One of the difficulties about stress is that it can work for you or against you. Low levels of stress can improve your performance, however high levels of stress impede performance. One of the difficulties is that many people when they notice stress, react by doubling their efforts. Then problems come thick and fast, it gets harder to think ahead and tempting to adopt the first solution that comes to mind: reaching for the bottle, asking for sleeping tablets, or burying your head in the sand.
I know I suffered severe stress about 10 years ago when after being made redundant, I worked as an MD of a company 150 miles from home and the company was distressed. I suffered regular headaches, had difficulty sleeping and also had migraines which has always been my body’s way of telling me I need to change something.
How do you know when you suffer from stress?
Most people who suffer from stress manage the problem sensibly themselves and many succeed. If you catch the problem early, your own ways of dealing with it are likely to work however bear in mind:-
- make sure the solutions you use will be helpful in the long term as well as in the short term
- beware of caffeine (and alcohol!)
Take stock of the situation
Find a moment to stop and think. When stress builds to high levels you need a breathing space. It is time well spent because it helps you put things in perspective and plan the next move. Do you have the right work/life balance?
Start with the end in mind
Stress makes it hard to give priority to the most important things. If you clarify your major priorities you will stop minor things getting in the way
- stress affects your memory and concentration – write things down
- stress makes planning and decision making difficult – plan every day
- stress makes you tired – allow yourself breaks and fun
- stress slows down your speed of recovery and lowers your resistance to illness – take regular exercise and a balanced diet (not an easy one for me!)
- stress makes you feel pressurised – relax in your own head!
- stress tempts you to avoid difficulties or put off dealing with them – tackle the difficult issues first
- stress reduces your efficiency – are you spending your time in the right areas?
Where does stress come from?
Stress does not just come from external factors, often it is internally driven by putting too much pressure on ourselves. These inbuilt pressures can come from our childhood or from the fact that we might be too much of a perfectionist (this has never been one of my problems!)
What can I do about reducing stress?
Rest – getting totally away from work including Blackberrys and the like. Switching off totally from work or whatever is creating the stress in the first place
Recreation – particularly if it involves exercise but even if it doesn’t, have something to look forward to, fully engage in and have fun
Relationships – try and mix with people who take stress out of your life rather than adding it.
And a lot more………….
For an in depth reading on stress and many other mental conditions read Manage the Mind the mental fitness guide by Gillian Butler and Tony Hope
If you want an easier read and you like sport read The Game Plan by Steve Bull