If we allow the failures within us to take over, it often leads to another failure, stress; which in turn affects our health and subsequently, undermines our performance ability.
It might surprise you to know that as many as one in five workers in the United Kingdom are suffering from high levels of work-related stress. That’s about five million people. There are an estimated half-a-million people experiencing stress at a level that has made them ill.
By understanding what stress is, it loses it’s almost supernatural control over us. ‘Stress’ isn’t an uncontrollable phenomenon akin to a hurricane or a severe storm we have no choice but to weather out; stress is the natural reaction people have to excessive pressure or demands placed on them. That’s a fascinating definition – it’s not an illness in itself, but if it is prolonged or intense, it can lead to both mental and physical health issues, which in turns leads to depression, back pain, and heart problems. However, it’s NOT a disease.
What is it that we’re talking about here? Is it something we can see? Is it something we can touch? No. Stress is a state of mind.
Stress is part of our behaviour; it’s the way we react to the pressures applied to us. Our energy levels diminish when we get stressed, and that’s what we really need to understand. When that happens, it causes our brain to work harder. When that gets out of control, often due to lack of sleep and concentration and thought processes being a lot harder, actual physical health problems can occur. Then the body starts compounding one thing on top of the other.
Have you ever got out of your car after you’ve just arrived at the office and as you closed the door and thought: ‘How on earth did I get here?’ That’s because the brain is working in an automatic mode; it’s doing the over-learned behaviours and the habits as a default.
Next, you get into the office, a few phone calls come in, things start to happen, and the adrenaline starts to pump. This adrenaline causes you to become active and increases your energy levels. You move into the tension mode. Stress begins to occur when you go over the peak from constructive to destructive tension; over the pressure threshold.
It’s a little bit like when you have a piece of wood and drill a small pilot hole. Then you put a wood screw in it, what’s it like after the first couple of turns? Easy.
What’s it like after a few extra turns? It starts to tighten up, and that’s when we get tension. We all know what will happen if we push it too much. The screw head will snap, or the wood will split. Moreover, that’s what stress is; it’s when we’ve gone too far.
Stress is when we have moved past that pressure threshold, and we start to deteriorate as our ability to reason suffers. Why is that? The brain cannot work correctly without its ability to reason.
When we get into stress, we emotionalise things; we forget to reason and think logically. Of course, when we can’t reason, panic sets in too. We can’t figure out how to fix the problem. We can’t think of ways out.
The reason we get emotional is due to our programmed physical reaction to stress. In response to stress, our bodies produce hormones and chemicals preparing us for a ‘Fight or Flight’ response which can, in turn, lead to increased levels of anxiety and can hinder our ability to reason if the stress lasts for too long.
Not all stress is bad – we need a certain amount to even function. For example, if you didn’t have any stress on your body to eat (hunger), you might not get up off the sofa. If you had no stress on yourself to earn an income you might also have trouble getting off the sofa.
Good Stress, vs Bad Stress comes about from too much of something.
– Do I tend to say yes to everybody?
– Am I trying to cram too much into my day?
– Am I wasting my time on unimportant things?
– Am I letting other people’s stress transfer onto me?
– Do I have too much or too little that I want to do in my day?
– Is my work tedious and repetitive?
– Is there a lack of communication between me and my colleagues/clients?
– Is there a culture of lacking responsibility in my workplace?
– Am I disorganised? Do I have daily routines and schedules to help me organise myself?
ALL of these can be causes of negative stress, which is why you need to stay on top of how you’re feeling in regards to the world around you and take action to keep yourself moving along at pace that works for you, and work out when and how you need to take time to unwind and step back.