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The Way I See It… Don’t Mention the “S” Word


StressedWith one in five people saying they are stressed at work, why isn't everyone given training to help them deal with and recognise the effects of stress? Annie Lawler looks at how stress, despite its pervasiveness, is still under-estimated by employers.

I had a successful career in advertising for over 20 years so I like to think I know a thing or two about the stress! Since I retrained and started a career in helping people manage stress effectively, I couldn’t have a more rewarding career. I can see the benefits in terms of performance and enjoyment of life that I am able to coach my clients to enjoy. So why are so many individuals and employers still resistant to taking action to learn more about the ‘S’ word?

This week, on 2 November to be exact, it is National Stress Awareness Day, so what better time to try and explain a little more about the benefits of positive stress management?

OK, so stress is a fact of life. If we didn’t have some stress in our lives, we wouldn’t get up in the morning. And some pressure (and even short term ‘stressful’ situations) can be quite exciting and wonderful – take holidays and weddings, for example. However, problems with stress arise when there is unrelenting pressure, which is unrecognised, untreated and unreleased.

Fight or flight
Our bodies are designed to cope with stress as a fairly primeval instinct, known as the ‘fight or flight’ response. This was highly appropriate when we were out hunting for our food every day and likely to be attacked by wild beasts at any moment. The purpose was to move energy to parts of our body and mind that allowed us to either make our kill or run for it! Once the meat was in the bag, the stress was released as the hunter returned to the family and the potential threat of coming out the wrong side of the struggle for life had passed. Then the bodily and mental functions returned to normal and all was well.

The problem in 2005 is that our bodies and minds react in the same way when we are sitting amidst board room struggles, running for the train and trying to fit in time to make it to the gym, pick the kids up from school and have ‘quality time’ with the family – and then you’re expected to have a good sex life! Life is full and that is great, but many of us have lost the ability to relax and this is where the problems start.

If stress is not released and the bodily functions allowed to return to a resting state, then we are on constant alert and ultimately we lay ourselves open to the risk of heart disease, depression, hypertension and a generally unsatisfactory state of affairs.

In modern society, there are numerous pressures on us to achieve. We must possess this, be that, do the other and be seen to be doing goodness knows what all else – and all before we’re 35! Or so we’re told…

I’m not saying don’t have goals and ambitions (they’re essential), but be aware of how we are manipulated in the modern world by marketers (yes, I know – I was that soldier), employers, our families, friends and associates. It’s easy to lose perspective and to forget that, in our haste to get where we’re headed to ‘be someone’, we need to enjoy getting there and be well enough to enjoy it when we do.

Each person has different levels of what they can take in terms of stress, as we do with pain thresholds and it’s important to recognise that. It’s also essential to understand that it is not macho to be stressed and if you battle on and ignore it, it does not go away. It gets worse – much worse and is potentially fatal.

Stress management
There are very positive benefits to managing stress effectively, including helping people to perform better, be well longer and enjoy life more. It’s a long term strategy not a short term fix and it requires commitment, like any other activity you want to become good at. This isn’t some airy-fairy, ‘soft’ skilled concept with no foundation in research and science – this is how to live life to the full and have a great time doing it and maintain a healthy mind and body. Some techniques, for example, lower blood pressure, release pressure on the heart, calm the mind, release tension in the muscles, release toxins, help regulate and balance hormones and much more. No wonder we feel better when we sort that lot out – and there’s not a pill or syringe in sight!

If you do nothing else this week, please find out more about positive stress management and decide to make positive changes to your life and enjoy every moment!


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