In the modern era the demands on us are great, the devices designed to make our lives easier also make us more accessible and more able. This means in an average day we are multi-tasking between attending meetings, e-mailing, messaging, hitting deadlines, managing family life, paying bills, having a social life and everything else in-between. The sheer overload we face on a daily basis will cause stress and can have a negative impact on our health.
Stress and Health (Mental & Physical) go together like Yin & Yang. The link between the two means that stress will enable us to flourish or it can cause us problems. So if stress can be good and bad let’s delve deeper and see what we can learn from it.
What is stress?
Stress is our response to pressures from situations where we might:
Experience something new
Come face to face or close to a threat (real or perceived)
Lose control or face something unplanned & unexpected
Stress activates the ‘flight or fight’ response and a part of our brain releases Adrenaline (increases heart rate & energy) & Cortisol (sustains the effects of adrenaline and limits things like reproductive drive, immunity and digestion). This response helps us to respond quickly to ‘dangerous’ situations and was very useful for our survival when we were living in an age of man eating predators and our primary concern was food & shelter.
When is stress good for me?
Even in this day and age the stress response of ‘flight or fight’ is valuable for short lived dangerous situations for example if your life is in danger and you need to react. This means you can deal with the threat and get back to a relaxed state without any negative effects on your health. Learnings can be taken and growth or change achieved.
Did you know? More everyday work situations like presentations or public speaking can also activate the ‘flight or fight’ response. If understood and harnessed this can be used to deliver an exceptional performance but if misunderstood or feared then worst case scenario is that we develop phobia’s and live in a state of anxiety about doing a presentation or talking in public.
When is stress bad for me?
Now, if stress is present in our lives repeatedly & constantly meaning the ‘flight or fight’ response is always switched on or active then its effects can be negative. Our bodies will be over-exposed to cortisol and this can lead to mental & physical health problems such as:
That's why it's so important to learn healthy ways to cope with the stressor's in your life to negate the impact of the ‘flight or fight’ response.
How can I differentiate between good and bad stress?
We all need to increase our self-awareness and take steps to check-in with ourselves. When we’re stressed we behave differently and those that are closest to us like family and friends will be giving us feedback like:
Hey you’re not yourself
You seem down
Is everything OK you don’t seem happy
You may also notice the physical effects mentioned above like headaches, stomach burn, low energy, weight gain, tiredness and even sickness. This can lead to absence from work and bring about further problems.
According to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), in 2015/16 over 480,000 people in the UK reported that work-related stress was making them ill. This amounts to nearly 40% of all work-related illness.
What can I do about bad stress?
It’s mad to think that many of us still don’t talk about stress at work (which can make the anxiety worse!). There are many unhealthy beliefs around stress and people still think they will be seen as weak if they admit they are struggling with it. That couldn’t be further from the truth, stress is not a weakness but it can make you weaker. Stress also affects anyone regardless of background, achievements, age, status or level. We owe it to ourselves to be honest and tackle this issue because if you don’t, nobody else will.
The most powerful way of dealing with bad stress is talking about it and identifying the cause. Once you know the cause you can then decide how to deal with it. It’s also worth considering ways of minimising stress and keeping it short lived through:
Balanced Lifestyle – ensure you are balancing your life between work and time for yourself. Managing your time in this way helps you to genuinely switch off and you can choose how to spend your time however you want.
Exercise – this is a powerful way to counteract the effects of stress for example walking or the gym. When you exercise you get a ‘mood boost’ through the production of endorphins and it pumps oxygen into your brain which boosts cognitive ability. Even a little bit of physical activity can make a difference, for example, walking for 15-20 minutes during your lunch break.
Hobbies & Passions – Hobbies and passions are a great way to do something you enjoy and immerse yourself in a state of positivity. What are the things you used to enjoy doing when you were young – playing an instrument, reading, cooking etc? This is also a great way to activate the brain which helps to generate mental resources to create solutions & new ideas to problems.
Coaching or therapy – if your car was to breakdown you would have no problem seeing a car mechanic so why do we put a stigma against seeking professional help for the mind. Those that harness the full power of the mind can see positive effects in many areas of their life. By shifting your thinking you can reframe your problems (which are roadblocks) into challenges (which can be overcome) and find solutions. This can have a profound effect on your level of stress.
Sleep & Relaxation – allow your mind and body to relax so you can process and recharge. Great ways to do this are massages, self-hypnosis, meditation or yoga.
Does your organisation offer a service to help your employees to cope with pressure and overcome stress & anxiety? If not, get in touch with Gurdev Lota @ Mind-1 Positive Change Achieved. I offer corporate services so the people in your business are in top form. I work with individuals using coaching & hypnotherapy and with groups of people through public speaking & training sessions.