There are many definitions of stress however the one most fitting is “Stress manifests as a physical, psychological or social dysfunction in individuals feeling unable to bridge the gap with the requirements or expectations placed upon them”. All of us at some point will have experienced the feeling of being overwhelmed for some it’s a fleeting feeling, however for some it can last a long time and have debilitating effects. In 2013, 131 million days were lost due to sickness absence in the UK. It is believed that 400,000 of these cases were stress related. Stress is a natural biological reaction that occurs in the body. Its main function is to keep us safe when we perceive threat. Most people will experience a state of stress, move through it and the body’s responses will return back to normal. For some they are continually in the state, the body’s chemicals are continually being stimulated and the result is imbalance creating ill health. Living in a constant state of ‘stress’ has been linked to many physical symptoms including, immune deficiency, weight loss and gain, decreased ability to heal, depression, lack of engagement, hair loss, poor functioning internal organs, pregnancy and fertility problems, insomnia, heart problems, muscle pains, irritable bowel syndrome, phobias, anxieties and diabetes. National Stress Awareness Day (NSAD) is organised by the International Stress Management Association (ISMA) and aims to raise awareness of the effects of psychological distress in the workplace and the many coping strategies and sources of help to address it. The International Stress Management Association gives ten stress busting strategies that when employed do work.
- Learn to manage your time more effectivelyWe waste a lot of time doing unimportant tasks, especially when stressed, so prioritise your day and do the important jobs first. The unimportant ones can wait, and often they will disappear completely leaving you time to do other things. Also, do not put off the unpleasant tasks – avoidance causes a great deal of stress. Give unpleasant tasks a high priority and do them first.
- Adopt a healthy lifestyleIf we eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and ensure we get adequate rest our body is better able to cope with stress should it occur. If this is not the case, then this may be a warning sign so don’t ignore it. Engaging in some form of physical activity may help you by working off the biochemical and physical changes that occur within your body due to stress. Relaxation also helps your body return to its normal healthy state. Good relaxation techniques include breathing exercises, massage and a variety of complimentary therapies.
- Know your limitations and do not take on too muchWe can cause ourselves a great deal of stress because we do not want to let people down. We then end up doing more than we should. Learn to delegate effectively and be assertive so that you can say ‘No’ without upsetting or offending.
- Find out what causes you stressTake time to discover what is worrying you and try to change your thoughts and behaviour to reduce it. A stress assessment can help you to fully understand the causes, the implications to your health and how to manage, cope and make necessary changes.
- Avoid unnecessary conflictDo not be too argumentative. Is it really worth the stress? Look for win - win situations. Look for a resolution to a dispute where both parties can achieve a positive outcome. Find out what the real cause of the problem is and deal with it.
- Accept the things you cannot changeChanging a difficult situation is not always possible. If this proves to be the case, recognise and accept things as they are and concentrate on all that you do have control over. Managing change effectively is essential or else performance will be reduced.
- Take time out to relax and recharge your batteriesYou will perform more effectively during work if you regularly take a short 10-15 minute break, easily making up the time you used relaxing. Alongside this, at least one annual break of at least 10-14 continuous days is recommended.
- Find time to meet friendsFriends can ease work troubles and help us see things in a different way. The activities we engage in with friends help us relax and we will often have a good laugh. It boosts the immune system that is often depleted during stress.
- Try to see things differently, develop a positive thinking styleIf something is concerning you, try to see it differently. Talk over your problem with somebody before it gets out of proportion. Often, talking to a friend/colleague/family member will help you see things from a different and less stressful perspective. You may also need to consider professional help in order to achieve the desired outcome and prevent ill health and / or burnout.
- Avoid alcohol, nicotine and caffeine as coping mechanismsLong term, these faulty coping mechanisms will just add to the problem. For example, caffeine and nicotine are stimulants - too much and the body reacts to this with the stress response increasing or even causing anxiety symptoms. Alcohol is a depressant!
Even though the above changes seem simple, the reality is that when we are experiencing stress we are unable to make the smallest of changes. However it only takes a few changes for the body to start responding differently and to recover from the symptoms of stress.