The Strain of Stress

I’m stressed!! She’s stressed!! We’re all Stressed!!

Indeed, but what is stress?

Stress is a reaction to an overload of difficulties and a reaction to that circumstance by an individual’s idiosyncratic learnt behaviour. 

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

A new study* has found that over the past year, 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.

Make contact with people, do some physical exercise, volunteer and help others. Take up learning?

I suggest that people who are stressed - and I used to be a fully paid up member of the ‘intensely stressed club’ - should try to think mindfully. I always say to myself, “Right, I’m starting to move towards being stressed, so let’s contemplate mindfully, rather than ruminate 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 ‘happening’ to your thoughts, “What does this make me think?” And after deliberation of the cognitive, moving to the sentient: “What does this make me feel?”  When you’ve got the answers and can see your thoughts and feelings clearly, calmly say, “OK, what am I going to do about this? You can do less, you can do more, you can stop, you can change tack or you can take stock and plan a different way altogether. Finally, ask yourself, “Is this whole thing, and my decision, good for my wellbeing?”

Many Emotionalskills clients come to us with work related stress. Sometimes they can change their jobs and lifestyle, but they often do not have any chance of altering their occupation, so they might have to accept this and try to focus on the things they do have control over.

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, Kabat-Zinn, provides a good summary:

“We waste enormous amounts of time and energy musing about the past and worrying about the future…

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)

I’ve been living a mindful life for about a decade now and my life is usually simultaneously restful and productive.  It’s called mindful practice, because you need to practice being mindful or living mindfully. Like many things that are worthwhile, it’s not easy in the beginning, but persistence pays off.

Article by Shane Lutkin. Shane has a master’s degree in Psychotherapy and runs Emotionalskills. Emotionalskills sessions run in Norfolk and Northampton and are with a degree qualified therapist who has also studied the theory of personality, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), focusing, mindfulness, couples/group therapy and creative thinking.

In total confidence call/text 07986 488690 or email info@emotionalskills.uk 

*For Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 the focus is on stress. Survey commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation and undertaken by YouGov, polled 4,169 adults in the UK in 2018. 

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