Stress management - Mental Health Awareness Week
It is mental health awareness week and this years’ theme is Stress. There seems to be a day or week for so many things nowadays but I do believe this is important.
One in four adults (at least) suffer from a mental health issue at some point in their life. More are talking openly about it or seeking help. However, many leaders and professionals such as doctors, lawyers, accountants and teachers are amongst the most stressed professionals are still staying silent. This culture can change and it starts here, today.
I’m aware that there still appears to be some taboo about mental health and yet the entire population can be affected by it. Those running a business as well as staff are under immense work, social and personal pressures with an unwritten policy of having to be able to “do it all.” As we all actually know, it’s unrealistic and can cause great strain on individuals, in the workplace and in relationships.
Some have taking the step of seeing a GP and receiving relevant support or treatment. Self-management is also an option for those with mild depression, stress and anxiety. By this, I mean learning more about stress, how it affects you and how you “manage” it at present. Some turn to alcohol, others to food, some to medication, some to exercise. Others don’t accept they are overly stressed, others do nothing.
Some stress, as we know, is helpful. For example, reasonable stress before an exam may encourage a commitment to revision or a work deadline may be an attractive driver for some people, some of the time. In my experience, those who learn the tools to manage stress as it affects them can perform more effectively and be more focused.
Now, stress can be subjective – what is stressful for one person is not necessarily stressful for another. Take, for example, Jane, who has a deadline to complete the drafting of an important agreement with a new client and her three year old child is sick at home with a nanny who has to travel home to see her elderly parent. Here, there are several events that may “stress her out.” Is it a given that she WILL be stressed or does it depend on other things such as her mind-set, her team, her client, her resilience and so on? We all take on stress differently. Some is more in our control. A fire in a shopping centre where we are stuck is less in our control and could cause immense stress – what is in our control is how we consider getting away safely.
Understanding what stress is, your triggers for it, your resultant behaviours together with management tools often provide great support to developing resilience. Take 20 minutes today to consider these – they could help you to take control and manage your next stressful situation more effectively. Greater awareness gives you greater control. Be smart – if a voice inside you suggests seeing your GP, go. What have you got to lose?
Here are seven simple things you can try to help with stress and keeping your mind-set more positive. It's worth trying - what have you got to lose?
1. Smile: Smiling (even a fake smile) activates neural signals that lead to greater happiness. Wake up and smile to start your day well.
2. Pause: Consciously pause with awareness. It seems hard but, pause. Try.
Notice your breathing as it is, then slowly move to three deep breaths in and out, then four in and four out.
3. Strengths: Take 20 minutes, uninterrupted in personal space, to write down your strengths and skills; Accept them truly, acknowledge them. Revel in them. No “buts…”; know your triumphs from or beyond the classroom.
4. Acceptance: Accept that not everything goes the way we want it to all of the time, nor do we have all the skills we may desire right this moment. Perhaps you’re frustrated with a pupil or workload. Ask yourself, what is the worst that can happen or what can I do to develop. Then, act.
5. Awareness: Where does stress affect your body? Notice where the tightness, anxiety or tension is. Take a moment to notice and, if possible, place a hand on the spot you feel it the most. Remain in this position, eyes closed if possible, focused, for up to 10 seconds or more. If you don’t want anyone to notice, do it sat down at your desk, your gaze simply lowered.
6. Sleep: Ensure you have enough quality sleep despite the marking and planning. Where does exhaustion leave you? Review your routine and screen time before bedtime. Do something relaxing and enjoyable even for five minutes before bed. Your phone may have a bedtime app reminder.
7. Exercise: Exercise or walk, especially outdoors, perhaps five minutes with a peer at lunchtime or more at the weekend. Getting close to nature, in the open, can have uplifting effects on the mood.
This content is for information purposes only and does not include medical or other advice. If in doubt, speak to your GP.
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About Anita Gohil-Thorp
Anita is a highly respected coach and trainer promoting success and wellness through transformative coaching and sustainable progress. She has presented on stress management, mental resilience, time management and more. Readers of this piece will be gifted a 10% discount on Anita's fees up to May 31st 2018.