Stress is something we all encounter at various times in our lives, and it comes in all shapes and sizes. It may be the initial dread of seeing unread messages on your phone first thing in the morning, the build-up of emotions when seeing family members, or the adrenaline knowing you have a big meeting ahead of you at work. According to a 2018 survey by the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of the 4,600 people surveyed said that they have felt so stressed that they have been overwhelmed and unable to cope.
And yet, despite the report’s shocking statistics, all the awareness that’s being raised, and the #itsoknottobeok discussions on social media (there are 1.9 million #stressed tagged posts on Instagram alone), there are still myths about what stress is and how it affects us.
These are some of the misconceptions we hear when it comes to stress.
Stress is caused by a situation
This is perhaps one of the biggest myths we hear. A situation or circumstance does not cause stress directly, these are what we know as stressors or triggers. Stress is the body’s response to whatever it is that may be happening – the thoughts you have, how you feel, and how you respond to it. It’s why we all react differently in times of pressure and why we should all develop our own ways of managing stress.
Stress is all in the mind
To put it simply, it’s not. Stress can manifest physically when the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, are continually being released. Usually, these hormones push us through times when we are taking risks or feeling nervous – when you are in your stretch zone, for example – but when you are experiencing overwhelming, excessive pressures over a longer period of time, they can make you feel physically unwell as well as mentally.
Many people may recognise headaches, muscle tensions, or problems getting to sleep when they’re feeling stressed, but it can also cause chest pains, indigestion or heartburn, feeling sick or dizzy, and even shallow breathing, leading to hyperventilation or panic attacks. Taking the time to stop and consider what your stressors may be and recognising the symptoms that you are experiencing is an essential step in managing stress.
Some stress can be good for you
It is good to be out of your comfort zone at times so you can push yourself, take risks, and be inspired – but not to the point where you are feeling anxious, upset, angry, or unwell. The Mental Health Foundation survey found that 51% of respondents said they also felt depressed and 61% experienced anxiety. There is a difference between stimulation and stress, and once you are able to recognise the symptoms of stress, both physical and emotional, you will be able to create a coping strategy.
There aren’t treatments for stress
It’s true that there isn’t a direct, specific treatment for stress, but manging pressures and building your emotional resilience can help you to cope.
Give yourself space between you and the stressor, think about what it is that you need, and allow yourself some self-care. In addition to doing things that will help you to relieve tensions, you need to adapt the way you think so you can think rationally through stressful situations. This can be achieved through talking therapies, having independent, non-judgemental time with a therapist to realise a coping strategy that will help you to move forward in a positive way. This can be complimented by the likes of yoga, meditation and holistic therapies which may help you to keep a calm mind in times of stress.
All you need is time out to recover
Yes, time out helps. Whether with friends or family, for hobbies, or for relaxation. Some of our clients find being creative helps to relieve stress hormones, whereas others prefer physical activities like running or attending the gym. It’s also important to practice your assertiveness, reward your achievements, and to forgive yourself. Build up a support network of the trusted people around you who can be open-minded and listen to you.
If you would like to have a chat about stress, or to book Stress Less training, please do get in touch with us.