How often do you hear the word stress? It’s a word we use when we have a lot to do, things on our mind…
So what is stress? It’s a normal physical reaction to a threat. When you sense danger (real or imagined), the body’s very effective defence system activates. This is an incredibly useful protection tool designed to save you in an emergency situation, it’s an automatic process known as ‘fight, flight or freeze’ which prepares our body to fight or escape threat.
With the hassles of modern life it is hardly surprising stress has become the norm. In fact, work is the number one cause of stress, with approximately 40,000 people a year reporting work-related stress at a level they believed was making them ill. Some level of stress can be beneficial, helping us perform tasks more efficiently.
However, under severe or long term stress we can suffer negative effects, including:
- Raised blood pressure
- Suppressed immunity
- Heart attack/ heart disease/ stroke
- Digestive problems
With the above in mind it is important that we learn to manage stress. Here are some tips:
Get moving – Exercise is a powerful tool, lifting mood and increasing energy. Even a short walk can help reduce stress.
Manage time – Make a to do list, prior- itise items on it then tick things off when complete. Try not to take work home, have a healthy work life balance.
Assertive communication – Say no to unreasonable demands (don’t feel guilty), delegate where possible.
Relationships – Develop good relationships with colleagues to build up a network of support. Talk to someone you trust.
Ask for help – This is not a weakness. Be realistic – You don’t have time to be perfect.
Relaxation techniques – Yoga, massage, reflexology are great ways to relax, so is Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). Targeting groups of muscles will relax your body and help you to tune into tension. This will enable you to spot tension and stress much earlier.
Look after your physical health – eat healthily, get enough sleep, drink alcohol in moderation and avoid nicotine.
Concentrate on the present – This is known as Mindfulness. Mindful tasks use your five senses to pay attention to the present. When you have a shower, how often do you feel the water on your skin, smell the shower gel or shampoo? Our minds are normally busy in the past or future, we can use our bodies to connect us to the present.
Therapy – Seek professional help if your stress levels are causing you concern.