Thursday, 2 June 2016

1 - I’m stressed, get me out of here!

We all know issues with stress are common - but just how common are they? Here are some stats to give you a clearer idea:

1 in 3 adults feel stressed every day
1 in 5 adults often feel stressed at work
14% adults say stress at work is making them ill
half of all adults say stress keeps them awake at night
30% adults say their stress levels have increased in the last year
131 million work days were lost in 2011 due to stress

Although we talk about it as though it is an emotional thing, we all know that stress has a physical effect on us. Here’s a great video which takes advantage of this for an ad campaign in Germany:

Think you know about stress? Here’s a quick true false analysis of commonly held perceptions about stress, along with some extra links for more to read about the way stress affects us all:

You cannot avoid stress
TRUE - Stress is an inevitable part of human life but we can learn how to moderate our responses so that it becomes less of a problem. Here’s what mental health charity Mind have to say about stress.

Some people can manage high levels of stress without it affecting them
FALSE - it may seem this way, but if someone is experiencing a lot of stress even if it doesnt affect them in the SHORT TERM it is likely to have an impact on their LONG TERM HEALTH. Short term impact is often about psychological effects like anxiety and depression (Check out this 2014 report about the impact of work place stress on these things) - whereas long term impact may well be on physical health (for example, this study looks at the well established link between chronic stress and type two diabetes). However, we mustn’t forget that the psychological impact of stress could be more than a short term thing - there is some evidence to suggest that long term stress could actually change parts of your brain making you more prone to anxiety and other emotional disorders in later life. 

Stress can make you perform better on a task
TRUE AND FALSE! - Lower levels of stress improve our concentration and performance. However once our stress levels get too high it all starts to deteriorate. Check out - here Andrew Bernstein (author of ‘The myth of stress’) explains that what is actually motivating us when we are stressed might be other elements of the situation, not the stress itself.

With the right attitude and training you need never feel stressed again
I WISH! This is FALSE! Some situations or jobs in particular carry inevitably high levels of stress. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about it. Check out how some people in those kinds of jobs deal with the stress they cannot avoid experiencing.

A glass of wine is a great way to relax and wind down after a stressful day
TRUE AND FALSE! Alcohol helps us to relax in the short term, but (as shown in this 2008 study) regular alcohol use can actually RAISE the level of some stress hormones, as well as interfering with sleep patterns and making you more tired. Not only that but it can have an unfortunate effect on your emotions, magnifying negative emotions and making you feel MORE low, rather than less. Not one to rely on as an everyday solution!

People react to stress in different ways
TRUE - No two people are the same and what stresses one person out may barely affect another person. This is not a sign of weakness however - if you find yourself getting stressed more than other people you know do not despair. Understanding the way you think and respond to the world can help you learn how to filter stress better so it affects you less.

Sometimes things can be stressful without you realising it
TRUE - some stresses (particularly the emotional ones) are obvious. However sometimes things can be very biologically stressful without you realising it because they place a big demand on your brain and/or body. We need to be aware of what we are asking of ourselves and make sure that we build in real down time to balance things out. Some of the personality types that appear to manage stress the best can be experiencing long term effects without realising it - check out examples on the press - Duncan Bannatyne and Andrew Marr. Another person’s experience of stress means that he refers to it as a ‘silent killer’ - read about it here.

Refuel: How to balance work, life, faith and church - without burning out by Kate Middleton is available in paperback, priced £9.99. 

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