Stress is most normally due to an external factor.
We have all felt ‘stressed’ at times, even ‘super stressed’ when for example it reaches house moving day or starting a new job / business, school or college. Or if there are financial problems, work concerns, or a breakdown in relationships, at home or at work, or family concerns.
We generally do get through it though, because there is usually an end to it, and once the ‘pressure’ is off, you can sigh with relief and the state of feeling stressed will dissipate. It can be frustrating if things don’t go exactly as planned, but we do generally cope, once the cause has been dealt with effectively, or a resolution is found, the stress then lessens and normally goes all together
In certain situations that a certain amount of stress and anxiety is expected and can drive us forward, like when taking an exam, doing a public speech, acting, performing in a competition whether sports, or music etc…
In a work situation feeling pressured into accomplishing a job by a certain deadline, can focus your attention to complete the task, likewise with a written assignment or project, and motivate you to do your best.
We all deal with stress differently and usually manage to alleviate it effectively and positively
Stress is a normal part of life and apart from a heightened level of cortisol, it is usually mixed in with a healthy dose of adrenaline, to sharpen our responses, (not quite to the same level of heightened anxiety which occurs in a threatening or dangerous situation – the ‘fight fright flight’ response, which ultimately can save our life). Though there can be similar physical symptoms due to the release of cortisol, and the adrenal glands releasing adrenaline, like a more rapid heart beat and sweating, but stress tends to not to include feelings of impending doom like anxiety, it is rather feelings of being pressured or frustrated, or ‘up against it’.
However, a stressed state can not be sustained day in and day out, it stops being helpful to you if prolonged, and becomes known as Chronic Stress.
When stress takes over, and you start to feel overwhelmed and constantly time pressured. Having unrealistic demands and goals to reach, in unreasonable time frames, set by yourself or others, and cease to find enjoyment in what you do.
It can take its toll on you mentally and physically, leading to feelings like:-
- total overwhelm and panic
- Wanting to run away or hide – avoidance of the problems
- Things just not getting done as you lose your focus, flitting from one thing to the next without completing a task
- Having things constantly buzzing around your mind – not being able to ‘switch off’
- Your find yourself fidgeting, feeling ‘hyper’ and agitated
- Possibly feeling angry, having a lowered tolerance and impatience, snapping at people, or breaking things
- Losing sense of time and reasoning – with the feeling of being ‘out of control’
- Memory problems and poor decision making ability
- Emotional outbursts and over-reacting or crying
- Sometimes you can feel like you are ‘losing your mind’ or ‘losing the plot’
- Lowered or non-existent sex drive
- Worry that you are letting people down
- Feelings of low self worth
- Loss of confidence
- Poor sleep – leading to tiredness and utter exhaustion,
- Tension in your muscles, leading to aches and pains
- Headaches and migraine,
- Your digestion can be affected causing heartburn and indigestion, and possibly diarrhoea.
- Loss of appetite, or over eating, maybe reaching for coffee and energy drinks as a quick fix, and alcohol to ‘relieve the stress’
- Skin can also be affected with rashes and spots
- Your heart rate and blood pressure can be elevated constantly
If stress is not addressed over a long period, it can also contribute to:
- depression or a ’breakdown’
- High blood pressure
- it is linked to heart attacks,
- lowering of the immune system, leading to illness or worsening of current conditions,
- and of course, can affect relationships both personally and professionally, leading to a cycle of more stress
While you are suffering with chronic stress, it can sometimes feel like there is no way out of it. However, there is a lot you can do to help relieve and manage stress, and develop coping mechanisms to take forward with you, and to build resilience and coping mechanisms for for the future.
Relief and management of stress
Find a friend, a work colleague, a family member, your GP or an organisation to support you – you really do not need to cope alone. At work, talk to your line manager, or HR department, to see how the pressure can be eased.
see the 30 ideas and tips I have for you
Find what works for you from this list
- Step back, pause and think about what is at the root cause of your stress? be honest about what really should be addressed, even if painful or embarrassing. Facing a problem, as calmly and as reasoned as you can, will start to resolve it and help you to find and be open to strategies, by having the confidence to reach out for help.
