Decide how much stress is enough stress for you
Let’s be clear about stress from the start, just so you know what I am talking about. “Is it possible to have no stress in your life?” is a question I am often asked. The answer, over a long period of time, is of course, no. Stuff happens and you have to deal with it. It is how well you are able to deal with life, and what your “normal” default position is, that I am talking about in this e-course. If you can minimise the amount of un-wanted stress in your life, you can deal with what comes your way with ease, and your default position will be one of strength, relaxation and being in control.
Some stress is good for you, it will make you get up in the morning, focus your mind, help you be organised and get things done. Everyone needs a certain level of stress, the trick is to know how much you need to operate at your best. Some people love the rush of adrenaline that comes from rushing about, being in demand, having lots to do and achieving it, they thrive on a lot of stress. Others prefer a slower pace of life, with less demands and pressures.
Whatever your optimum level is, there comes a point where the stress in your life increases and becomes counter-productive. Instead of spurring you on, the stress gets in your way, you begin to feel overwhelmed, can’t make decisions, can’t concentrate, start to pick-up small illness, your eating and sleeping patterns change, you become short tempered and irritable – all sorts of things can happen, and none of them are doing you any good.
Here are some questions to help you find out what is really going on with you now, and give you the opportunity to think about what your optimum level of stress is. Take some time to think through these questions.
- What does stress mean to you?
- When were you last really stressed?
- What was or wasn’t happening for you?
- What were your feelings and emotions at the time?
- Do you thrive on pressure, deadlines, responsibility, being needed or having plenty to do?
- How does stress affect you physically?
- Do you get headaches, back pain, drink more, become angry or withdrawn?
- What one thing could you do today to give yourself a relaxing 15 minutes? – Do it
Go through all your close relationships with family, friends and romantic partner in turn and think about whether each relationship is supporting you or not. Do you have people who put you down, or don’t appreciate you? Are these relationships an equal amount of give and take, or just give by you and take by them?
Work – your work life may relate to paid or voluntary work, and includes working in the home looking after children and family. For each of your “jobs” consider the following:-
Is your workload reasonable, and are you sufficiently trained to do your job? Do you have enough control over what you do? Do you get enough support from your manager, colleagues, IT and the systems you use? Are you informed well about changes made at work? Do you understand exactly what is required of you at work? Do you have good relationships within your workplace, with managers, colleagues and customers?
Thoughts and Attitudes- your own thoughts can sometimes work against you and cause stress. Negative self-talk is common example. Do you catch yourself saying “You are useless, hopeless, not good enough”? Are you a perfectionist always pushing yourself to do more and never being good enough?
Do you look on the bright side, or always expect the worst to happen?
Examine your thoughts and attitudes to your life, are there any which are unhelpful, negative and causing you stress?
Lifestyle – You own choices about what you eat, drink and do, can work against you. Eating unhealthy food, drinking too much alcohol and caffeine, smoking, not taking exercise, not knowing how to relax can all increase stress. Take an honest look at your lifestyle. How healthy is your diet? Are you drinking or smoking too much? How often do you exercise? Do you know how to relax and are you relaxing often enough?
You may now have a very long list of causes of stress in your life, and you may well think of more points to add over the coming days. If so just add these to the list, it is very much a work in progress at this stage. Don’t worry if the list seems overwhelming, tomorrow you will start working on the situation.
Finally, an excellent action to help with anxiety and stress is to start writing a journal; but do write i early in the day if you have negative feelings to add and always think of 3 positive actions that have occurred during the day. Believe me, there will always be something even if you just tidied out a cupboard or gave a colleague a genuine compliment.
In the meantime just notice when you get stressed – what is happening? Write down!