I’m willing to guess that you know of at least one person who has had to be signed off work by their doctor because of stress. Recently, The Telegraph reported that one in three absences at work are due to “anxiety and stress”, with figures on the rise every year.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines stress as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”. Yet what does this really mean?
While too much stress in our lives can cause long-term problems, a lack of any stress at all under-stimulates our brains and bodies. Stress boosts adrenaline, and a little of that can motivate us to get out of bed in the morning and manage the day ahead – meaning that stress can actually have a positive effect.
But I wonder what scene you would immediately picture in your mind, the moment somebody mentions the word “stress”?
I think for most people, the scene would detail a scruffy work desk, piled with paperwork and a screen showing a long list of unanswered emails. In my experience as a personal and business coach, it’s amazing how many people automatically picture a workplace scenario whenever they think about stress, regardless of how they feel about work themselves.
It can help to remember that as people, we are all very different, and for some of us work doesn’t equal stress at all! One person’s stress is in fact another’s route to thrive.
I believe that we can fight the causes of stress (because stress is not an illness in itself, but a symptom of emotional strain) by better understanding ourselves. Meditation and exercise are often prescribed as stress-busters, and while both can offer wonderful boosts to our mood, if we don’t understand the core reasons why we feel stressed, and what we can do to make us thrive instead, we will soon go back to the doctor.
Taking some valuable time to examine the way you’re feeling can help you identify your personal areas of stress more easily. For example, if work is making you feel anxious, try to identify the reasons why. Perhaps something as simple as altering your hours, or asking for some extra assistance, could resolve your worries. If you feel like you’re juggling too many responsibilities at home, considering whether you could get some help, or even if you’re judging yourself too harshly, can be of great benefit.
Life can certainly feel very stressful for most of us every now and again. However, taking the time to understand ourselves and our unique responses can help us live a calmer, more balanced life. So this week, I challenge you to do just that – and if you can, let me know how you get on!