How well do you know your body and recognise the symptoms of stress?
We all have pressure in our life, whether we are a small child, a teenager or adult; whether we are in a full-on job working all hours or out of work and worrying about it or looking after the kids all day.
As pressure builds, most of us respond and even find it exhilarating to have things to do, challenges and a sense of achievement. Our performance increases in line with the pressure for a while. However, as the graph below shows, your performance peaks and your peak will be unique to you. We can each manage a different amount of pressure and different types of pressure. Once you peak, performance plateaus and then decreases markedly and you suffer stress.
How do you know when you are stressed?
If you can’t sleep.
If you’re having trouble sleeping at night that is a sure sign of stress.
You need your sleep so that your body can function properly and recover ready for the next day. We all need different amounts of sleep but we do all need to switch off completely and relax for at least 5 hours.
If you’re getting ill all the time.
If you’re catching every bug going round, this is your immune system not being able to protect you because you’re run down and stressed.
If you’re getting irritable and snappy with your mates and your family.
If you can’t concentrate.
If you just can’t step back, prioritise and make good decisions.
This could include self-harming, drinking heavily, having indiscriminate sex, taking drugs or driving dangerously.
If you are experiencing any of these signs or several of them then you are not managing your stress and are already on the downward phase of the graph.
So how do we avoid this happening in the first place and what can you do about it right now.
- The first thing to do is to recognise the signs. Accept the situation as it is. This is feedback. These negative behaviours have a positive learning for you and you need to take action.
- You need to release the emotional aspect of the stress. You have perhaps suppressed these negative emotions; so express your frustration and your feelings of despair . A good way of doing this is to write down how you feel.
Talking about your feelings with others may help but you’ll find they give you their feelings back and their solutions. The solutions are within you. You have all the resources you need and you have the answers so get rid of all those unhelpful negative thoughts on paper. This is called ‘freefall writing’ and comes from the subconscious mind. It can be a great stress reliever.
You might find it easier to express these feelings as a picture instead. Do what feels right for you.
- Now release the physical stress. Exercise is great for this. If you play a sport or like to go running then fit in an exercise break into your day. It gets the blood flowing, oxygen to your brain and a break for your eyes.
- The next stage is called ‘grounding’ and it means getting back in touch with yourself and what’s important to you. Do you have a favourite place to go or friends you haven’t seen for ages? Facebook and texting is all very well but it doesn’t replace the physical connection you experience with friends as you meet and have a laugh together.
These first four stages are the winding down cycle. The next four are about winding up.
- Have a sense of purpose. Remind yourself about what you’re doing this thing for. What will doing it mean to you and what you want to do in your life? What is important to you?
Sometimes we get on a treadmill without really thinking about where we are going. Where are you going?
- Set goals. Be clear about what you’re committing to. The more you are in control of your goals the more likely you are to achieve them and the less stress you will have.
- Make plans for how to achieve your goals and make priorities, make choices.
- This last stage is the ‘action’ stage and is about achieving what you want in life.
Notice where you are in the process at the moment and get back in touch with your mind and body. They are ‘one’ and how you feel in your mind is reflected in your body and vice versa.
Judy Bartkowiak is an NLP Master Practitioner and author of Teach Yourself:Be a happier parent with NLP. She offers one to one coaching either face to face or on the telephone and runs workshops either in the workplace or in local venues. She can be contacted on 01628 660618 or 07917 451245 or email firstname.lastname@example.org