We hear this phrase and many similar ones all the time. Everyone is stressed. So it appears to be the new normal. But not all stress is normal. It’s important to understand the differences between positive and negative stress.
“Stress is like spice – in the right proportion it enhances the flavour of a dish. Too little produces a bland, dull meal; too much may choke you.” Donald Tubesing
Positive stress gets us out of bed in the morning. It’s a survival mechanism and enables people to perform at their best. It helps athletes win and exhausted Mother’s to look after their children.
Negative stress however is an unhelpful response to extreme situations. The body responds to situations the person doesn’t feel in control of by sweating, getting a dry mouth, faster heart rate and rapid breathing. A person’s response to negative stress can get so bad that it affects their ability to live a normal, healthy life. This is when panic attacks and break downs occur. People don’t notice or respond to the bodies signs of negative stress. They keep going and the body gets overloaded and they burn out.
Red magazine, Manic? Stressed? Busy? Burnt Out?, November 2012, states NHS figures of “hospital outpatient appointments for anxiety disorders and panic attacks skyrocketed from 3,754 to 17,470 between 2006 and 2011, while hospital admissions rose by a third. At any given time, 15% of the population of England is experiencing an anxiety related common mental health problem, and more than 1 in 10 are likely to have a ‘disabling anxiety disorder’ at some stage in life.”
So it’s important to recognise the signs of negative stress and admit to ourselves when we can’t cope and need to make changes to our lifestyles or ask for help. It’s important to monitor our family and friends too for signs of stress as we’re all just trying to keep calm and carry on and we don’t always notice when we are close to a breakdown. Culturally we don’t feel like we can say no or admit we can’t cope.
So start to take steps to monitor the levels of stress in your life. If you have negative stress in your life have a think about how you can reduce its impact on you. Start being kind to yourself by making sure you schedule time into your hectic schedule for you to relax or do something you enjoy. Eat and drink when you are hungry or thirsty. Talk to your boss about how you’ve noticed the positive effect on your productivity of taking a lunch break and fitting in the gym or a walk in the fresh air. Go on, give yourself a break. You deserve it.
Look out for my next blog about “Recognising the signs & symptoms of stress”.