The first Wednesday of November is National Stress Awareness Day, so today we're going to briefly discuss an industry challenge that is not (entirely) solvable through digital technology. Stress.
In a Paychex poll of American workers, more than 70% of people rated their workplace stress levels at a 3 or higher out of 5, and more than half claimed to feel stressed about work three or more days a week. The truth is, taking a breather and slowing down at work is hard to do for most professionals in a lot of different industries. But despite the number of stressful workdays, 52% of Americans continue to work overtime and 47% work on weekends — even when it’s not required.
When it comes to industries, insurance ranks number two of the most stressful jobs by occupation, second only to the legal profession, according to a study by Robert Half and the analytics firm Happiness Works. In fact, insurance and financial professionals in the Paychex poll indicated that they experience an average of 3.23 days of stress per week, with middle and upper management and owner roles having the highest level of stress.
If you’re an insurance pro and find yourself reaching for the aspirin bottle more often than not, here are three ideas for reducing work stress.
1. Have Outside Interests
Insurance executives are a hardworking lot who tend to live and breathe the industry. Even social events tend to be closely related to the business of insurance, such as golf or company outings with other executives. However, insurance consultants agree that having outside interests is key to a healthy psyche and urge insurance executives to do something that takes their mind off the business long enough to experience a feeling of relaxation.
For some, athletics such as running or working out is the answer, while others find a stress release mechanism in a favorite hobby, playing a musical instrument or simply going to the movies a few times a month. However, experts say that this type of stress relief is only effective if an individual doesn’t feel guilty about partaking in the activity. So give yourself permission - even if it's just to test the science.
2. Assess Your ARSENAL
In Henry L. Thompson's book, The Stress Effect: Why Smart Leaders Make Dumb Decisions - And What to Do About It, ARSENAL is an acronym for seven practices that executive leaders can use to help build their stress resilience.
Awareness: Continually monitor your stress levels in terms of your stress management capacity.
Rest: Give your mind and body the time it needs to relax, regenerate and recuperate.
Support: Seek out psychological, emotional, and physical support from others when you need it.
Exercise: Make the time to schedule some type of physical activity to release endorphins — a positive feeling.
Nutrition: Pay attention to what, when, and how you nourish your body.
Attitude: Try and focus your mind on optimism and contentment with your environment and those around you.
Learning: Find activities to increase your knowledge, skills, and abilities. Doing so can be enriching and can impart a sense of accomplishment.
3. Be Introspective
A study of 127 executives from 18 countries explored the stress of senior executives in the face of relentless tension. Results indicated that engaging in just 20 to 30 minutes per day in a renewal activity such as transcendental meditation, breathing techniques, individual prayer, or self-reflection helps counteract some of the harmful effects of stress.
A certain degree of stress in an insurance executive’s workweek can be a positive force, helping you focus deeply on a critical task by boosting determination, resulting in energized action. But left unmanaged, stress can have a multitude of negative effects on both mind and body. Learning to recognize the warning signs and being proactive about mitigating stressors is key to finding the right balance.