Many of us suffer from stress at certain times of our lives. Often it will be a response to a tangible trigger such as being overworked or worrying about a family member or friend. Generally when the cause of your stress is removed, i.e. work returns to more acceptable levels, or that friend or relative’s issues are resolved, your stress also dissipates.
However, many of us are under pressure constantly, living our lives in an almost permanent state of stress, and this is not good for our long-term physical or mental health. It also may mean that events that should be pleasurable can add to your stress levels, for example,
Christmas, a wedding or a pregnancy, making you feel that you can’t cope and enjoy the moment.
Our mind and body are constantly sending subtle signals to each other that we’re under pressure and feeling stressed, but often we don’t recognise them, perhaps blaming other factors such as a late night or eating something that disagreed with us. However, these are the signs we should all be aware of so we can take action before they escalate.
Just as you listen to your body when you’re hungry or thirsty, listen to your body and mind when it says you’re stressed. Here are some of the physical and emotional symptoms you may experience:
If you recognise these symptoms, or perhaps you think a family member or friend could be suffering from stress, it’s time to take action.
Do you take care of yourself or regularly ignore signs of your stress? How do you identify your triggers that you are stressed? What causes you to get stressed and how do you deal with it? Sometimes when you feel stressed you may manage it with over the counter medication or perhaps alcohol; many people find a glass of wine at the end of a stressful day at work or looking after young children at home a welcome respite. These may work in the short-term, but they don’t address the underlying causes of stress or help you find ways to manage it long-term.
Of course removing the source of stress is one solution but not always feasible. You can’t necessarily quit your job or abandon your family! While avoiding situations that trigger severe stress attacks can buy you some time to get stronger, it may not be a tactic that’s sustainable. For example, if you avoid confrontation in a relationship because you find it stressful it won’t be helping the relationship overall, as problems do need to be aired and resolved openly. Similarly, if you avoid stressful elements of your job, you could be creating problems for your employer or colleagues and not fulfilling your contractual responsibilities.
So if you know that you need help managing your stress, or perhaps a family member or friend could do with some support, here are a few techniques that you can introduce into your daily routine.
CBT with hypnosis looks at ways of improving your physical and mental well-being by changing the way you respond to specific triggers, breaking the cycle of negative thoughts or feelings of being overwhelmed, and providing you with the strength to address stress before is escalates.
You may also like to read How To De-Stress At Work
Modern life today is full of demands, money worries, insecurities and frustrations. Stress is a commonplace for many people dealing with life’s daily anxieties. While a certain amount of stress can keep you safe from danger and motivate you to do your best, it can also overwhelm people.
Stress overload can cause long-term damage to your health, reduce the quality of your life, and affect your mood and relationships. When someone gets stressed, the body releases a chemical called cortisol, causing a racing heart, increased blood pressure and respiration, tension in your stomach area and sweaty palms. While most healthy people can cope with this on an infrequent basis, if you experience this level of stress regularly it can result in physical, mental and social problems.
Research suggests that you can make a real difference to your wellbeing by understanding your stress response. This is about recognising the signs and symptoms of your stress overload and taking adequate steps to curtail any adverse effects. It’s the story you tell yourself when you are stressed, shifting your thinking from ‘I’m overwhelmed, I can’t cope’ to ‘I will do my best and get support’, that will make a significant improvement to your life.
How you interpret your stress response can make a big difference to how you manage to de-stress at work or manage other stressful times in your life. When you feel your heart pounding and palms getting sweaty, make the choice there and then… you can choose to say ‘I am so very stressed and thinking about being stressed is making me more anxious and scared.’ Or you can say to yourself ‘Here we going again. I can feel the anxiety rising …but I am in control now and let me take a few deep breaths and calm down’.
Taking control of your breathing is a powerful way to alleviate stress. Not only will it help to lower your pulse but it will also send vital oxygen to all the areas of your body, especially critical areas of your brain. This resets your nervous system and oxygenates the parts your body that needs it.
Take a deep, relaxing breath …. Place your hand on your stomach and draw a deep in breath. Your hand will move in and out, and so will your chest.
Inhale for 5, hold for 2 and exhale for 7. Repeat and count with the calmness you feel …its one of my favourite counts.
But you need to practice, practice and practice. Either five minutes or fifteen minutes every day: here and there and build yourself up for long-term benefits. I usually start my day with a single meditation with 5 of those 5-2-7 deep in breaths, practice this a few times during the day 5-2-7 and before I go to bed its 5-2-7 again.
Practice makes this permanently imprinted in your mind, so when you do recognise your stress response and need to use this breathing technique, it’s second nature.
‘Stress should be a powerful driving force, not an obstacle’ Bill Phillips.
While we need to have some effective methods for dealing with stress like the deep breathing technique outlined above, it would be better to prevent your stress response to start with. Here are just a few ways that you may, or may not, use in your workplace to combat stress:
These strategies are quirky but do provide a distraction in the workplace and research suggests that they do provide stress-busting benefits. If anything it allows for a break from the desk, ability to stretch and relax, the time-out from the screen, mindfulness moments and boosts happiness.
For me personally, I love the dog running around the office and use a colouring book in order to alleviate my stress at work – though I may give the weekly sing-a-long a miss. However, they don’t work for everyone as we all react to stress in different ways.
This is why it’s important for us all as individuals to understand how we react to stress; from understanding what causes the stress in the first place, to managing our stress response and learning to deal with it in a positive way.
As a Cognitive Behaviour Therapist I work with people to help them break the negative cycles of thinking, how this makes them feel, and then the behaviour that follows. The result is that they learn how to manage their stress response so that it doesn’t impact adversely on their wellbeing or their work. In fact, it can help them use stress in an empowering way, teaching them to recognise the signs early and put practical plans into action – such as prioritising tasks, delegating or seeking support.
What plans does your company have to alleviate workplace stress?