Experiencing stress is normal and some pressure can drive you to achieve and to strive for success. However, if it becomes too much it can have a very negative impact on you. It affects you emotionally and physically and influences your thoughts and behaviour. To organise an Employees Matter seminar to help people understand and manage stress in your organisation please contact us.
Stress warning signs to look out for:
- Changes in mood e.g. anxious, frustrated, angry, sensitive, defensive, irritable, depressed
- Changes in behaviour e.g. procrastination, snapping at people, poor time management, difficulty making decisions
- Changes to thoughts e.g. self-focused, blaming yourself, comparing to others, fearing the worst, doubting your ability
- Changes to how you feel physically e.g. tension, increased heart rate, poor sleep, decreased appetite, poor concentration
Stress is commonly divided into two categories: acute and chronic.
- Acute stress is the most common form and is provoked by short-term stressors. It comes from demands put upon you, both in the recent past and near future. e.g. a deadline at work, covering extra work while someone is away. Acute stressors are normally things that you do have some influence over, because of this and because there’s normally a time limit on them they tend to have less long-term impact than chronic stressors.
- Chronic stress is long-term pressure caused by things that don’t have a definitive end date and over which you don’t have much, if any control e.g. a difficult manager or a job you don’t enjoy anymore. Chronic stress can be more debilitating and can lead to anxiety and depression.
Stress can be caused by universal stressors and personal stressors.
- Universal stressors are external factors that influence our lives and how much pressure we put ourselves under. The recession, societal expectation, popular culture and the government all play a role in shaping how we think we measure up. If you feel that you don’t measure up it can have a very negative impact on your stress levels.
- Personal stressors are events in your own life that you find stressful. These can be external demands e.g. your job, work load, personal relationships or internal demands, the pressure you put on yourself. Your own personal definition of what is acceptable and unacceptable. It is the demands you place on yourself that often lead to self-criticism, self-judgement and the setting of unrealistically high standards.
The demands you’re facing are therefore twofold: external (what’s actually being asked of you) and internal (what you’re asking of yourself and what you believe is expected of you.
When something stressful happens you’ll instinctively make an assessment based upon what the problem is and whether you believe you can cope with it. How you judge your ability to cope with these demands will be influenced and based on the following:
- The amount of control you feel you have over the situation
- The skills and tools you have available to you
- Your experience of similar situations in the past (and whether you succeeded in those situations)
- Your attitudes and beliefs about stress, anxiety and worry e.g. whether they’re something to be feared or tackled.
- The social support available to you (friends, relatives or a partner)
- Your physical health
- Your temperament
- Knowledge of stress management strategies and your willingness to use them.
Stress tends to result when either the demands placed on you become to high or when you believe you do not have the tools or ability to cope (or a combination of the two). Therefore you need to either reduce demands or increase coping ability. The good news is that there are lots of proactive steps you can take to feel calmer and to make your life more manageable and therefore happier.
Thank you to Employees Matter Speaker and Clinical Psychologist, Dr Jessamy Hibberd, for this overview of stress and it’s impacts.