This week is #internationalstressawarenessweek (4 - 8 November). Stress is a serious issue and one we need to give attention to. This week, I’ll be talking about stress, sharing thoughts, strategies and ways to help you manage your stress levels. Particularly, I want to leave you with a greater understanding of what is going on for you, in your life and in your body when it comes to stress.
Why so important?
So why is there an international awareness week and organisations that are dedicated to raising the awareness of stress, and its impact? Stress is having an increasingly worrying impact on our health and well-being. Stress, anxiety and depression are the number one of cause of sick days taken from work, costing UK companies tens of £billions. The Health and Safety Executive defines stress as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’ and can be both work and non-work related. How stress manifests will be different for everyone and can often be mistaken for something else entirely - with different psychological, physical or behavioural signs presenting themselves.
It’s important that you can identify when you are stressed to spot the signs early and take action. Prolonged periods of stress takes a huge toll on an individuals’ health but also on their families, communities around them, their work and lifestyle.
Pressure vs stress
Pressure does not equal stress and the two are often confused. Pressure can be a good thing for us - a healthy amount of pressure focuses our minds, motivates us and provides stimulation. Stress however is never a healthy state to operate, particularly over a period of time. When we operate under pressure we can manage life and work and we make better decisions. Stress affects our decision making ability as well as so many aspects of our life.
Stress at work
When we’re stressed and don’t tackle the issue, we can quickly spiral downwards. We often associate stress with ‘work related stress’ and this can often be due to unrealistic workloads or targets, lack of support, poor relationships at work and pressures that we put on ourselves to ‘keep going’ for fear of not performing or looking ‘weak’ and for not wanting to fail. Ironically, continuing to push through in this way puts us at risk of making mistakes, negatively impacting relationships at work, making poor decisions, illness, fatigue, and eventually, burn out.
It is very common for people dealing with stress to feel alone and isolated because they do not not feel able to share with others; possibly because they don’t have anyone to talk to, but more commonly because of the perception they want to create to others. There is a tendency to keep these feelings locked up and not share with colleagues or line managers - the very people who can help them with the situation. Unfortunately, this will make the situation worse.
The impacts of stress are not solely reserved for the workplace and affect all areas of life. From relationships, to eating habits, to decisions you make at home, mood, libido, sleep, exercise, mental and physical health.
How stressed are you on a scale of 0-10? 10 being the most stressed you can possibly imagine.
Getting a handle on how stress manifests in you and what the signs are can greatly build your resilience. Personal resilience is very underestimated and is not reserved for any particular type of person. We can all develop habits to build our resilience; it is something we can all work on in our own ways to help us identify stress, manage it, and prepare for when we know we will be going into a situation of increased stress.
Many of the ways to build resilience align with living a mindful and conscious life and are things I regularly talk about, both online and with clients. The first step is awareness of what's going on for you. Take a moment to think about this. On a scale of 0-10, how stressed are you feeling? Where is this manifesting? How is it presenting? Note down what you discover.
You might also be interested in some of my recent blogs on self-care.
Gemma Brown is a certified coach who works with successful women, 1-2-1 and in groups, to identify their strengths and build confidence which enables them to have the self-belief to fearlessly bring their whole being into all areas of life. Gemma is based in Cambridgeshire and carries out face to face coaching in the area as well as 1-2-1 coaching via Skype and Zoom. For more about Gemma, visit her 'About' page or contact her directly.