Defined as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”, stress is an integral part of being human.
The fight, flight or freeze response is hard wired into our bodies to ensure our survival as a species. We experience a variety of threats on a daily basis, some physical some emotional but all of them perceived by the body as a threat which requires an appropriate response – a flood of hormones designed to enable you to either fight or run.
So far pretty straight forward from a chemical perspective. However, generally we don’t fight or sprint off into the horizon. All of that pent-up energy can lead to a variety of physiological or psychological issues.
The question is how do I manage my response to stressful situations?
What are the signs?
We experience stress in differing ways; lead by circumstances, experience and personality. Some people have a knack of ignoring the signs of stress pushing themselves ever closer to an unknown tipping point.
Some signs of stress:
- Snappy, irritable; talking and not listening.
- Tendency to add more pressure – overloading oneself.
- Brain racing and unable to switch off.
- Worried about anything and everything.
- Consistently saying, “I feel stressed”.
- Unable to concentrate
- Over or under eating.
- Restless; no sense of calm.
- Avoiding situations.
- Inability to make decision.
Change your habits and you will change your future!
When under pressure or feeling in a negative place emotionally, there is a mountain to climb in order to build the confidence and momentum to take action with regards to addressing some unhelpful habits which may be contributing to your current status. We are talking about resilience – a much used word which flows of the tongue, but if the timing is wrong, it will remain elusive.
It is easier to practice resilience (note that it is not an innate skill) when in a positive frame of mind. We all need it in our lives so start building the toolkit to help you through the inevitable times in our lives.
What can you do?
1. Learn to say no.
This is not as negative as you may think – the word “no” does not mean never. It is used to manage expectations and ensure quality over quantity – get it right and don’t be driven into the ground by saying yes to everything.
2. Check your behaviour.
Are you being transactional and dehumanising your work environment due to stress? Think people before process; slow your actions down and become more aware of whom you are talking to.
3. Don’t accept interruptions at work.
Use 5/15. When asked if you have 5 mins for a quick meeting, confirm that it actually is 5 mins and not a longer, more intrusive meeting. If they “admit” that they need 15 mins (or more) book an appointment for a mutually convenient time – remove the interruption and decrease the culture of interruption and the subsequent pressure it brings.
4. Learn techniques related to resilience
Don’t wait until you are under pressure.
5. Be kind to yourself.
You are not a machine. We are encouraged to be out of our comfort zones – however I rarely see this written as intermittently! We are not designed to be out of our comfort zone all of the time – we need a balance of comfort and pressure, too much of either is not good for you.
6. Practice positive self talk.
What is the conversation that you are currently having? Are you being supportive and encouraging or negative and disaffected. What thoughts are in line with you personal goals/objectives. Would you speak to someone else the way you are speaking to yourself?
7. Practice FLIP – Focus Life In the Positive
Practice seeing what appears to be a negative in a positive or neutral way. This idea whilst simple, requires practice until it is embedded as a habit.
8. Build a support network that you can trust.
As the expression goes, “no man is an island”; we are interconnected – share your thoughts and feelings don’t bottle them up.
Philip Dyer, Founder – Healthy Leaders Great Conversations