When we encounter a stressful situation our nervous system releases hormones that boost our fight or flight response. It accelerates heartbeat and breathing, tenses muscles and can also increase sweating. This reaction should be temporary and in normal conditions the body recovers from it quickly. Stress is something that we have all experienced. Sadly we tend to spend a lot of our time and energy feeling stressed. The time has come for us to change the way we think about and respond to stress, this way we will be able to manage it better and lead healthier and more productive lives.
The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another - sounds simple enough but it isn't always so.
To summarize stress in one word - Pressure. It is caused by contrasting forms of psychological tension, worry or threat. Although stress affects people in different ways, the process of experiencing stress is the same.
Not all stress is bad (I know how this sounds). Stress can enhance our problem solving capabilities as it can provide us with the motivation to get things done by giving us that extra push when we are under time constraints. I identify this as being a mild form of stress. However it can quickly pass that threshold and start to impact our mind and body to a point that we could begin to feel out of control.
There are 3 stages to the process of experiencing stress.
The feelings stress brings
Our reactions and responses to those feelings
Take a moment to think about the last time you were stressed out. What happened? Try to break it down into these stages. If you are anything like me, it probably didn't happen all at once, even though it may have felt like it did. One of the first things I do when feeling stressed is overthinking and trying to predict the future (if only, right?!?).
What happens to you? Understanding how you respond is the first step to managing stress.
Reframe the situation and think about what helps. Rather than focusing on the stress, focus on problem solving. Start by putting things into perspective. Ask yourself “Is this going to matter in 3,6 or 12 months from now?”. If the answer is no then it’s not worthwhile sacrificing your wellbeing over (to be clear, nothing ever is). Instead focus on stress management.
Let’s talk about some techniques that may help you deal with stress.
This one REALLY helps. Focus on your breathing. Our body and mind don't do well being panicked at the same time. This is the first step to take if you find yourself in a stressful situation. By focusing on our breathing we begin to still our bodies and in turn our minds. “Inhale Calm...Exhale tension”. Sounds corny but it does work. Be open minded, let go of the resistance and give it a try.
You may also find this Podcast helpful. The discussion is around the constant challenge of managing stress, as well as actions that help control tension and anxiety — or, even better, the stressors themselves.
Alternatively, you may watch this 7 minutes video on taking action with stress at work:
Productivity & Wellbeing Director
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