Stress as most of you will know is a ‘hot topic’ at the moment.
Well, to be fair it’s been a hot topic for quite a while.
Just typing the word stress into Google comes up with 636,000,000 results in 0.45 seconds.
That’s a lot.
That’s such a big number I’m glad this is written down because saying it out loud would cause me all kinds of havoc.
I’m getting stressed just thinking about it!
But seriously, stress is pretty important.
It’s a key part of our natural abilities to cope with life.
We all struggle with stress every now and then.
Whether you’ve sat an exam, learned to drive, had an interview, spoke in public… all these things get our bodies stressed.
But, once we’ve done whatever it was that was stressing us out our bodies get the opportunity to calm down, chill out, and relax.
We get back to being ourselves and can carry on as normal.
Now, here’s the rub.
If you’re stressed a lot there doesn’t tend to be much calming down.
Your body and mind doesn’t get the opportunity to relax and chill out instead it stays stressed.
When we’re stressed all kinds of things happen to our bodies and minds.
We can start sweating (even if it’s a frosty December …).
We can have heart palpitations and struggle to breathe.
Our senses can become hyper focused.
Our blood pressure rises.
Our brains can start throwing all sorts of thoughts at us some are negative and others are so motivational you’d think you’ve overdosed on Ted Talks.
Your body and brain do whatever it needs too in order to prep you to take action.
It’s prepping you to do one of 3 things – run like an Olympic sprinter, fight like a gladiator, or stay so still you’re mistaken for a mannequin.
Or in terms you’re probably more familiar – fight, flight or freeze (admit it my descriptions were more fun!).
Now, while this is a natural reaction that occurs once our stress hormones are activated it’s supposed to be on for 45 seconds.
Not 45 mins, 45 days, 45 weeks or 45 years – 45 seconds.
When your body hits 46 seconds it should be getting the opportunity to chill out and relax.
OK, so even I can hear the belly rumbling laugh which has just escaped your mouth after reading that last line.
‘45 seconds’ has just become the funniest phrase you’ve ever heard.
I’m not kidding though – it really should only last for 45 seconds but, we don’t let it.
Instead we ignore the issue.
We decide that we have a million things to do, to achieve and to accomplish.
We decide to work all day, take the kids to loads of different clubs, eat a late dinner, and barely have 5 minutes to sit down before it’s hitting midnight and definitely time to be in bed.
We decide not to spend a couple of minutes relaxing (and I don’t mean with a glass of wine in hand).
The problem is that after a while in this unnatural state things tend to go downhill.
All of our energy and resources are being pumped into the systems designed for us to take immediate action, burning through everything at an alarming rate and leaving nothing for the general maintenance and function of our lives.
Our immune system goes on the fritz and we become more susceptible to colds, and infections.
Our brains struggle to function and we do crazy things like putting the iron away in the fridge, or walk into a room with no idea why we went in there.
Our bodies and brains slowly go into shutdown mode.
When you get here this is when it gets really serious.
This is when the scary illnesses start surfacing like:
There really are links between these and stress.
Science and research is still being conducted to flesh it all out but just think about it – it makes sense.
If you’re immune system and your cognitive function is affected by being in a constant state of stress you will undoubtedly have difficulties fighting disease or having a fully functioning mind.
Don’t get me wrong – plenty of things happen because of genes, the environment, and other stuff, but most of this is out of your control.
You can however, do something about being stressed for longer than 45 seconds and it’s really simple.
You just make a choice to put relaxation at the top of every to-do-list and make it happen.
Go for a walk, do some meditation, draw a picture, read a book, have a bath – do anything.
Just make sure you do something.
Best wishes, Katie.
Katie Woodland - A developmental, and holistic psychologist who specialises in educating and empowering individuals, business leaders & school teachers to remove mental health as a barrier to success.
Stress Management eCourse
Employee Engagement eCourse
Mental Health Training
Employee Wellbeing Workshops