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Why a little bit of stress is good for you

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Feeling stressed? If you are a mortgage broker, chances are the answer is a resounding “yes.” But according to workplace expert Michelle Gibbings, a little bit of stress can actually be a good thing – depending on how you respond to it.

“When we experience the right amount of challenge, the right amount of interest in what we are doing, our brain releases chemicals, and those chemicals make us more alert, more motivated and more willing to learn,” she told MPA. “But it’s a balance, because if those chemicals are too high or too low our brain then underperforms.

“It’s what researchers and academics call ‘the goldilocks zone,’ it’s finding that zone of optimal performance.”

So how do you know if the balance is skewed too much to the negative side?

“It’s unhealthy when you feel like you’ve got no control, no autonomy, you feel you’re not making enough progress and it’s also when it feels overwhelming,” said Gibbings.

Read more: Why brokers should be cautious about burnout

She said if this is the case, it’s good to take a step back and look at what is really going on. It’s also worth remembering not to sweat the things you have no control over, such as new regulation and snap lockdowns.

Once you recognise the difference between a healthy and unhealthy level of stress, it then opens you up to being able to identify where to positively focus your energy, she said.

She said leaders could do the following things to ensure their workplace is a stress-less environment.

Remember that progress is motivating

Researchers have found that progress is one of the most motivating things for team members, said Gibbings.

“When you feel like you’re making progress that’s when you get the dopamine hit, you get that self-rewarding cycle of ‘I feel like I’m actually doing some work and I’m getting somewhere’,” she said.

Leaders should work with their team around this by ensuring progress is visible.

“Look at the work schedule, prioritise, break it down into bite sized pieces so that you can feel each day you are making progress,” she said.

Create an inclusive environment

Creating a psychologically safe environment where team members can go to work each day without fear of being punished for making a mistake, being rejected or feeling embarrassed can be a good foundation for reducing stress. A big part of this is ensuring the workplace is somewhere that team members can be themselves – where they have the space to put forth ideas and challenge existing processes.

“The next part of that is really leveraging purpose and strength,” said Gibbings.

Read next: Aggregator CEO on facing conflict

Avoid role ambiguity

Research has shown people feel more motivated if they can use their strengths and have a clear sense of purpose, said Gibbings.

“What often happens in a team environment is there’s role ambiguity,” she said. “When you’ve got role ambiguity that breeds disengagement, distrust, it heightens stress because people go, ‘I feel like there’s a lot of work to do but I don’t know what I’m accountable for’.”

Sitting down with the team to understand each member’s skills and strengths can help the team work together in a more efficient way.

Strive to eliminate friction

“We all work in organisations and systems and those systems can often have friction,” said Gibbings. “The friction causes delays, frustrations, unnecessary stress. It could be that processes are more complicated than they need to be. It could be that various elements of stakeholder engagement aren’t working. Look at where you can reduce duplication, where you can really prioritise efforts, where you can get rid of processes that don’t add value.”

Then once you have done this, it’s a matter of trusting your team to get on with the work at hand, she said.

“When you put it all together, it’s recognition that work is busy, the world is changing, it’s always going to change,” she said. “What you want to do is create the environment where people are still able to be themselves and be their best, because when they do that, the stress creates a healthy energy not a negative energy.”

Kate McIntyreKate McIntyre is an online writer for Mortgage Professional Australia. She has a wealth of experience as a storyteller and journalist for a range of leading media outlets, particularly in real estate, property investing and finance. She loves uncovering the heart behind every story and aims to inspire others through the artful simplicity of well-written words.
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