Updated: Aug 16, 2019
I can say it from personal experience. Whilst the word ‘stress’ is now pretty common parlance when people talk about, not just work, but their day-to-day lives, I really didn’t know what the symptoms of stress were, until I broke; burnt out, physically ill, with a fatigue and sleep disorder, depressed and more symptoms besides…I was lucky, I had started working from home, or I wouldn’t have been able to hold down a job. The reality is, many people, just like me think that the status quo is what everyone is doing and that we should be able to keep up, that this is normality and that there is something wrong if we can’t keep up with everyone else.
What’s Breaking Us?
Whilst more businesses are now giving something a bit more than lip-service to well-being, there still a generalised work-harder culture where staff are ‘expected’ to be working past their contracted hours and in some cases, just because it’s expected and otherwise they feel anxious their role and their responsibilities might be taken from them and given to someone with more dedication. However, whilst a big piece of the stress pie, it is not just jobs that are contributing to chronic stress levels that are affecting our health.
Take a moment to consider all the things that are elements in your life and to what degree they are affecting your stress levels. Some can be naturally stressful, e.g. a new baby, however, what about the amount of time you spend on tech and social media, the food you are eating, the level of alcohol you consume, the tech vibes in your house stopping you relaxing and sleeping, excessive exercise and at the wrong time of day, lack of sleep, mindset and how you perceive things going on around you, the wrong people in your life…be honest, to what degree do they have a positive or negative affect on your life?
Signs that Your Life Health is Burning Out
Generalised tension and anxiety that you can’t shake
Overwhelm and confusion – overwhelm creeps up on you and so does confusion. Suddenly your mind isn’t working as effectively as it did and you are forgetting what you did a second ago, or zoning out.
You aren’t slowing down – you are jumping from one thing to another without stopping, this includes both physical and mental demands.
Interrupted sleep patterns, lack of sleep and exhaustion.
Uncharacteristic mood changes – anger, anxiety, need to have a blow-out to relieve the feeling, hysteria, confusion, depressive moods, exhaustion
Addictions – sugar, food, alcohol, exercise, drugs that give you momentary respite from everything you’re feeling
Pervasive negative thinking verging on depressive thoughts, paranoia and anxiety.
Relationship tensions – your relationships are coming under strain, family, romantic and friendships and perhaps you’re not sure what to do about it.
You don’t feel the joy and happiness that you thought you should be feeling when you got ‘here’.
Physiologically – digestive issues (stress is a massive actor on the gut), hormonal issues (especially for women), sexual performance issues for men (and women as they lose interest due to hormonal imbalances), racing heart, panic attack symptoms, skin disorders, muscle aches and pains due to stress tension in the body.
A Common Thread
If the growing sense of stress is having an impact on your life, isn’t it time to do something about it? The reality of stress, it is not stress that’s the problem. We’re built with biological ways to respond to it. The problem of stress is the frequency of our experience of acute stress. The solution therefore lies not just in removing the stressors (as you can’t remove all of them) but in your response to those stress factors. You can dramatically start improving your experience of stress and improve your life health experience by making small incremental changes, not everything is down to the big changes (such as your career). Sweat the smaller stuff, just by starting to be more aware of it, notice the signals that your body and mind is giving you and find them a solution.
However, there is a common thread through all ten items in the list above: how you respond and therefore how you think about what is happening around you which then drives how you feel about it and your actions. In my experience, this can be the most impactful change you can make to your stress levels, yet for some it can be hard to change as thinking patterns are ingrained in a habitual pattern and not always identifiable without help. Before working with me or any other coach, many clients are under the illusion that they have no control over the narrative that goes through their heads. Discovering that they do is an immensely empowering discovery for life, not just stress management. Working with my clients I help them identify the patterns and take control of the story and the emotional responses they have when they are ‘under stress’; be it additional workload, having to deal with bullies or situations that require confidence over anxiety and help them unknot negative responses and build a more positive, resilient response when next confronted with the situation. Stress management and health for life is a 360 approach with your mind at the core.