What is stress? What can we do about it?
Stress is the psychological and physical expression of a long-term build-up of pressure. Of course, we will all come across stressful situations, and we are well-equipped to deal with this in a physical and mental way.
When that pressure fails to subside then the survival mode that serves us well in the short term begins to break us down. First your enthusiasm and creativity begin to wane, then you find you are staying more contained, interacting with people less. In its extreme cases the body's immune system begins to tire and regular sickness, headaches and overall wellbeing are compromised.
Here are a few tips on how to cope:
1. Don't bottle up feelings that cause stress.
That burning feeling in the stomach, or the frustrated outbursts that happen when it all gets too much, are signs that you are holding onto feelings that cause stress. The common mistake is that people feel as though they should always be smiling and agreeable in the office, but it can be a damaging assumption. If you don't air your concerns or disagreements (in a constructive way) you will create a pressure build-up that has to be released somehow. It is a much better idea for you to determine what those outlets are rather than a bad mood or external event causing you to overreact.
2. Don't get upset and angry when overloaded. Find someone – a friend or a professional, with whom you can discuss your concerns constructively.
The first point here is that you need to become aware of what causes you to shift from a state of high tension to one of relaxation. You may have a friend or family member that is a good listener, and will allow you to talk through the entire situation. Other people will remain in a state of stress until they problem-solve and make a decision on how to act. If that is you, find a person who is a great problem-solver to help you through. Some people continue to suffer under the pretext of not wanting to 'unload' on those around them. In these cases, professional help may be best.
3. Be aware of anxiety in others. Maybe someone needs your care, your sensitivity or even your help.
Most people struggle with admitting to themselves or others that they are not coping well with a situation. If you see someone who is stressed or anxious it can make a huge difference to their life if you extend a hand of understanding and give them an avenue to talk about it. Sure, you may come across a defensive individual that is aggressive in their refusal of help, but even in this instance your approach can make a difference by making them more aware of how they are being perceived.
4. Learn to share and vent in a constructive manner.
Being stressed doesn't give you the automatic right to bring down the tone of the entire office. Storming around with a head full of thunder because you're under pressure just isn't acceptable – it makes others walk on eggshells. It is a common coping mechanism but it is so unfair on those around you. There are constructive ways of sharing and reducing the pressure – always seek these out if you feel things are getting on top of you.
All around us are people that are willing to help, talk and discuss. We are all social animals and usually quite unaware of just how many people are willing to help us if we give them a chance. Nobody is an island, and distancing yourself emotionally will result in inadvertent outbursts that will disrupt the relationships you are trying not to disrupt by keeping your feelings to yourself.
Stress has a big impact on us at work and in our personal lives – we must find the best ways to manage our own stress so we feel better and we do not damage ourselves further and do not impact those around us. Stress requires making some changes.
Eve Ash has produced a wide range of videos and resources for managing stress and identifying strategies for change like 15 Ways to Handle Today's Stress. Some videos are comedy style and would work well to start discussions in team meetings: Surviving Stress and Burnout, Stretching the Team, Removing Tension, Breaking Bullying, and Planning and Organizing.