By Kerry Riley, AVN Practice Growth Expert
Anger, sadness, physically tense, overeating and drinking, snappy, sharp, don’t think before I speak…
These are the words I used when I answered this survey question – ‘Think about a time when you have felt stressed – what effect did the stress have on your emotions, behaviour, and you, both mentally and physically?’
I wrote down those answers moved on. But when I reread them later, I realised that this is how I was feeling 80% of the time.
As I write this my shoulders are close to my ears, my jaw is tense and my mind is in overdrive. Until I wrote down those words I hadn’t realised the pressure that I was putting on myself. And that pressure of daily life, work, family, health, was leading me to the point of being stressed most of the time. I had got so used to the feeling of being tightly wound up and tense that it just felt normal.
If you know me at all you know I like to understand what I’m dealing with. So, I started studying stress.
Did you know…
… that nearly half of adults feel stressed every day?
… that 32% of adults have experienced suicidal feelings as a result of stress?
We have become a society where stress, anxiety and feeling depressed have become the norm – and we need to change it!
How do we define stress?
Stress is defined as the physical, mental and emotional reaction we experience as a result of changes and demands in life. The situations and pressures that cause stress are known as stressors. Different people react to the stressors in different ways and what may seem trivial to others may send someone else over the edge and into a panic.
We know that a little stress in life is good. It’s what keeps us motivated and engaged and working to the best of our ability. But beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts to cause damage to our health, mood, productivity, and even our quality of life.
A stressor can be an event, either positive or negative; for example, a wedding, buying a house, gaining a promotion at work. But everything we go through in life can cause stress in one way or another. In fact, you don’t me to tell you how stressful life can be at times! Homelife; children; spouses; work; money; health. And then there are the big life changes – pregnancy, divorce, death. Stressors of one kind or another are part of the human condition.
The impact of being stressed
There are 2 types of stressors. Internal demands are the pressures we put on ourselves, such as:
- I don’t feel confident
- I’m afraid of heights
- What if …?
- I need to lose weight
- Why can’t I do that…?
And then there are external demands, such as:
- Our environment
- Relationship demands
- Workplace demands
- Social situations
When stressors are constant in our life we can permanently feel tense, nervous or on edge.
But do you really understand the impact this is having on you physically, mentally and emotionally?
The long-term activation of the body’s stress response system can increase the risk of various health problems, including:
- Heart disease
What to do when you’re stressed
It’s important that we take steps to reduce or manage the stress in our lives. There is often little we can do to prevent stress but there are many mechanisms we can put in place to cope with it.
- Identify that you are stressed – Knowing the signs of stress is crucial. Ask yourself this simple question on a daily basis, ‘How am I feeling?’
- Identify the cause of the stress – Is it something that will get better in time or is it something that you have no control over? Write a list of what is stressing you out and categorise it.
- Assess the balance in your life – Are you constantly working? Do you have any time just for you? Do you make family time? Making you and your family a priority can relieve the feeling of guilt.
- Make lifestyle changes – Don’t take on more than you can do. Life is too short so if there’s something in your life that isn’t working for you, change it!
- Know your limits – We often say yes automatically when someone asks us to do something. Try to stop and assess your time before you answer. Make your life work for you, not for other people .
- Make good decisions – Did you know that people are three times more likely to drink alcohol to help deal with stress than to speak to their GP? Remember there is help out there. Feeling stressed or depressed is nothing to be ashamed of and there’s no stigma to admitting you need help. So if you need it, seek out professional support.
So, my question to you is, how are you feeling? Write down your answers and let’s make some changes together. Let’s show the world that stress is not acceptable and our lives are worth all the love and joy this world can bring.