For many of us we don’t always recognise stress or the triggers that take us from our level-headed selves to a somewhat cranky individual – to put it politely.
It’s certainly true that stress manifests in different ways for each of us and it’s highly likely that we won’t even recognise it until we’re at our tipping point. Think shouting, being irritable, sensitive, having trouble sleeping, drinking or eating more or not eating at all.
In fact, most of us may not realise we’re stressed until we stop and have a break. It’s only then that we might realise how deeply we have been affected.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the past year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. It’s also not surprising, with the current state of the world, there is a heightened state of uncertainty, anxiety and concern around job security, financial worries, social and health issues – all of which cause stress and stress-related illness.
Stress isn’t always bad, by the way. You may feel it when applying for a new job, going on a date or a rollercoaster – sometimes pretty similar feelings there! It’s when our body has a physiological response (increased heart rate, butterflies in your tummy, that sort of thing). It’s a natural response from our body and one that it is able to recover from fairly easily and quickly. But when we’re suffering with ongoing chronic stress, this is when it affects us more negatively.
What can we do to be more aware of our stress levels and how do we recognise when our stress is becoming unhealthy for us?
Becoming more aware starts with listening to your body and recognising patterns in your reactions to everyday situations. Our clients regularly have revelatory moments, the penny drops and in retrospect it can be easy to see how we’ve not been ourselves.
One client recently told us that they did not have the patience to get involved in some team member issues. And that was a turning point, they recognised it as a sign that they needed a break and didn’t have the capacity to take on anymore.
Another client took a week off work and only then, when they stopped, did the realisation of how stressed they had been hit home – they’d not been sleeping properly, had no energy to exercise, were feeling irritable and short tempered and this negative feeling extended to family too, not just their working team.
It’s so important to stop and check-in with yourself and to be more aware. Everyone is different so it may need a little bit of monitoring to figure out your normal and heightened-stress responses.
Recognising unhealthy stress is a really positive achievement. Once you recognise the signs, it will remind you to get back on track with your wellbeing. Researchers have found exercise, diet and mindfulness can improve stress levels and stress response rates. These activities are beneficial in preventing as well as treating stress.
You might like to try some of the following:
Include gentle physical exercise
Add some of these into your diet
- Fatty fish like salmon
- Camomile tea
Try a mindfulness exercise
- Breathing exercises
Not all change needs to be enormous. Gentle and regular activity can be just as beneficial as something more intense, such as trying to improve your marathon time for example. It also puts a lot less physical pressure on your body! Or, how about knitting, reading, cooking, playing a game, doing a jigsaw puzzle, listening to music, having a bath?
What other activities do you think might have the power to calm you and help you switch off?
We run workshops for leaders that specifically tackle stress, it’s deep impact on the individual and the ripple effect it has on those around us. If you feel you might benefit from a workshop such as this, or from direct coaching – which is far more bespoke and specific to your needs – contact Bernadette firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.