem solving, and reduced rates of turnover are some of the many reported benefits.

Recommended stress management techniques which can be coached or trained include the use of: Autogenic Training, Progressive relaxations, Biofeedback Technology, PMA and Affirmations, Improved Communication Techniques, Assessments for Self-Discovery and Awareness, Prioritizing/Planning, and Advanced Work-Life Balance Strategy. There are on-line programs or the more beneficial Executive Coaching Programs that can be individualized to the specific needs of your key personnel, managers, or business leaders.

The world is NOT getting less stressful. If you are concerned about performing at the highest levels and maintaining a better quality of life, then you will want to get more information and begin the process of developing a targeted program for you or for your organization.

Good luck in your search. Remember, you can not always control the stress and the change that surrounds you, but you can control the way that you respond. Suggestions on managing work stress can be found at Stress Management Coaching Programs

L. John Mason, Ph. D. is the author of the best selling “Guide to Stress Reduction. " Since 1977, he has offered Executive Coaching and Training.

Please visit the Stress Education Center's website at Stress, Stress Management, Coaching, and Training for articles, free ezine signup, and learn about the new telecourses that are available. If you would like information or a targeted proposal for training or coaching, please contact us at (360) 593-3833.

If you are looking to promote your training or coaching career, please investigate the Professional Stress Management Training and Certification Program for a secondary source of income or as career path.


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