- Take responsibility for yourself and your actions, this can be hard – however once you do, the solutions tend to follow, because you are more open to accepting them. If it means admitting you are wrong or sorry – then rise to it and feel the stress lift from your shoulders – and then you can get on with how to fix things or modify your approach to work for example or others.
- Change what you can change and accept there are things, and people you can’t change, only the way you view situations, or your response to what may be going on.
- It can be healthy for you to ‘let go’ of what or who is causing the stress – you will most probably need guidance with this. It can just be mentally letting go & this process is always with forgiveness and love, from a place of self-love, and is about freeing yourself from the burden you may be carrying around with you.
- Seek another perspective. Look at things from another point of view, how would you advise someone else in your situation? Ask a trusted friend, family member or colleague for their point of view or advice or seek professional guidance.
- If the problem is a financial one, seek help sooner rather than later, your banks can help you, or local business hubs and groups like the FSB or Chamber of commerce and government business hubs too There is also the Money Advice service and the CAB who can be invaluable to you. If it is a legal matter, again seek help quickly. Sometime just talking things over with a neutral party can help immensely and coming up with a finance plan to help you manage.
- Take some ‘time out’ – a few days rest can do wonders for you. Your GP can advise you, if it is advisable to be off work for a while.
- Address any health issues you may have ignored, or neglected, your health is so valuable to you. Even if you are fearful, nothing can be dealt with unless you know what you are dealing with.
- Reduce the pressure you put on yourself. Striving for ‘perfection’ in yourself or others is a big cause of stress. What is ‘perfection’? what it may be to you, isn’t necessarily what it is to someone else. You do want a job to be done well of course, strive for your best instead and be kinder to yourself and others along the way, as we’re all human and have imperfections and can make mistakes, however, most of the time we are doing so much better than we think. Adjusting high expectations or comparing yourself to others can greatly reduce stress levels.
- Feeling overwhelmed and procrastinating? – sit down, preferably with help, and identify all your tasks – then prioritise, set a schedule for them to be done, (the art of time / task management). You can use the Eisenhower grid to help you. What can wait? What needs to be done at all? Or what can be delegated? –some tasks can easily be given to someone else to do or be shared. A great read is Brian Tracy’s Eat that Frog – about getting the task you ‘hate’ the most done first – to free you up. Also, if you do delegate – then do allow the other person to get on with the task, it can take a little longer initially to show someone something, however the long-term benefit is worth it, and it helps that person to. You could also consider outsourcing tasks, like social media, or using a VA for those admin tasks you don’t like doing, to free you up to do other things.
- Focus on one task at a time. Start with 10 minutes – 20 minutes – 30 minutes – put a timer on – do you need a small break? If so, take a break, have a drink and some food, or fresh air, then back to it, you can build to 90 minutes maximum on a task, then take a 15-to-20-minute break. This approach actually makes you more productive, and it is surprising what you can achieve. For a big task – allocate a time chunk to it every day, this helps lessens the overwhelm.
- Reduce time spent on private social media in ‘task time’ and turn off your phone! Make a habit of only checking emails twice a day, or to catch up on social media.
- Write down all that is concerning you, at the end of a day before winding down for the evening – then rip it up! This gets the thoughts out of you head, then write down 3 things to do for the next day, to help you wake up the next day with focus and purpose, whether it is work tasks or doing 20 minutes exercise, reading quiet time for yourself, with children, doing home tasks, or making a point to phone someone you have not spoken to in a while.
- Also set out things for the next day; like what you are going to wear, things you need to have with you, a packed lunch ready in the fridge, money for parking etc…You may not really feel like doing it, but it really helps with the morning and sets you up well for the day.
- Remember the phone is there for your convenience – if you choose to answer it you are saying you are available! You will generally know if it is important, and whether you have the time to give the call your full attention.
- Learn to say NO – so you don’t take on too much or get into something you really don’t want to do. Be realistic about what you can achieve, it is good to challenge yourself, however in times of stress be kinder to yourself. If you feel uncomfortable to say NO directly, then be honest and say; ‘Let me check I have the time to do what you are asking, and to do it well’ Mangers or ‘the boss’ sometimes do not realise they are giving too many tasks to you, so do ask them ‘Out of this, this and this, what would you like me to do first?’ sometimes they just haven’t realised they have given you so much, or will help you prioritise. Or can you delegate or collaborate?
