Stress Stress Stress...

I’m stressed!! They’re stressed!! We’re all Stressed!! Indeed, but what is stress?

Stress is a reaction to an overload of difficulties and a reaction to a particular situation. Pandemic! Rising prices! Working too hard!

Stress can be external and connected to the experience or setting but may also be triggered by internal perceptions. These, often irrational, thought processes and learnt behaviours can cause an individual to feel exaggerated negative feelings relating to the challenging situation.

A recent study has found that over the past few years, almost three quarters (74%) of people have at some point felt so stressed that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.

“If you remain passive, thinking, 'I can't do anything about my problem', your stress will get worse," says Professor Gary Cooper from the University of Lancaster.

So, what to do? There are lots of positive things that stressed people can do.

I suggest that people who are stressed - and I used to be perpetually stressed - should try to think mindfully. I always say to myself, “Right, I can feel that I’m starting to move towards being stressed, so let’s contemplate mindfully, rather than deny, distort or overthink mindlessly.” A deep self-awareness helps and trying to be flexible and kind to yourself is helpful, but mindfulness really does it for me.

“Try asking yourself, “What’s happening here?” ... or “What’s about to happen here?” …and then stop and consider the situation evenly.”

Firstly, taking the ‘situation’ to your thoughts, “What does this make me think?” And after deliberation of the cerebral, move to the sentient: “What does this make me feel?” When you’ve got the answers and can see your thoughts and feelings clearly, steadily say, “OK, what am I going to do about this? You can do less, you can do more, you can stop, you can change slightly, or you can plan an alternative way altogether. Finally, ask yourself, “Is this whole thing, and my decision, good for my wellbeing?” I say to myself, “Slow is calm and calm is effective”

Many of our clients come to us with work related stress; I believe you can have a rich and productive work / life balance. Working smarter, rather than harder, means arranging your work, concentrating on the tasks that will make a real difference rather than just blasting away in a disorganised fashion.

Professor, John Kabat-Zinn, provides a good summary:

“Whatever you are engaged in takes on a greater richness if you drop out of automatic-pilot mode and into awareness and acceptance….

Make the effort to be fully present. Own those moments…

The essence of mindfulness in every day life is to make every moment you have your own…

Even if you are hurrying, which is sometimes necessary, then at least hurry mindfully.”

(Kabat-Zinn, J. 1990: 358)

Emotional intelligence has been my way of being for 15 years now and my life is usually simultaneously restful and productive. Becoming emotionally intelligent is relatively simple but like many things that are worthwhile, it’s not easy in the beginning, but persistence pays off.

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