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Anti-stress campaign cranks up

Published Mar 26, 2013

Why does getting proper sleep make you smarter? How can you protect yourself against stress? Why are there so many overachievers at KTH? These are the subjects of three upcoming lectures, starting April 3.

Lecturer Alexander Perski is Associate Professor at the Stress Research Institute and the author of "The performance trap – a survival handbook for overachievers". (Photo: Håkan Lindgren)

This spring's lectures are part of the follow-up to comprehensive staff surveys conducted at KTH in 2009 and 2011, explains Annica Fröberg, Director of Personnel at KTH.

"Both surveys showed that many KTH employees experience severe stress, while most are very well-motivated in their work,” Fröberg says. “This combination means a risk of burning the candle at both ends, even if it is a positive that so many are committed to their work."

Annica Fröberg, Director of Personnel at KTH

Two of the lectures are aimed at all KTH employees, while the third is aimed at managers and directors. The lecturer Alexander Perski, Associate Professor at the Stress Research Institute, has been researching stress for more than 30 years and has, in addition to scientific works, also published several popular science books on the subject.

In the 2011 staff survey, MUS, 26 per cent of the respondents stated that they often or very often have a hard time sleeping due to their work situation. The first of the two lectures, aimed at all employees, concerns what happens to the body when it experiences too much stress and not enough recuperation. The lecture also presents facts about how to protect oneself from stress and how to sleep better.

Managers learn preventative work

The subject of the second general lecture is stress and the performance trap, a subject which Alexander Perski has also discussed in his book, "The performance trap – a survival handbook for overachievers". The purpose is to highlight the psychological and social mechanisms that may cause people to fall into the performance trap.

These two lectures will be given five times each, says project leader Anna Vogt. Each lecture is given twice in Swedish and once in English at Campus KTH (Vallhallavägen). There is also an opportunity to see each lecture in Kista and an opportunity in Flemingsberg or Haninge.

The third lecture, which is aimed at managers, concerns what leaders can do to prevent exhaustion syndrome among their employees. The lecture includes learning to recognise the signs that a person is developing stress-related health issues before it is too late. And what do the latest research findings say about how to protect oneself against stress? The manager lecture is held three times, once at Campus Vallhallavägen, once in Kista and once in Flemingsberg.

To allow as many employees as possible to attend, these lectures will be spread out over the course of the day, being held during morning, lunch and evening hours. The lectures will also be recorded and made available to those who are still unable to attend.

"We hope that the lectures will lead to an increased knowledge and awareness of stress as well as giving some practical tips about how to handle it," Vogt says.

Structural problems causing stress

The seminar series is carried out in collaboration with the unions at KTH and is paid for by funds jointly managed by the employer and employee organisations.

The results of MUS in 2011 show that 51 per cent of the respondents had often, or very often, felt stress that was related to their work during the month prior to the survey. Fröberg says the findings show that stress is both a structural and individual problem.

“You can absolutely view this as a structural problem, and this perspective is also included, especially in the lecture aimed at managers. But sometimes it can also be about the individual needing to signal that something is wrong in order for the issue to be highlighted," Fröberg says.

Fröberg also emphasises that the seminar series is not the only thing KTH is doing, or plans to do, in order to handle the stress-related issues. The intent is for the lectures to be the launch of a programme, with various kinds of activities to combat stress.

Text: Ursula Stigzelius

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