Some people are experiencing a stress reaction to the bushfires even though not personally physically affected. With a constant focus on the news – papers, internet, TV and radio – people immerse themselves in the trauma and start to experience stress as a result.
This may be coupled with guilt – and the person thinks “Why should I be stressed? I haven’t lost my home or loved ones.” Nonetheless it can be an underlying upset that is difficult to come to terms with, and we may be feeling unable to concentrate and deliver our normal output at work.
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Stress is a physical reaction to any demand placed on the body. While under stress, the body’s natural reaction is to “fight or flight”, where you instinctively prepare to either face a situation or run from it. This occurs in any situation where an external threat is perceived.
A little bit of stress is not always a bad thing, as an aroused state can motivate a person and make them more aware in situations where this is very useful. Obviously in some situations the body will go into extreme stress reactions – as would have happened last week in bushfire, flood or any life threatening situation.
Stress can occur in a number of different situations. At work it could be an overdue report, the thought of giving someone feedback, the need to present to a group, or preparing for a possible job loss can all cause stress reactions. It could even be work overload or role ambiguity and change in work or private life is often a major cause of stress.
Stress is not caused only by external events, it can also be internally influenced. According to psychological research, there are two types of people, Type A and Type B.
Type A people are busy, speedy, driven, often impatient, set unrealistic amounts for themselves to achieve, taking on lots of work and too many responsibilities. Type B people are more laid back, relaxed and are seen to “take things in their stride” a lot more. Type A people – and apparently there are more of them – are much more prone to stress.
Thinking patterns also influence how much stress a person experiences. Perfectionism is an example of this, where a “perfectionist” will feel more stress in a given situation compared to other people. Different people react to different things.
What if you notice someone is feeling stressed?
If a person is noticeably feeling stressed and the problem is personal, another person may feel uncomfortable in asking about the situation. The question is, is it okay to ask about the problem in this circumstance? If the stress is affecting the person’s work, yes, ask! If you care about the person and have a friendly relationship – it’s best to ask and talk about it.
Some ways of broaching the subject might be right after you have observed an obvious sign of stress – the person has dropped something or made a mistake, or is having arguments – take time out to have a quiet chat, a cup of tea and say what you can see, and ask them “Why do you think this is happening?”.
Be careful about labelling a person as stressed, as it is all too easy to take on that label and “make it stick”, and that may not be helpful.
When should you take a break to ease stress levels?
Specific symptoms need to be looked at in order to decide what action needs to be taken. If you (or another person) is crying, suffering depression, or is highly emotional – you need to find an appropriate solution. Another less obvious sign of stress could be that a work area is very messy, where normally it would be tidy and things would appear to be under control.
Five suggestions for help in self management of stress
Learn to relax by trying out relaxation techniques. One is to lie down very still and concentrate on breathing… while you’re breathing out, imagine all the stress leaving your body. Then from the toes, work up your body, tensing and relaxing each part as you go. If this is not convenient, simply taking a few deep breaths can bring about a feeling of instant release.
- Time management can help a lot in easing stress, even preventing it. Priorities need to be managed – work out what is important and what isn’t, and plan what will be done and when. Interruptions must also be managed in the best way possible.
- Change the way you think. If you are a perfectionist and this is affecting your stress levels, learn how to say to yourself: “It’s okay, and it’s not the end of the world if this isn’t done to extreme perfection.”
- Change your diet. Exercise and healthy eating can contribute greatly to the amounts of stress you experience. Smoking is also a cause of stress in itself (not just a symptom!).
- Improve your communication skills. If conflict is occurring due to poor communication, this will cause the people involved a lot of unnecessary stress.
Don’t become stressed about being stressed. Do something about changing it.