Personal Wellbeing - DEALING WITH STRESS – A two-part blogpost
Stress is a normal part of everyday life, and, as we discussed in Part 1, in and of itself – stress in small amounts, is not always bad, and is in fact a necessary function of life. However, not everyone experiences stress or responds to (real or perceived) stressors in the same way.
Often we don’t even recognize that we are “stressed” or being negatively impacted until it’s too late and we burnout, or get sick – sometimes seriously ill – as chronic stress has been linked to hypertension, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, anxiety and depression.
Part 2 - STRESS - Can’t live with it – can’t live without it……
While it is different for everyone – there are common signs that typically present when we are feeling stressed:
- Negative self talk
- Inability to concentrate
- Poor judgement
- Anxious racing thoughts
- Poor memory
- Withdrawing from others
- Drinking or smoking to excess
- Eating too much or too little
- Nervous habits
- Avoiding responsibilities
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Aches and pains outside of the norm
- Poor digestion
- Rapid heartbeat
- Loss of sexual desire
Adapted from: *Practical Mindfulness: A Step by Step Guide; Ken A. Verni, 2015
Developing resilience, and some practical tips…
Although we may not like it, there are always things that are outside of our control – like traffic jams; or the unexpected illness of a loved one. There will times in our life when we feel overwhelmed, or anxious – it’s the human condition. But equally, we can learn behaviours, develop habits, and have the ‘tools in our self-care toolbox’ to help us cope with both unexpected events and the pressures of daily life.
Being able to manage stress successfully, and building our resilience against it is one of the most important life skills that we can learn.
In an earlier post, I spoke about breath snacks – and also about taking time each morning and evening to just sit and breathe. Especially in moments when we feel overwhelmed – whether that’s at work, or at home – stopping to take a few deep breaths will stimulate the rest and digest response. At my desk, I have a small pebble and it serves as a visual reminder – when I see it, I close my eyes and take 3 deep breaths. In your kitchen – this visual reminder might be a light switch or a particular spot in your work station. There is always time for a deep breath – even in a busy service.
Even when we have a physical job, and are on our feet all day – incorporating some kind of exercise or movement on a regular basis is vital. If going to the gym is not your thing – then something as simple as taking a walk – outside in nature if you can – is extremely beneficial. As well as the cardiovascular benefits, exercise releases stress-busting endorphins – the body’s own natural “feel good” chemicals!
The importance of a good nights sleep cannot be emphasised enough. Alcohol, eating late at night, screen time right before bed all contribute to poor sleep hygiene and quality. It's difficult - especially if you’re a parent to younger children, or you’re a shift worker to get the elusive 8 hours sleep. But, having a ‘wind downtime’ and trying to maintain as much as possible a regular bedtime and wake-up time can help you have better quality sleep, even if its for a shorter period. The topic of sleep is worthy of a blog all on its own – but one of the best resources out there is a very short easy-to-read book by Nick Littlehales called Sleep.
Many relaxation techniques are not complicated and don’t require you to go on 10-day silent retreats. Some very simple mindfulness practices, that only take a few minutes out of your day are beneficial in building resilience. And there is now a gathering body of scientific research that shows the benefits of meditation and mindfulness practice in stress reduction. A very simple technique is simply to sit, close your eyes, take one nice full breath in - count 1, exhale out - count 2, inhale 3, exhale 4 and so on up to 10. Each time try to fully observe the breath in, and the breath out. If you lose count (you will!) don’t worry; simply start again - inhale 1, exhale 2 etc.
Remember, you are not alone. When we are feeling stressed, reaching out to talk to a colleague, a family member or friend - our ‘support network’ - just talking – can help relieve tension and worries.
Many small businesses don’t have dedicated HR teams in place – but being part of a network - like Chef Network, or other industry associations will carry information on dealing with workplace stress if you don’t have a colleague to confide in. Similarly, a GP will always take time to give advice if you are not comfortable talking with a friend.
Research published in 2016 by the ESRI showed that stress and anxiety disorders accounted for 18 % of work-related illness; and that those working over 50 hours per week; the self-employed; and shift workers were at greater risk of work-related stress & anxiety (ESRI, 2016: Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders and Stress, Anxiety and Depression in Ireland: Evidence from the QNHS 2002–2013).
As employers, it's vital that we start to place greater emphasis on ensuring our employee's wellbeing. A happy, engaged, workforce is better for your team, your customers, and your bottom line.
Clear job descriptions; providing proper breaks and rest periods; ensuring an employee feels valued; having clear goals for your team and in the overall organisation, all contribute to a more positive work environment and organisational culture. If these core elements are not in place or being worked towards the effect of a weekly onsite mindfulness class will not do much other than checking a box.
Emma Bengtsson who spoke recently at Food on the Edge said: “A quiet kitchen is the key,”. Managing the pressure on chefs by creating a calm and mindful working environment is vital for her. “There should be no screaming and yelling, and I have zero tolerance for swearing in my kitchen.”
As employees – we need to take our breaks, and ideally get outside for fresh air. Trying to reduce reliance on caffeine and sugary foods ‘to get through the day’ goes a long way towards helping with improved physical health and better sleep. Using the tips above all will help towards managing day to day stress, at work, and in our personal life.
If you feel that you have difficulty coping with stress, please talk to someone. If you are not comfortable speaking with your family – then reach out to a friend or your GP. Help is available and you are not alone. Some really good online resources are:
*In addition to the websites above, other sources researched for this article are:
About the Author:
Maria Caldwell, Green Wave Wellness
Maria Caldwell is a yoga teacher with almost 15 years experience teaching public, corporate and one-to-one classes. Her classes incorporate a mix of movement, breathwork and meditation. She teaches dynamic yoga, restorative yoga, yoga for sports, and practical mindfulness.
In 2015 she qualified as Health Coach - certified by the American Council on Exercise, where she is currently studying a specialism in Nutrition for Fitness. She has a 360 approach to wellbeing - movement, nutrition, mindset and rest.
In addition to yoga, she likes to surf, hike, lift heavy weights and cook!
Find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram