This Wednesday (7th November) it’s National Stress Awareness Day 2018 and it’s a great reminder to check in with our own stress levels. I worked in Occupational Health nursing and management for over 30 years and sadly saw plenty of stress cases, often caused by factors from both inside and outside of the workplace. It’s not something I’d wish for anyone to suffer and I’d love it if some of this advice could prevent stress happening to you.

What is Stress?

Stress is our bodies’ response to excessive pressure and it begins with the release of adrenaline and cortisol. This triggers our fight and flight response – really helpful if our life is in danger or we want to perform for a short period of time, but not always helpful for managing ongoing pressures.

 What happens when we experience stress?

Adrenaline and cortisol affect most parts of the body, so we can experience many symptoms. Immediate effects are a dry mouth, sweaty palms, high alertness, muscle tension and our stomach and bowels stop working effectively. If we don’t fight or run away and the stressors continue, the symptoms can become more significant and lead to various ailments, such as headaches, gastritis and an inability to think clearly. Longer term this can lead to chronic illnesses, such as depression, anxiety and heart attacks.

Thinking about thinking

How we perceive pressure makes a huge difference to whether or not we feel stressed. If we think it’s a stressor then it is. Conversley, we can reframe an event or situation. If we see it as a challenge or as exciting, then our physiology will actually respond differently, so we don’t become as stressed. Check out this great TED talk to find out more: https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend#t-852867

What else can we do to prevent and manage stress?

o  Manage your time well – make to do lists and prioritise, set achievable targets, build in time for restoring your energy levels.

o  Take care of yourself with regular aerobic exercise, which helps to use up the stress hormones – try brisk walking, running, cycling, dancing or something else that you enjoy.

o  Make sure you have a good support network and be prepared to use it.

Use humour to help you to retain some positivity – try watching or listening to programmes that you find funny.

o  Eat healthily and get enough sleep –these really help our bodies to fight off the effects of cortisol.

o  Meditate – meditation teaches us to be more responsive and less reactive.

o  Try to get a good balance between work, rest and play.

o  Importantly, if you think you might have a stress related illness, see your GP for advice.

Thriving

Even making small changes can make a real difference to your stress levels and I hope that these tips help you to thrive on National Stress Awareness Day and the year to come.

 

Jeanette Pratt is an experienced professional Master Coach, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner and Coach Supervisor. Jeanette helps leaders to be authentic, resilient and inspiring. She specialises in helping her clients to build their emotional resilience, their confidence and their self awareness