Many of us feel stress in our professional and personal lives to the extent that the word 'stress' has almost become a catch-all for feeling out of our comfort zone, over worked, pressured, sick or worried. But how many of us have asked ourselves if what we are experiencing is truly stress?
There is a danger that we are defaulting to naming all negative feelings as 'stress', which takes the seriousness out of those who are truly suffering stress. And in labelling everything under stress, to some extent, we risk removing personal responsibility for how we choose to approach situations and what changes we are willing to make. Stress becomes something we can blame.
At the end of last year, NABS, the charity supporting the advertising and media industry, designed and launched a 'Resilience Programme'. Aimed at those in the advertising industry; a notoriously high-pressured and demanding business, it felt beneficial to introduce a programme that emphasised preventative and empowering solutions for tackling stress.
During the programme one of the significant insights came from the delegates exploring the differences between pressure, anxiety and stress, and which they would attribute to how they were feeling.
On exploring the meaning of the words and how they related to their own individual experiences, the majority realised that what they were experiencing was in fact anxiety brought on by the outward pressures of both work and life. How they managed these pressures aggravated their anxiety to a greater or lesser degree, and subsequently, their wellbeing and performance.
The biggest learning was that it's okay to ask for help, to acknowledge and talk about how you're feeling, to be more aware of how others around you are feeling. The pressure of just putting up with a situation instead of dealing with it head-on can begin to affect your health, which leads to very real stress and its dangerous symptoms impacting you.
In the main, it comes down to how one chooses to deal with a situation, what actions a person can reasonably take, what boundaries they are willing to set down and how they can consciously become more aware of their mind state and emotions. Or as it is commonly known, 'Mindfulness'.
It may sound obvious, but being proactive in difficult situations, taking time out to look after both your physical and mental wellbeing, and being part of creating a culture and environment of support, not blame, can go some way to building resilience to the pressures of life. Essentially don't let a situation deal with you, pause and find a positive way for you to deal with the situation.
So next time you're feeling stressed, take a moment to stop and take a birds-eye view of your situation. Are you truly stressed, or are outside or internal pressures making you feel anxious and worried?
If it is pressure and anxiety, identify what the pressures are that are impacting you. How is this making you feel, think and behave? What can you do to change your reactions, therefore reducing your anxiety and creating a clearer mind to find a positive solution? However, if it is stress you are feeling and you are experiencing any symptoms, then it's vital to seek help as nothing is more important than your long-term health.