The 30 Day Challenge
“Life is what happens to you whilst you’re busy making other plans”
Recent world events around Coronavirus have changed how we live for the foreseeable future; we are restricted in the choices we can make, the places we can go and even the people that we can see. This, naturally, can make many of us feel insecure, fearful and even disempowered.
April marks Stress Awareness Month and here at The Stress Management Society, we would like to make this an opportunity to enable you to take back some of the power that the current lockdown has taken away from us.
First of all, we believe that you need to know what you’re dealing with, so here are some facts about stress:
Stress Affects Us All
We would argue that you are already an expert on stress as you have had a lifetime’s experience! Stress is a physical reaction to a perceived threat, the body releasing chemicals into the system to deal with that perceived threat – the HPA Axis.
The HPA Axis is the process triggered by the Amygdala in the brain’s limbic system where the Hypothalamus, Pituitary gland and Adrenal cortex send signals and hormones to fuel the body’s response. In lay terms this is known as Fight or Flight, (see, you are an expert) where you are either going to meet that challenge head on or run away to save yourself for another day. We also believe that there some more states that we have seen:
Freeze – where one is rooted to the spot like a deer in the headlights, unable to make a decision. (We see that often in the corporate world, where there are usually repercussions if someone fights or flights in the workplace!)
Flop – where someone has been under the stress reaction for so long that that they are now experiencing adrenal fatigue and the resulting detrimental physical symptoms.
Long-Term Stress Can Harm Your Health
Exposure to prolonged stress can be extremely harmful to your health and in the process decrease your quality of life.
The detrimental effects of chronic stress can increase the risk of heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, cancer, weight gain, memory loss, as well as speeding up the aging process!
Not only this, but long-term stress can also heighten depression and anxiety levels and also negatively affect the quality of your sleep.
Is Stress Good or Bad?
Whenever we go into an organisation and we’re asked “Are you going make this a stress-free environment?” we always reply “Why would you want that?”
Stress isn’t all bad, in fact we believe that in some circumstances it can be good. It can be a motivator, it can focus us and it can drive performance. The issue isn’t with stress itself, but when it serves us no purpose. It is prolonged exposure without a reset or long periods of stagnation – both can be as stressful as each other, they just present in different ways.
We’re on a stress scale: at one end we have too much pressure and we would call that ‘Burn Out’. At the other end we have not enough stimulus; lethargy, lack of motivation and we would call that ‘Rust Out’.
Somewhere on that scale is an area where you can use that stress reaction and harness it to your benefit – we call that your ‘Performance Zone’. Think about the last time you truly felt in that flow state: What did it help you do? How did it help you think? What did it feel like?
Every 18 months at The Stress Management Society, we conduct a poll and ask members of the public to complete the following sentence:
“I’m so stressed, I need a….”
You would think that the most popular answers might be a holiday, a break, a new job or even maybe a hug? Well, no. The top four answers, every time we have conducted this poll are:
3. Caffeine (Tea, Coffee, Energy Drinks and Cola)
4. Sugars (Chocolate, Sweets, Biscuits and Cake)
We tend to lean on our vices when under stress and we can see from the gaps in the supermarket shelves that alcohol, refined sugars and caffeine are clearly a flawed coping mechanism that people are relying on right now! But why is this?
Remember, the stress reaction is a physical response with emotional and behavioural by-products – these require a huge amount of energy, so automatically we end to reach for stimulants to continue to fuel that Fight or Flight response. It is physically impossible to relieve stress using stimulants – they might give you a short psychological release but the stress reaction will still be there with nowhere to go.
We have been really inspired by some of the positive reactions to the Coronavirus lockdown we have seen around us; where people are using that daily exercise allowance and even taking up new pastimes to improve their physical, mental and emotional health. So, it prompts us to ask you one of our favourite questions….
What Could You Do Instead?
The definition of Power is ‘the ability to do, act or influence’ and we are determined to support you in empowering yourself to make positive choices for your wellbeing.
We are setting you a 30 Day Challenge during Stress Awareness Month in April; pick one action each for your Physical, Mental and Emotional Wellbeing to carry out every day. It takes 30 days to turn actions into habits, which is why this is a month-long programme. The 30-day challenge will maximise your chances of turning useful knowledge and techniques into positive behavioural change.
We have put together a month planner for you to download to help make your commitments become a reality and if you are stuck for ideas go to www.stress.org.uk where we will give you one tip each for your Physical, Mental and Emotional wellbeing every single day.
At the end of the 30 days, there will be 90 tips for you to formulate a personal action plan for every month going forward. We believe that there MUST be at least three from 90 different suggestions that you can use or modify to improve your wellbeing.
Good luck and please tell us how you get on!
The Stress Management Society Team
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