Stress is a killer in modern life, as well as causing misery to millions of people around the world.
When any animal (including a human) senses a threat, it responds with an instinctive physiological reaction, leading to one of the following responses:
- Freeze (allows us to assess the situation)
- Flight (our first instinct is to flee from the threat)
- Fight (If we need to (are cornered) then we will fight to protect ourselves)
(find out more here)
In the modern world however, it’s often just not practical or acceptable to run away from the threat, or fight our attacker. We can however put strategies in place to prevent stress and if stressed understand the causes and take effective actions for the management of stress. A small bit of understanding goes a long way to enabling you to become stress free.
So what is stress?
- Stress in an integral part of our survival mechanism (Freeze, Flight and Fight)
- It works subconsciously to protect us
- It is a chemical dump of hormones that give us the power to deal with the situation
- It prepares our body for action by
- making the heart beat faster,
- we breathe harder,
- blood is pumped to our brain
- and more . . .
Not all stress is bad stress; there is good and bad stress. Good stress (Eustress) is where we have enough pressure in our lives to help stretch us and help us to develop as an individual. We may face threat, but we can manage it with suitable strategies.
Bad stress can be caused by being under too much pressure and being unable to put in place suitable strategies to deal with the pressures – which results in a perceived loss of control over our lives. In a work setting, this often shows up as burnout – a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work, due to work overload and other stressors.
However, bad stress can also be caused by not having enough pressure in our lives, which means we are not challenged enough, and become lethargic. An example of this is the so-called phenomena of Boreout, where boredom, and a lack of work and satisfaction cause a malaise affecting individuals working in modern organizations, especially in office-based white collar jobs.
So how do we recognise bad stress in our lives? To do this we need to ask ourselves how we feel. Do we feel:
- we have lost control of our life
- we have to much to do and not enough time
- we have anticipation or fear that something bad is going to happen
- we need to deal with unpredictable or uncontrollable people
- our heart is beating faster; we are breathing harder, Our head feels tight, our skin feels clammy
So what can we do?
- Take responsibility for our actions
- Realise we are in control
- Review your lifestyle
- Make small changes
- Learn to manage time
- Learn to say “no”
- Learn to relax
- Take up an activity; learn to mimic our natural urges to run or fight.
Some strategies are:
1. Take responsibility and control of your life
“Do not move your enemy, move yourself” Sun Tzu
Take responsibility for your life. You cannot force others to change – but you can change yourself. Take small steps and make small changes that are in your control and then expand. Remember a woodcutter does not cut down a tree with one chop, he chips away at it until it falls.
Do you need to . . .
- Learn more skills?
- Ask better questions?
- Learn to deal with difficult people or office politics?
- Learn to delay or drop tasks?
- Delegate tasks to others?
- Change your lifestyle?
- Or your job?
Prevention is better than cure!
2. Deal with our fears
In reality, our fears are often irrational. We anticipate that something bad is going to happen and develop stress in response to this imagined fear.
Al fears can be said to fall into one of five broad categories:
- Ego death, the fear of humiliation
- Separation, the fear of abandonment
- Loss of autonomy, the fear of being immobilised
- Mutilation, the fear of losing part of our bodily structure or bodies boundaries invaded
- Extinction, the fear of ceasing to exist
Learning to recognise which fear(s) we are experiencing is the first step.
Once recognised we can then rationally start to put strategies together to deal with the fear.
3. Take up an activity that mimics what our body expects
- Freeze phase
- Learn to relax
- Learn to observe; change your focus from negative to positive
- Control your breathing
- Calm the monkey mind
- Use mudras to help you focus
- Visualisation techniques
- Flight phase – Take up a sport or activity that involves:
- Maybe a motor sport
- Go camping or visit new places
The key here is to experience “running away”
- Fight phase – Take up a sport or activity that involves:
- Hitting things (boxercise type class)
- A striking martial art like Kickboxing, Karate
- A spiritual martial art like Aikido
- A Grappling art like Judo or Jiu Jutsu
- Buy a punch bag and learn to hit or kick it
The key here is to “fight your fear”
If you are feeling stressed and would like to understand how to deal with it, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
It can be easy to put a stop to stress if we seek the right answers . . .