- Make time to do something fun, even silly, watch a comedy, spend time with friends and family – reconnect – Laughter is such a wonderful medicine.
- Treat yourself. Eat chocolate! Or have a favourite meal. Have a massage, or haircut, spa treatment or a break, it does not have to be expensive.
- Relax with a nice warm bath, read, take a long leisurely walk, listen to music, go out dancing, play golf or go to see a film, etc… Make time for things like this – always, but especially when feeling stressed.
- Another very useful thing is to do a ‘skills swap’ you will have a skill someone else could use, in exchange for a skill they have – no money needs to change hands, it is a matter of allowing an hour or so of time each and it can work very well, with tasks or trading information.
- Breathing exercises, Mindfulness, Meditation and Yoga are all very beneficial for relieving stress and help you focus in the now, being aware and present, reducing heart rate and other stressful symptoms enabling you to feel calmer and more able to view things objectively and allowing your creative imagination to help you find solutions – schedule time for these important stress busters. A note on this – you don’t have to block out thoughts – gently acknowledge them, then just let them drift by like clouds.
- Make some time to exercise – there are proven benefits to your physical and mental health, especially being outdoors in nature. Find what appeals to you, join a group, a gym or buddy up with someone, a friend, a colleague a family member including your children (if you have them) and walk, run, get on bikes, play tennis or football there is so much you could do, walk the dog, a neighbour’s dog, do gardening – your own or someone who needs help with theirs
- Find or re-kindle a hobby, there are so many, too many to list from crafts, to building models, baking, to a sport, drawing…
- Pets can be a good stress reliever; cats, dogs, fish, rabbits etc…they can help with re-focusing and being calm or getting you up and out.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep is so important for our health and cognitive function – be strict about this and have a bedtime routine – wind down properly before bed, no devices on late, a hot milky drink, a bath, read instead of watching TV- get prepared for a positive day ahead.
- Practice Gratitude, a positive thing to do is to write down 3 good things from the day that you are grateful for, about yourself, anything that made you smile, or laugh, that you have achieved or are proud of. Being thankful, helps you remember that your life as a whole has good things in it, reminding you of what you can do, and do have. Treat yourself to a good notebook and do this for at least for 21 days, read it back during times when you need a boost.
- Make sure you take time to eat healthily throughout the day –a good protein based breakfast is essential, most especially in times of stress, even if you do not feel like it– take regular breaks to have a drink and food that is good for you and will sustain you – instead of empty sugary things and you will be more brain power to be productive and have more energy – therefore reducing your stress – you may want to consider vitamins and supplements, as during stressful times these can deplete quite quickly
- Talk to others about how you are feeling, trusted family and friends or professionals. Work on your self-esteem and Confidence, and developing resilience, so you are better able to deal with or even avert stress in the future. You will never regret investing time in yourself, it helps you with so many areas of your life.
- Joining support groups locally or on-line can help a lot and finding a coach or therapist to help you find effective coping mechanisms.
- For prolonged stress, worries and concern around your physical health and mental well-being, especially if you really are feeling like you can’t cope – then do visit your GP. They can give you a wellness check to make sure the stress is not causing physical problems for you and compromising your health.
Here are some organisations that can really help
CALM – Campaign Against Living Miserably – a fabulous organisation aimed at Men and preventing suicide
There are so many more marvellous organisations just a click or phone call away.
There is also an organisation called Mental Health Matters who have a 24hour helpline for each area – do look on-line for the number
There are also plenty of mindfulness and meditation apps to use – a lot are free to try. You can also find some on YouTube or other sites.
There are plenty of inspirational books to read and articles like this one. If you feel you cannot focus enough to read – then an audio version is great to listen to maybe in the car, on when on public transport or when doing a task or before sleep.
footnote **Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is more complex and as a result of experiencing severely traumatic events.
This can lead to many of the symptoms mentioned for stress and anxiety and ‘reliving’ the experience time and time again, with all the emotions experienced at the time of the event. There are usually triggers for the sufferer, causing heightened anxiety levels that dramatically affect daily living.
This is a condition that requires specialist support and help, though some of the things mentioned for stress relief and management will be of great help.