Stress - Bang, Flab or Full?
The word Stress has worked its way into our vocabulary over many years. In the 1990s Stress was called the killer of the 90s such was the impact on health and work absenteeism.
And yet little has changed since then, if anything Stress has got worse, not better. Now there is instant communication via the internet, mobile phones, texts and tweets. Nothing is ever asked for tomorrow or next week, everything is needed right now, or yesterday and it is so often the case that we get sucked into the mindset that we can't say no. But we can say no, and we can say yes to us, and to our loved ones, and simply be kinder to ourselves. And we should do it more and more often.
I am not saying we should be inflexible and say no at every opportunity we get; we need to strike the right balance.
I worked on a consultancy basis a day or two a week in a busy Occupational Health department. During this time, I saw people broken by stress, they put their jobs first and stress broke many of them. I recommended early retirement for some of them as they were clearly unable to return to their previous or any other employment.
And yet, the companies and organizations these people worked for kept going, they survived without my patients, these same people who put their job before their health, and sometimes their families were replaced by their employers, and for many of them, it was too late, the damage was done.
For others, it was a long haul back to health and for others, those who I got to speak to just in time, had a bad fright, realizing how close they had come to the edge of the slippery slope.
As you will have gathered by now, this blog is focusing on negative stress since that is what the word Stress means to most folk when the word is used.
One of the dangers of Stress is that it is so loosely mentioned in conversation, we have somehow lost the importance of what the word means in human, family and relationship terms and we do that is at our peril.
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Stressed out, or under stress etc. are taken as a negative statement. It should also be recognized that some stress is good for us. Good stress motivates us and excites us, but more on that in another blog.
Stress is this common term we all know very well, and instantly recognize when spoken about, but what does it mean?
How would you explain Stress to someone who has never heard the word before? Think about it, it isn’t as easy as you might first think.
In my practice, and online, I see so many people with stress, which comes from work, lack of work, social/family/financial/peer pressure and many other areas too.
If we don’t learn to recognize Stress and deal with it, it can damage us, our families, our relationships, our careers and our education our entire quality of life is affected.
So, what is stress?
Simply stress is experienced when our internal resources, are outstripped by internal or external demands, regardless of whether those demands are real or perceived! And that’s it. Our internal energy levels are drained.
So what causes the drain of our internal energy?
Either some big sudden life event such as an accident, illness or disease.
Alternatively, and this is the most common, yet more difficult to notice, lots of tiny pressures and demands which in themselves we deal with but when they are many and constant, they drain us slowly.
So, a good example of sudden Stress might be this
Imagine a balloon blown up to its maximum, and it is tied off with a knot to prevent the air from escaping, and all the air inside represents our internal energy. That energy is vital to our mind, body, and emotional well-being.
Now if you are someone who has had a sudden major or potential life-changing event, these, for the benefit of our imaginary balloon is similar to someone coming along and popping your energy balloon with a big pin! The pin representing the significant event.
In a brief moment, the balloon has gone and so has your energy, you feel the effects immediately. But at least you can see and understand what has happened, and that goes someway to helping you understand why your emotional energies are drained to the point of almost no existence.
Some people have energy levels so low; they don't have the energy to get better, for them recovery is slower, as energy has to be slowly developed and replaced, but recovery is certainly possible, but it takes a little more time.
For many people, however, it is a much different story.
In this case, it may have been an accumulation of much smaller (yet just as important) things happening over many months or even years which has affected you. You may ask why you didn’t notice it happening, and the answer is that it happened so slowly and gradually that you didn’t have much chance to notice it.
Life got in the way of noticing.
You might even have been aware that things were happening, and you brushed them to one side saying to yourself it was nothing and kept on going on. But all those nothings add up, they matter, and the price for ignoring them will be paid sooner or later.
In this situation, imagine the same balloon representing your same emotional energy and the (events) pin, but this time imagine the balloon being stabbed just below the knot, in the slightly flabby bit, and you can stab that balloon multiple times and the balloon won’t go off with a bang, as it did in the first example.
Instead, it will gradually and steadily deflate until it’s too late and before you know it, the energy has gone, you feel drained and low, and have no idea how to get the energy back again.
The first thing is to recognize you have learned an important lesson.
You didn't listen to your body, and you ignored the subconscious whispering please slow down, the whispers became a shout, then a siren, and then they acted!
The niggles, the aches and pains, the brain fog, the irritation, the lack of humour, the lack of concentration, memory and recall to name a few, were the little clues, the warnings that emotional energy was draining away.
They stopped you because you were in danger of doing yourself permanent harm - on a brighter note, however, the mind and body worked together to stop you from doing that just as they should. However, recovery time can vary from person to person, but in all cases, the sooner the better!
Now you have to build your energy again, but it will take time, but the likelihood is that you will get back on track again if you do things in the right order. Recovery is a process.
Take time for yourself.
Rest when you feel you need to. No more 'just one last thing' type of thinking. Whatever it was you were intending to do, it can wait until tomorrow.
There is nothing worth the price of your physical and/or emotional health. No job, no relationship, nothing!
I have worked for more than 36 years helping people to recover from the effects of not listening to their inner voice. The majority made it back into mainstream life after facing their life lesson.
The bottom line is, Stress is an enemy to be aware of, it will drain you and if left unchallenged or ignored, it will stop you eventually one way or the other, maybe leading to burnout, so we need to look after ourselves before it gets to that stage.
A simple equation in life is, not only do we take responsibility for what we do, but we must also take responsibility for what we choose not to do. And we have no one to blame other than ourselves if we constantly ignore the warning signs.
Watch out for constant little signs, you might feel more tired than usual, and irritable, digestion might be troublesome, your sleep pattern might be poor, and your sex life might be not as you want it to be. If you are an IBS sufferer, stress can trigger symptoms.
Our health is precious do your best to protect yours. Do everything you can to avoid the balloon going bang, or draining away to flabby, and keep it full of energy, that way you will have the energy to meet life's challenges and beating them.
Stress is real, it can impact, damage or even wreck lives and thinking otherwise, is to do so at our own peril.
If you found this article helpful, take a look at the programs below or the links in this blog for programs that might help aid recovery.
Take a look at our Stress Audio Program 80 if you need help managing stress.
For Anxiety (future worries) see our Anxiety Audio Program 120 (For Generalized Anxiety Disorder)