Create the Calmness this Month
April is National Stress Awareness Month. The day was started by the Health Resource Network (HRN) in 1992 to raise awareness of stress and offer 30 days of attention to educating and identifying ways to recognize stress in everyday life. The goal has an important outcome – determining what is one’s optimal level or “best stress zone”. Modern day living means that no one is immune to stress.
National Stress Awareness Month offers the opportunity to take a deep breath, relax, assess personal stress levels and learn a new coping skill or two. It may open the mind to consider what kind of changes need to be made to create a less stressfull life and realize there are choices. Each person has the power to make better decisions in their life. Stress may be a necessary part of life and unavoidable—but how one copes with the stress is within one’s own control.
What is Stress?
Stress is a force that tends to distort the body, a factor that induces bodily or mental tension, or an automatic physical reaction to a danger or demand in the environment. Stress affects us all and no more so than in the workplace.
Stress comes in two forms – positive and negative. Positive stress is called Eustress. It delivers that extra burst of adrenaline to accomplish goals and meet deadlines. It also provides mental alertness, motivation, and efficiency. Positive stress can increase self-esteem, assist with creativity, learning and survival.
At the other end of the spectrum is stress that is harmful when it becomes overwhelming. That kind of stress interrupts the healthy state of equilibrium that the nervous system needs to remain in balance. Unfortunately, overwhelming stress has become an increasingly common characteristic of contemporary life.
Consequences of Ignoring Stress
Chronic stress takes a significant toll on the body. It impacts the ability to function effectively at work and potentially affect how one interacts with other people. When left unmanaged over a prolonged period, stress will have a serious impact on careers, relationships and general well-being. Eventually this stress level can become acute and very dangerous.
One of the causes of chronic stress, or burnout, is when passionate and committed individuals become deeply disillusioned with their job or career. They may have always believed their personal identity and life’s meaning was tied to their work. When their role is no longer pleasurable and control seems to have been stripped away, what was once exciting is now tedious or distressing.
In addition to burnout, stress that becomes acute can have greater consequences. When stress hormones remain elevated over long periods of time, they produce “wear and tear” on the brain and some body systems. Why risk cardiovascular disease, stroke, depression, high blood pressure, a seriously weakened immune system and potentially the chance that stress can fuel cancer? There are techniques to take control.
There are 5 early warning signs to look out for –
- Physical stress appears as muscle tension, headaches, restless or sleepless nights and stomach or digestive.
- Mental signs produce poor concentration, racing thoughts, low productivity and forgetfulness.
- Emotional stress shows up as irritability, anxiety and may bring about mood swings.
- Spiritual signs of stress are in the form of cynicism and lack of fulfillment.
- Social stress signals are intolerance for others is felt and potentially there is lashing out at others.
These are some of the most significant signals of which to pay attention. The next step is to recognize one has the power and the ability to more effectively manage this stress by learning and applying some ltechniques.
Coping Skills for Managing Stress
Stress comes and goes – the ability to adapt to stress is key to a good quality of life and health preservation. What can one do to prevent stress from taking over? Maybe start with examining lifestyle. Identify and solve immediate problems. Review the job. Are insignificant problems masking more significant ones? What needs to be changed in the work environment, family situation, personal thoughts, schedule, eating and exercise habits?
There are many preconceived ideas about how one should deal with stress – and most do not work. It is not true that stress comes with success. It is also not true that symptoms must be present for stress to exist.
When stress raises its ugly head it is up to each of us to recognize it, face it and deal with it. Having a drink does not help de-stress a person. Cranking up the stress level does not act as a good motivator of people. The answer is for each individual to identify what is the right solution or mix of strategise that best manages their own level of stress.
Stress Busting Ideas
- Beginning 4-6 weeks ahead, take a look at upcoming work priorities and start delegating, requesting extra help if possible
- Make sure everyone KNOWS when you will be off and not available
- Leave notes, specific names and resources for problem-solving while you are away
- Leave everything at the office and take nothing with you. This includes mobile devices that will allow you to connect with work
- If you are staying home on vacation, tell your colleagues you’ll be away and off the grid
- Choose a vacation that will be opposite to your normal routine , look for something that will change up routine
- Get up at a different time in the morning or establish a different routine to begin the day
- Master the lost art of doing nothing
- Gain a new perspective on stressful situations
- Buildiskills to manage your stress
- Increase self-awareness
- Focus on the present
- Reduce negative emotions
- Get out your headphones and listen to this 10 minute or 20 minute relaxation video- they work!
- A “power pause” triggers the release of anti-stress hormones, decreases heart rate and lowers metabolic rate and rate of breathing
- Raise IQ, relieve stress and become happier
- Reduce stress and depression
- Increase energy levels and improve overall health
- Promote better sleep and focus better on work
- Boost the immune system for fewer sick days
- More energy to achieve goals
- Get enough sleep and make it easier to overcome mental, physical and emotional challenges.
- Focus on thinking positively and learn from the mistakes
- Build strong relationships to create a support network to fall back on
- Set specific and achievable personal goals
- Work on building your self-confidence
Stress influences food choices and metabolic response to food – another sign you may be struggling with stress. Healthy eating habits influence mood, reduce the development of medical disorders such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer as well as alter the movement of the stomach. Healthy choices help achieve a positive balance with an even start to the day. High calorie and fatty foods put the body in a slump and create a lethargic and ineffective mood.
“Sadistics” show that –
- 1/3 of Canadians feel that they are constantly under stress trying to accomplish more than they can handle
- 2% of Canadian workers reported that they were on the verge of a breakdown
- 50% of Canadian workers ages 25-44 worry that they do not spend enough time with friends and family
About 10.8 million days were lost because of work-related stress, depression and anxiety from 2010 to 2011. While not all stress is work-related, knowing how to deal with a lot of pressure at work is important.
The takeaway – Stress can be a weapon of self-destruction unless you defuse it yourself.
Ellen DeGeneres has some ideas on National Stress Awareness Month that may put a smile on your face.
And funny lady Lily Tomlin said it best –
“For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.”