Updated: Aug 16, 2019
We all know we get stressed. Whether we like it or not, it's a part of every day life and in smaller doses, stress can actually be good for you. From mental alertness and motivation to increased learning and physical development, moderate levels of stress are a contributory factor. However, the fact is, too many of us are not experiencing simply moderate amounts of 'motivational' stress. We are feeling 'up against it' in our work and personal lives, and as a result, our adrenals are working over-time and our mental and physical health is suffering, relationships are falling apart, we feel out of control and we're simply not enjoying ourselves. How did it get to this?
In November 2017, the HSE (Health & Safety Executive, UK) revealed its latest statistics on the impact of work-related stress in the UK. The research revealed that 526,000 workers were suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety. This was the highest rate in 16 years, rising by 7% in just one year. It is now the most common work-related illness.
In another study by Royal London in 2017, we saw more detailed behaviours. 85% of UK GPs reported a rise in patients with symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression over the past five years. Most tellingly are the statistics which reveal that 29% of patients said they didn't believe GPs could help and one in six people ask for their diagnosis to be concealed on their fit note.
Feeling a bit lost?
It is clear there are a lot of people that are unsure of how to manage the symptoms of stress and quite frankly the pace of 21st century life seems to be only getting faster. So, how do we deal with it effectively when over a quarter of people are waiting for 6 months before getting help, and many of those feel their GP is unlikely to help?
Approaches such as mindfulness to gain better control of one's mindset are important but I believe, for many, that many of the factors which contribute to a stressful environment aren't addressed in one single approach, however powerful.
A combined and supported approach is important which include mindset and mindfulness but also look at understanding stress, its effects, one's personal triggers as well as learning approaches about to how to manage those triggers effectively on a daily basis, e.g. strains in a relationship, bullies at work, workload and work/life balance. Re-connecting with your own goals and priorities (rather than those of your employers or others) is vital as are lifestyle changes and the way you approach each day that need to be implemented; whether it is simple meditation to calm your mind and body, or learning to deal with difficult people and situations differently. Another large part of the puzzle which should not be forgotten, is the context of your overall health and factoring in diet (a diet of doughnuts and coffee is not going to help you perform or recover - sorry...), exercise and the importance of sleep for stress management and overall health. It should be a 360 degree approach. Why? Many of us are stressed by our environment but also by the habits we have developed in order to survive. As the well-known quote says;
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Let's not allow insanity to happen. To create change in our lives, to relieve the stress, we need to make changes that will not only positively our own experience of each day and improve our health but will also have a knock-on effect that benefits our home life, relationships and sense of self-worth. The impact will be incremental but no less powerful. It's time to find your inner Panda. It's time to sit down, look at the world around you, pick up your bamboo shoot, chill and contemplate: 'Is this what I really want? And what can I change to make life less stressful?'