Stress is on the rise. Latest statistics on stress report that 74% of people said that they had felt overwhelmed or unable to cope during the past year.
Based on an online poll for YouGov for the Mental Health Foundation in 2018 using a sample size of 4,619 individuals 81% of women said this compared to 67 percent of men.
Stress is especially high amongst 18 – 24-year-olds with 83% reporting signs of stress compared to 65 percent of people aged 55 and over.
More disturbingly 32% of adults said they had experienced suicidal feelings due to stress.
What is Stress?
Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When you sense danger, the human body’s defences kick into a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction or the “stress response.”
Fight or Flight – When you feel threatened, your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which rouse the body for emergency action.
In this state your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. These physical changes increase your strength and stamina, speed up your reaction time, and enhance your focus—preparing you to either fight or flee from the danger at hand.
The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When it’s working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. It can also help you rise to meet challenges. This is what will keep you focused during a presentation at work or drives you to study for an exam when you’d rather be watching TV.
However, beyond a certain point, stress can stop being helpful and can start to cause major damage to your health, mood, productivity, relationships, and your quality of life.
If you frequently find yourself feeling stressed and overwhelmed, it’s time to take action to bring your nervous system and life back into balance.
You can certainly start to recognise the signs and protect yourself and this will improve how you feel and think and deal with situations. By learning how to recognise the signs and symptoms of chronic stress you can start to take steps towards managing your stress levels and reducing its harmful effects.
Causes of Stress
Everyone has different events that can spark stress but there are some common themes that seem to trigger
The main causes of work stress include:
- Being unhappy and unfulfilled in your job role
- Having a heavy workload or too much responsibility with no support
- Experiencing poor management and a lack of decision-making or having unclear expectations of your work.
- Working under dangerous conditions
- Working long hours and taking work home
- Being insecure about your chance for advancement or risk of termination
- Public speaking or presentations in front of colleagues
- Facing discrimination or harassment at work, especially if your company isn’t supportive
Change and life stresses can also have a big impact. Examples of life stresses are:
- Bereavement from the death of a close family member or friend
- Getting married or divorced
- Loss of a job or changes at work
- Financial problems
- Moving to a new home
- Chronic illness or injury
- Emotional problems (depression, anxiety, anger, guilt, low self-esteem)
- Caring for an elderly or sick family member
- A traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, theft, rape, or violence against you or a loved one
Stress can also be caused by worrying about things
- Fear and uncertainty – World events especially over the last few years can be overwhelming. Post pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and global warming can make us all feel stressed, especially because you feel like you have no control over those events.
- Your attitudes and perceptions – how you view the world can determine how much stress you feel. Often rephrasing your worries can change how your body responds to situations. So, if you are worried about a new task at work if you approach it as an exciting challenge rather than something to fear or expose your vulnerabilities you are less likely to feel stress.
- Setting unrealistic expectations for yourself. No one is perfect. If you put yourself under pressure to do everything perfectly all the time you are more than likely to feel stressed. Try to go easy on yourself and learn to accept yourself for who you are and concentrate on your strengths rather than focusing on what you see as your weaknesses.
Personally, I categorise these as areas for development and improvement as this way you can put plans in place to address them rather than focusing on what you can’t do as well as you’d like to.
- Change. Any major life change can be stressful even a happy event like a wedding or a job promotion. More unpleasant events, such as a divorce, major financial setback, or death in the family can be significant sources of stress. Be mindful when these situations emerge and try to place as much protection and support around yourself as possible to try to help manage these life changes.
How to manage stress?
Being aware of the signs associated with stress is the first step towards managing these feelings. By recognising the signs and placing processes in place to manage them can help to stem the flow of stress and avoid going downwards towards anxiety and depression.
At Aim Higher Training we work with clients to help them to recognise how their work/life balance is out of kilter. We can help them with action plans on how to work towards recalibrating these imbalances and by doing so can stem potential causes of stress.
We offer a free online course Spotlight on Work/Life Balance based around coaching wheels to work through to help understand where the pinch points might be so you can help to identify potential stress points and put actions in place to try to mitigate these risks.
You can also download our free guide Top Tips for a Better Work/Life Balance which is packed full of advice and guidance to guide you towards managing potential stress points in your life.