Stress & Me

As April is Stress Awareness Month I wanted to look at the impact that stress can have on our lives but more importantly look at things that we can do to manage it when it arises. I wanted to do this by considering what stress looks like for me!

But before I talk about me and stress let's look at what stress actually is. I looked to a great source for this answer - the charity MIND - which states stress as being:

  • Situations or events that put pressure on us, for example, times where we have lots to do and think about, or don't have much control over what happens.
  • Our reaction to being placed under pressure – the feelings we get when we have demands placed on us that we find difficult to cope with.

Can you relate to these? I definitely can. Over the past couple of weeks I have definitely felt a pressure which has lead to me feeling stressed and this has come primarily from work. I have been putting together and delivering several completely NEW training courses which is of course very exciting but it has meant that I have put pressure on myself and have, at times, struggled to know how to deal with that feeling of stress.

What Causes Feelings of Stress?

Stress is very common and can definitely be motivating to help us to achieve things. It can help us meet the demands of home, work and family life but it can also cause us to struggle. Do you know what causes stress in your life or when it's most likely to appear? For many those feelings are normally triggered by things happening in your life which involve (list taken from MIND):

  • being under lots of pressure – either at home or at work
  • facing big changes
  • worrying about something
  • not having much or any control over the outcome of a situation
  • having responsibilities that you're finding overwhelming
  • not having enough work, activities or change in your life
    - times of uncertainty.

You might feel stress because of one big thing but it can also be the result of lots of little things building up to one big feeling of pressure and the amount of stress you feel may depend on many factors such as:

  • your perception of the situation – this might be connected to your past experiences, your self-esteem, and how your thought processes work (for example, if you tend to interpret things positively or negatively)
  • how experienced you are at dealing with that particular type of pressure
  • your emotional resilience to stressful situations
  • the amount of other pressures on you at the time
  • the amount of support you are receiving.

What Can I do About it?

We're all different, so a situation that doesn't bother you at all might cause someone else a lot of stress. For example, if you're feeling confident or usually enjoy public speaking, you might find that giving a speech in front of people feels comfortable and fun. But if you're feeling low or usually prefer not to be the centre of attention, this situation might cause you to experience signs of stress.

So what can you do to better manage your stress when it appears? Well this is what I do:

  • Try to recognise when you are starting to feel that pressure and acknowledge that feeling. Notice what the changes are – is it affecting you physically or mentally? I often find that through times of stress I start to feel tighter in my shoulders and I get more headaches, I also go into ‘overthinking mode’ which definitely affects my sleep and finally stress can lead me to be much snappier with the family which is never a good thing!
  • Once you have acknowledged that feeling of stress you can start to do things to manage it:
    • You can communicate to the people around you that you are struggling at the moment with these feelings but assure them that you are working to reduce the feeling of stress. This will help them better understand your change in mood.
    • You can communicate differently with yourself. For me this is really important. When I start to feel stress which is related to work I find that the imposter syndrome well and truly sets in and I follow the pattern of ‘am I good enough’, ‘this is going to be terrible’. I know what I need to do…it’s what I talk to so many of my coaching clients about – I bring the evidence! I remind myself why I have been asked to do this work in the first place, all the positive testimonials I have had as a result of my work and I bombard myself with positivity. This is incredibly important for me and I know such a method works well for others. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
    • I get outside and walk more than normal as this helps to clear my head and gain a different perspective.
    • I stick to my routine to bring some consistency to my life.
    • During such times I will have a bath before bed and write down all that is swimming around in my head – this really helps me to gain some much needed clarity.
    • I try to distract myself as much as possible when I can.
    • I will also be more inclined to hang out with people who will bring a positive perspective to my life.

Some people will experience stress in their lives more than others and may as a result of this get better at dealing with it, but if you are someone who is lucky enough to have less stress in your life, then you may need to draw upon some of these tips as you face it moving forward. And if it is getting too much do not be afraid to speak to someone about it.
Good luck.