Dealing with stress (part I)
I hope you have had a good summer. I promised to be back with my weekly missive in September. Many line managers have returned from the summer break to continue working on cost saving and restructuring plans. I can’t remember a time when I have had so many conversations with people who are about to encounter such significant change. If you are (or may be) personally affected, try and keep a positive frame of mind about the situation. I speak from experience.
This week’s missive is slightly different, in that it is not written by me. It is written by my colleague, Teresa Heys and is in two parts. Part two will follow next week. So, over to you Teresa.
Having recently joined Globis recently, taking on responsibility for stress and well-being management, I offered to write one of Clive’s missives, to introduce myself to you all and to share some of my thoughts on stress and how to manage it.
I have a default personality which is to be stressed. We all have different levels of natural stress management and mine is naturally very low! I lived my life reacting stressfully to life’s challenges and demands for too many years to mention and eventually became quite ill through it. I managed to pick myself up, without (foolishly) asking for any professional help; I then secured a job in stress and wellbeing management and through the studying I have undertaken and the training I have delivered to hundreds of people I have learnt how to react in much more helpful ways. The stress reaction still kicks in sometimes – it’s not possible to completely eradicate it – but I recognise the effects it is having on me and very quickly put into place the techniques I have learnt to reduce these effects. Basically, I’m my own ‘case study’.
So, what really is this thing we call stress? So often people will say ‘That was stressful’ but do they really mean that, or are there words which would better describe what was happening to them? The Health and Safety Executive define stress as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other demands placed on them.’ There is a clear distinction between pressure and stress; pressure can be good for us, it can motivate us, it can make us get things done (like writing this text in time to get it to Clive!), but when the pressure becomes too much and we can’t cope, that’s when stress kicks in.
The stress response is the body’s reaction to danger and if you are in an emergency or a life threatening situation, it is a response we need. Without going into too much of the biological details, basically what happens is your brain recognises danger, and a bunch of chemicals and hormones rush around your body, screaming ‘Run away from this, or fight it!’ Those chemicals and hormones will give you the strength and/or the speed to be able to run away or fight – if it truly is an emergency or a life threatening danger. However, as most of the ‘dangers’ we face are not either of these two things, the chemicals and hormones keep rushing around and we then get the adverse effects of stress, which we all recognise, – thumping heart, shallow breathing, confused thinking, cold hands and feet, skin rashes, headaches, muscle spasms, spots, hair loss, inability to prioritise what needs to be done, poor performance at work. I could go on. The longer the stress response continues, the more adverse the effects will be – and stress has been proven to be linked to cancer, coronary heart disease, clinical anxiety, clinical depression and dementia.
Part two to follow next week