There are a number of factors which cause stress and not all are related to work. It is being exposed to ‘stressors’ which creates the environment for the development of stress. There are two types of stressors ‘External’ stressors and ‘Internal’ stressors.
External stressors – are those things around us that impact upon us such as physical conditions like excessive heat or cold; stressful psychological environments such as working conditions and abusive relationships, eg. bullying.
Internal stressors – those factors which occur within us such as physical ailments like infection or inflammation, or psychological problems such as worrying about something.
Just to complicate matters Stressors can also be either short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic):
Short-term ‘acute’ stress is the well known ‘fight or flight’ response to an immediate threat. Adrenalin is pumped into the body to prepare it to combat potentially harmful situations. This is the action that causes increased heart beat, the sick feeling in the stomach and all those physical reactions we feel when faced with situations like over-crowding, real or imagined danger, bullying or harassment, or even a recalled threatening experience. When the threat subsides the body returns to normal, but people vary in their response to a stress trigger and how long it takes the body to relax.
Long-term ‘chronic’ stressors are those pressures which are ongoing and continuous, when the urge to fight or flight has been suppressed. Examples of chronic stressors include: ongoing pressurised work, ongoing relationship problems, isolation, and persistent financial worries.
The working environment can generate both acute and chronic stressors, but is more likely to be a source of chronic stressors.
Some quick methods of stress reduction
When you find yourself under stress try one of the following, or all of them. You can do them personally or if the stress situation is general, they can be done as a group.
The key to reducing immediate stress is to remove yourself from the stressor wherever practical. It may not always be possible to change a stressful situation once it has been identified, but the following tips are based on the principle of reducing or changing our exposure to that situation. So while they will not change the situation itself which is ‘pressure’ they can change your reaction to it which is the cause of stress.
1. Why not have a really good laugh?
Go on ~ it’s good for you. Laughter is one of the quickest ways to reduce stress. There is a scientific reason as well because laughter produces helpful chemicals in the brain.
The use of humour distracts your thoughts and distraction is a simple effective de-stressor – it takes your thoughts away from the stress, and thereby diffuses the stressful feelings. So most people will feel quite different and notice a change in their mindset after laughing and being distracted by something humorous.
2. If possible go for a quick brisk walk
Yes, actually leave the building where possible. Go for a short quick really brisk walk outside. The idea is to change your environment. It doesn’t matter if you are in the middle of the city ~ trees, rain, flowers, traffic fumes – doesn’t matter – stimulate your senses with new things and distract your focus from the stressor.
Go get a big cup or a bottle of water. Most of us don’t drink enough water – and I mean water- not tea, coffee, coke, ‘sports’ drinks, Red Bull or fruit juice… Water!
And there’s a reason! All of your organs, including your brain, are strongly dependent on water to function properly. So if you deplete your water reserves you will function below your best and you become stress waiting to happen. The situation is compounded because offices and workplaces commonly have air conditioning which creates a very dry atmosphere. This increases dehydration and we know where that leads.
So you need to keep your body properly hydrated by regularly drinking water (most people need 4-8 glasses of water a day). If you have a bottle of water handy you will drink it. So make sure that you have your bottle or jug of water close to your work space and fill it regularly.
4. Take a quick lunch time nap
Taking a quick nap is nature’s way of recharging and re-energising the body. Taking just a 10 minute nap will help you to reduce your stress levels quickly.
A lunchtime snooze is very practical for most workers – but we seem to have a mind set that ten minutes out of our busy schedule is a sign of laziness; it is not. It is a highly practical way of retain our health and reducing our stress levels. Close the door, take the phone off the hook and just lie down on the floor with a towel behind your head. (Relax in a chair if this is more comfortable) Play some relaxing music and focus your thoughts on the music. Even if you don’t catnap you will feel refreshed and ready for the afternoon.
These four tips are easy to do and will help you react differently to the pressure of your work place and to work stressors. Let everyone know what you are doing and get them to join in, it won’t long before you will react differently to the things that are causing you the greatest stress now.
And don’t forget to join us for breakfast on the 15th May and learn more techniques for “Putting Stress into Perspective.”