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Workers turning to alcohol to relieve stress much more than those not working, says new survey – Pathways Coaching

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Recent research conducted by Glow client Pathways Coaching has uncovered interesting findings.

More than double the number of people working will turn to alcohol when stressed compared to those not working, according to a new survey.

Pathways Coaching commissioned market research platform Glow to run the survey which found that nearly one in four (23%) of those in the workforce would turn to alcohol when stressed compared with just 10% of those who are not working.

The survey involved 400 participants with 55% working and 45% not working which included those studying, looking for work, home duties etc.

Pathways Coaching Founder and Principal Coaching Psychologist Gabrielle McCorry said,

“The main ways both groups are managing their stress is through distraction techniques such as watching TV or movies and while these are shown to be effective in the short term, they typically do not work long term and may actually amplify the problem”.

Watching TV or movies was ranked number one across both categories but was much higher (50%) in those not working compared with 38% of those working.

Other big differences between the groups included:

·  32% of those not working would sleep or nap compared with just 23% of those working

·  28% of those not working would avoid people compared with 19% of those working

·  26% of those not working would dwell on or overthink the issue compared with 18% of those working; 17% of those not working admitted to over analysing the issue compared with just 10% of those working

“Better coping techniques included exercise, hobbies and meditation with 26% of people reporting they would go for a walk or a run, 21% would read, 19% would play music or do a hobby, 19% do something relaxing, and 11% meditate.”

Ms McCorry said that research shows that there are two forms of coping strategies which humans utilise when faced with stressful situations: problem-focused and emotion-focused.

“Problem-focused coping (or active coping) aims to remove the source of stress and may involve actions such as seeking information, acceptance, seeking support, reframing, or problem solving.

“In contrast, emotion-focused coping (or avoidant coping) aims to reduce the emotional distress caused by the stressful event and may involve avoidance behaviours, distraction, social withdrawal, denial, worrying, over-analysing, or substance use.

“We try to make ourselves feel better by using emotion-focused responses, but they may actually serve to amplify the problem. For example, engaging in behaviours such as avoidance, staying in bed, or social withdrawal can make us feel even worse in the long run.

“Many things can make us feel a bit better in the short term but are of no benefit in the longer term because unpleasant and negative thoughts and feelings associated with the stressor always come back.

“Furthermore, because they can work for a little while, they can give us a false sense of confidence about how much control we actually have and then can become a habitual response. Unfortunately, these strategies can have huge costs in terms of work, health, time, money, energy, and relationships.”

When the survey group was asked what caused their stress the biggest issue (outside of Covid-19) was personal finance with 33% rating it either High or Very High. That was followed by Mental Health and Physical/Health problems both at 29%.

Mental health affected a lot more of those not working (17% who rated it Very High) compared to 7% of those working.

“People who are resilient or ‘mentally tough’ are more likely to deal effectively with challenges, stressors and pressure and is associated with greater psychological wellbeing and lower levels of stress,” Ms McCorry said.

“A ‘mentally tough’ mindset allows people to view setbacks or problems as opportunities, rather than a threat, and have the confidence to tackle them. This in turn, can lead to positive organisational outcomes such as improvements in performance, output, decision making, leadership, creativity, problem solving, teamwork, and flexibility.

“Mentally Tough individuals believe that they have control over what is happening to them and around them, they persevere in the face of difficulties, they view challenges, change or setbacks as opportunities for learning rather than threats, and they have self-belief in their abilities to deal with the stressors they face in life.

“This study showed that people who are high on mental toughness are more likely to use problem focused coping strategies to deal with their stressors such as mindfulness, seeking support, exercise, and relaxation. In contrast, individuals who do not believe they are mentally tough, are more likely to use emotional focused coping techniques such as avoidance, distraction, self-medication, and thinking strategies.”

Ms McCorry said, “CEOs and Senior Managers report greater levels of Mental Toughness overall while Directors/General Managers are less likely to agree that they mentally tough.”

Managers as a whole report higher levels of confidence but lower levels of emotional control than people working. This may suggest they believe in their ability to succeed, but under pressure they may have difficulty controlling their emotions and show how they are feeling to others”, she said. 

“We are all living in a VUCA world; volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, and this has become even more apparent over the past 18 months with the challenges arising from COVID-19.

“This study confirms that the majority of Australians are constantly under stress and pressure, particularly working Australians, and therefore, there is a strong need for building Mental Toughness in the workforce for managers and their teams.“Thankfully, Mental Toughness is a flexible personality trait that can be developed through a variety of evidence-based approaches. Pathways Coaching runs workshops and coaching programs to help clients build their Mental Toughness.”