Stress Awareness Month may take up the whole of April, but it appears that stress is on our minds for a lot longer than a month.
More than 33% of the British workforce according to the Independent is experiencing extreme anxiety or stress right now because too many of us are muddling the lines between work life and home life. Are we becoming too careworn to be able to switch off from work?
A report recently published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, even found that we are unintentionally stressing each other. As one person’s anxiety levels can affect another person as we pass on our feelings of stress to our family, friends and co-workers.
With more of us finding it an uphill struggle to cope with daily stresses, it becomes difficult to tell when stress is overtaking us. So how do we take back control?
What stress and anxiety can do to you physically?
Your body’s natural response to a threat is to become ‘stressed’ according to, Lorna Cordwell, a psychotherapist at Chrysalis Counselling. “During times of stress the body sends a signal to the brain that triggers it to get ready to stand and fight or run for your life,” she says. “Our body produces chemicals like cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. Blood rushes to your muscles, senses become heightened and your immune system is primed to protect you in case you are injured. Those muscles that prime us to run begin to tighten, leading to aches and pains. The immune system tires and can become less effective, while the increased heart rate and blood flow can trigger high blood pressure.”
If this happens to us occasionally it is helpful, it keeps us alive. This response, however, is designed to only last long enough to get us out of harm’s way, but far too many people are; “Living in a state of constant stress which means the body’s responses to stress are firing all the time”.
What are the signs you’ve reached this point?
85% of people report suffering from stress on a regular basis, according to Forth. Because we have become acclimatised to feeling anxious and stressed, it can be difficult to see when you’re approaching a danger zone until it is too late. Psychotherapist Dr Gary Bloom, says “There are, however, some common signs to look for; changes to appetite are often an early clue of out-of-control stress. Some people find they lose their appetite completely, while others ‘comfort eat’.
Stress also heightens addictive behaviour. If you’re using more alcohol or other stimulants than normal, then it could be a signal that it’s time to address your stress levels. Also, look at the quality of your sleep, as that is usually the first thing affected by stress”.
How to control stress
Long-term, unrelenting stress is the most harmful type of anxiety, so it’s important to take charge of this and bring it under control quickly. New research from America has found that people who compartmentalise and deal with minor stresses on a daily basis, with yoga, or meditation for example, or even just talking to a work colleague, friend or partner are significantly less likely to suffer long-lasting health effects, than someone who doesn’t.
Bloom suggests creating a ‘worry zone’, setting a time in the day, perhaps just before you leave work when you mentally tackle the issues that are causing your anxiety. If it’s not possible to resolve them, then visualise dropping them into your ‘worry zone’ until tomorrow. This can help prevent your mind from dwelling on them overnight.
Create a separation of work and home: switch off work emails at a certain time, say 6 o’clock, read a book if you take the train, meeting up with friends is particularly important. “Scientists at the University of California investigated how both genders recover from stress and discovered that for women, talking and being with others is key,” says Lorna Cordwell.
If you’d like to learn more about how to deal with stress and simple tips to improve your health, contact a member of our team today.