APRIL is a month known for its showers and its day for tricking “fools” … it should however also be known for being Stress Awareness Month, an annual event which has taken place every year since 1992.
During this annual thirty day period, health care professionals and health promotion experts across the world join forces to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic.
So: what is stress?
It is most noticeable when you find yourself completely overwhelmed. It can be too much work and tasks you don't feel up to or are not trained for. But stress also comes from your personal life and can be caused by debt, illness, your's or your nearest and dearest, by recalcitrant teenagers or just by getting behind with the household tasks and feeling unable to catch up.
There are many causes of stress and the trick is recognising when you are being affected by it. An interesting organisation, The Skill Collective, which teaches skills to help people cope with modern life list five main causes of stress.
1: Constantly being connected.
Technology is wonderful – we can connect with people far away, in different time zones, and have an insight into their lives simply by sitting passively behind our smartphone. It helps us to feel connected, right?
The answer, of course, isn’t as simple as that. With improvements in technology we’re typically tethered to our phones as work emails pile up … and then there's social media. Give yourself a break. Take a couple of hours every so often to switch off – literally and you can gradually increase the disconnect time until you are in charge again – not Facebook!
2: Trying to do too much.
Nowadays there’s a niche for everything and that is a good thing but trying to smash them all yourself is just too much. You can't be a busy professional cracking glass ceilings, an amazing mum or dad getting down with the kids and doing crafts, baking and winning the parents egg and spoon race, keeping up a gym schedule or enjoying a full social life.
It isn't possible to simultaneously excel at work and home life, to travel the world yet nurture your work, to be creative and fit all at the same time. The pressure to maintain an image of perfection is surely exhausting. And yet, that’s what many of us buy into. Decided what you can realistically fit into your week before you launch headlong into it – you will enjoy life so much more when it is not all done at break=neck speed.
3: Not prioritising
About this the clever people at the Skill Collective say: “Along with trying to do too much there’s a shortage of prioritising, leading to feeling pulled in different directions in life without a real focus, goal, or purpose. This can result in feeling a lack of achievement or accomplishment and this, together with a heightened workload, is a recipe for burnout.”
They are not wrong!
4: Poor and/or infrequent stress-release mechanisms
We all know the things that help us de-stress but we nearly all fail to include them in our lives when they are most needed and end up using stress relief techniques which can often cause more problems than they solve: things like drinking too much, eating compulsively, comfort eating, grabbing snacks on the trot instead of taking it out on an onion and making yourself something healthy to eat, surviving on strong coffee and going for couch potato instead of a good walk!.
When learning to prioritise, learn to prioritise stress busters too.
And finally - 5. Pollution
Air pollution, noise pollution, visual pollution…everywhere we turn there’s a constant source of stimulation and not necessarily in a positive way. From being constantly connected to air pollution affecting your well being, and noise pollution affecting your ability to hear yourself think … it’s not surprising that we readily become stressed. Just be aware and if you realise something is just too much cut yourself off from it for a while whenever you can.