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Is Stress Slowly Killing You?

There are very few certainties in this life, but we can be sure that we will experience stress and hardship at some point.  Stress may be inevitable, but how we cope with it is our choice. Everyone reacts to stress differently; how you respond to pressure can depend on your personality.

Stress can also have a positive side. A certain level of stress may be necessary in order to help you prepare for something – the stress itself helps to keep you alert and focused, for example, when taking an exam, or having to make a presentation in front of an audience.

Our physical reactions to stress are determined by our biological history, in that we needed to respond to sudden dangers that threatened us when we were still hunters and gatherers.  At those times, the release of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol caused the ‘fight or flight’ response to danger and our bodies still react that way today.

However, stress in the modern age is rarely remedied by a fight or flight response. So physical exercise can be used to reduce the excessive stress hormones and restore your body and mind to a calmer, more relaxed state.

“Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency.” Natalie Goldberg

Crazy working schedule

Liz Tucker is a health and well-being counsellor specialising in stress management. 14 years ago, at the age of 30, she burned out from work related stress.

She had a building company at the time and was working incredibly hard. She would start work at 7AM and often wouldn’t finish until 7PM the following day, 36 hours later. She did vast amounts of travelling for business and in the year she burned out she drove over 100,000 miles. 

She loved the adrenaline buzz from all the activity and could manage the work at first, but then started regularly working every weekend. When she met her partner, the pressures of trying to see him and keep on top of the work caused it all to start falling apart.

She started feeling deeply tired and very lethargic and one Sunday night she went to bed early because she felt like she was getting a bit of a cold. When she woke on Monday, she couldn’t get out of bed – she could move her fingers, head and feet, but had no energy in her arms and legs.

The doctor told her she had burned out from too much stress, which shocked her completely. But she had no work-life balance, her diet of junk food had been appalling, and her body had simply shut down in protest.

For the next three months, she couldn’t get out of bed and simply slept. Her physical symptoms were bad enough but the mental ‘fog’ was worse and she was eventually diagnosed with ME. She remained in this state for four years and the doctors had no idea how to help so she decided to make drastic changes herself to her lifestyle.

She started a regime of proper relaxation, taking the time to have a massage or hypnotherapy, and crucially she began to pace herself and not overdo things. She began to eat a healthy diet with more fruit and vegetables and stopped alcohol and caffeine.

After 6 months, she was back to normal. She had lots of energy, her skin was better and she didn’t have to stay in bed the whole time. She is working really hard again, as a counsellor now, but the difference these days is that she has a work-life balance and knows what to do when things get too stressful.

There is always too much to do

In this busy modern world, there’s always too much to do: yet another deadline; daily meetings; numerous people demanding your attention. There are also things you want to do for yourself too like eating, exercising, sleeping, and getting some relaxation – the stress of all these demands can be devastating if not addressed.

I juggle many roles, each of which demand a great deal of my time – as an author, public speaker, coach, trainer and mentor. I do all this while working to maintain a loving home life and my personal physical, emotional and spiritual health.

It is a huge amount to manage. Stress can easily consume me while I try to squeeze one more thing into my over-busy day. It is important to plan each day, with time for work and other tasks, but also making time for relaxation.

“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.” Sydney J. Harris

Summary

  • We all get stressed at some point in life.
  • Stress can cause psychological, emotional, behavioural or physical problems.
  • How we react to pressure and stress is our choice.
  • Stress may be destructive but can also have a positive effect by focusing our minds.
  • Striking a good work-life balance is essential for optimum functioning.
  • There are simple, practical techniques to help reduce stress levels.
  • Relaxation and healthy eating are vital to tackling stress.

Thoughts for the week

  1. Are you continually under pressure and feel stressed?
  2. Do you schedule time each day to relax?
  3. This week focus on the levels of stress you are experiencing.
  4. Stop and relax for a few minutes every hour or 90 minutes each day.
  5. Take a proper lunch break to recharge your batteries.
  6. Don’t feel guilty doing these two things it will make a huge difference.

That’s it for this week have a wonderful weekend and relax.

Warm regards

John

 
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