by Anna

Signs of stress can be as varied as an individual’s personality which is why everyone will show different signs of stress and will have different ways of dealing with them. Yet there are a few common physical and emotional symptoms like a rapid heartbeat, aches and pains, nausea, irritability and feeling overwhelmed and depressed. Additionally one might experience the inability to concentrate or relax, constant worrying, changes in eating and sleeping behaviours and the neglect of usual responsibilities. There are many more…

Stress could be related to the pressure to meet own goals, dealing with situations that you feel you can’t cope with, expectations from managers, friends, family, financial problems and major life changes such as a bereavement.

Personally, I begin to feel stressed when I have too many things on my plate and not enough time to do it all together with a strong sense that I have to. At work this happens when we are short staffed and, on top of the general duties that form my daily routine, experience a high demand of requests from fellow staff as well as clients. My patience generally stretches a long way, but in a situation like this I can easily feel overwhelmed and anxious to please everyone which can be quite frankly impossible. I then feel guilty and sad that I can’t help all of them, which to me feels like I am incapable of doing a good job. It gets especially bad when I begin to worry that others think I simply don’t care.

At the end of the day I will have a headache, aching limbs and feel very exhausted, sad and possibly a little angry. All I want to do is sleep because I find that I can’t concentrate on anything, especially not reading my book and my eyes are too sore to watch telly, and I really can’t follow the storyline anyway. The next day I wake up and ache all over. I still have the overwhelming feeling of tiredness and don’t really feel like getting up. If I have to go to work again, I just get on with it. If I don’t, I have a bit of a lie in until I feel like I should be doing things. These things take up all day, once again too many things, not enough time, and suddenly I’m back in bed for an early night because I simply still feel so terribly tired, yet I also feel like I have not achieved very much, which I can beat myself up with at times.

Now, you might have realised that I have just described two days which appear to have been fully packed with tasks but actually didn’t indicate any time to relax at all. When I find that I don’t have much time, I tend to rather just go to bed a bit earlier in the hope that my body will recuperate on its own, than try to actively relax. However, I do actively practice yoga and meditation to calm down, unwind and stretch and attend a weekly kickboxing class which counteracts stress quite vigorously. Also, I do enjoy a brisk walk along the seafront or the cliffs which supplies fresh oxygen for fresh thinking and the movement wakes up my muscles. I really should do this more often though! Painting I have done since childhood and I do feel the need to be more artistic at times but unfortunately find myself once again lacking time and patience. Yet, when I do, I feel very calm and relaxed after with a very warm and happy feeling in my gut that I have achieved something beautiful. Generally I find myself constantly making lists with things to do and it feels reassuring to be able to cross things off once they have been done. Also, simply by becoming aware of how we react to stressors and particularly what stresses us most, is a good step in counteracting it.

I think that I find it difficult to just do nothing. It gives me the feeling that I am a failure. This in its own is probably my main stressor. Accordingly, I maintain a very active life outside work, with courses, workshops, new skills and people. I like my shift patterns because to me every day off feels like a holiday, there is no routine, which suits me. Another stressor for me would be to not be able to get out or away, the feeling of which a 5 day week would certainly contribute to. The only time I feel like I am stretching my resilience would be when I find my shifts on alternating days – one day on, one day off – for a whole week. Because it feels like I can’t rest fully, since I basically continually apply the two-day routine described at the beginning.

If, additional to normal stress factors, someone has had an unfortunate experience which gave them a very high level of stress as a result of extreme fear or sadness, other stressors can have a much bigger impact and it can be much more difficult to counteract them. In such cases, if they still experience anxiety at times, it might be advisable to seek advice from a professional.

As far as possible, I would suggest that a solution focused approach would be good in dealing with any kind of stress. Because if we only ever think about the things we can’t do and the time we don’t have and the stress we experience, we are likely to get “stuck in a rut”. But when we focus on what we can do, we can step by step work towards it by acknowledging what we do, rather than worry about what we don’t do.

Take a minute and write down what stresses you most. Come up with a solution how to deal with a stressful situation and the next time you encounter it, you will know how to counteract it!

Together with two other lovely ladies I have just recently set up the “Awareness Spa Mini Retreats“, which will be taking place every second Thursday of the month and offer a little getaway amidst the bleakness of our weekly routine with the aim to de-stress. The Mini Retreat will run from 9.30am to 3pm in Eastbourne, UK and offers meditation, art, mini massages and inspiration for a fresh look at yourself and your life. Contact me for more information, if you are interested.