Why listening to your signals is key to dealing with stress
Stress. It’s not ‘woke’ or one we can blame on the millennials.
It’s not about being weak, or soft, or out of control.
It’s definitely not something we need to be embarrassed or ashamed of.
Stress is, however, hard to define as it can manifest in many different ways, often as an emotion or strong feeling. There’s also a debate amongst healthcare professionals as to whether it is the cause of problems or the result of them. This ambiguity can make stress difficult to deal with, but one thing is for sure: stress is very real and has very real impacts.
The link between stress and wellbeing
According to Statista, it’s estimated that stress-related illnesses account for over £10.5bn of healthcare expenditure in the UK, predominantly as a result of hospital admissions linked to stress-related conditions. This equates to around 5.5million impatient admissions whilst almost 68.9m GP appointments are made due to stress-related concerns. The numbers are staggering.
Key to understanding stress is recognising the individual nature of it. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to stress. What triggers it, how it makes someone feel and how they deal with it are all very personal, complicated further by a need to recognise not just how we experience it but also how we respond to it.
Understanding your personal reaction to stress
Our ability to cope with stress varies from person to person, situation to situation. Some people are more prone to anxiety and worry which can lead to what feels like a constant state of stress. Others have been subject to an event or experience that causes that heightens the emotional state. For many, it is a moment in time, an activity or a situation that is causing a feeling of stress which can be managed and dealt with in a simpler way.
What most will agree on is that the global health crisis has had a huge influence on mental wellbeing, with many struggling to cope with situations that ordinarily wouldn’t pose a problem.
There’s a quote that emerged during the height of the pandemic from writer Damien Barr that captures this beautifully: “We are not all in the same boat. We are all in the same storm. Some are on super-yachts. Some have just the one oar”.
Everyday life continues to swirl around us; the children need picking up from school or childcare, family needs feeding, pets need walking, housework never seems to end. The additional pressure of just one thing, whether work or personal, can be enough to create feelings of stress. Learning how to spot your trigger points or understanding what to look out for can be instrumental in helping you process and deal with stressful situations.
What to look out for
There are a number of signs to look out for that could be linked to stress. Take a moment and ask yourself whether any of these resonate:
By understanding what the baseline is for yourself and those around you, it becomes easier to spot when signs of stress are appearing and therefore, easier to shift into dealing with it.
Tools to help you manage stress
There are countless ways to help deal with stress. Remembering the very individual impact of stress, it’s also a very personal journey as to which the most effective coping mechanisms will be.
There are two parts of the brain at play when stress hits: emotional and rational. Often in stressful situations, the emotional part of the brain takes over tipping us into ‘fight or flight’ mode. Unfortunately for us, the emotional part of the brain isn’t very good at making rational decisions and so being in this headspace often leads towards more negative thinking and snap decisions that aren’t always the right ones.
To engage the rational side of the brain, it’s critical to try and remove yourself from the source of stress. This could be as simple as walking away into a different room, leaving a meeting, or getting out for some fresh air. In other situations, the break may need to be more mentally driven, such as counting to ten in your mind or completing some breathing exercises. By experimenting with different stress management tools, you can build up a toolkit of mechanisms that can help you cope in a whole range of situations.
Stress is a part of life and dealing with it is a part of who we are. It’s not something we need to deal with in isolation though. By understanding your personal relationship with stress and how you can best deal with it, and through utilising the breadth of tools, techniques and support available to help manage it, you are far more likely to find yourself dealing positively and proactively with issues and problems that arise. You might even make it your friend, as Kelly McGonigal describes in this brilliant Ted Talk.
Cube Learning & Development delivers bespoke personal coaching programmes to help you take control of your own success, including training courses on managing stress. For a no-obligation chat about this and our other training, call Chris Burton on 07879 602002.