Stress. It’s a powerfully evocative word, yet one that’s tricky to define. Despite being a condition from which few could claim immunity, its causes and effects are hugely diverse, making its exact meaning difficult to pin down.
Stress can be loosely defined as the condition that arises when we lack the facility or resources to cope with everything that’s asked of us. You might feel it when speeding through a tight deadline so you can make it to your mother’s 70th; when hearing that the government’s new economic plan entirely ignores your industry; or when your Netflix connection goes bust just as Rocky Balboa starts to get interesting.
Stress affects us all in different ways, which in turn colours how we deal with it. Conversely, how well we manage stress will subsequently alter the severity of its impact.
An adult life without any stress might sound like heavenly bliss, but it seems about as feasible as England becoming football world champions. And besides, there’s no guarantee that a stress-free life would consist of joy and fulfilment.
A life entirely devoid of stress could denote a lack of meaningful engagement. It’s interesting to ponder whether Britain could have produced such great bands as The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Half Man Half Biscuit without the stress of our cold, dark winters.
However, there’s no denying that the onset of stress is rather unpleasant. Intensifying stress levels can cause a host of physical and mental side effects – from general restlessness, sleep deprivation and fatigue to confusion, helplessness, decreased contact with family and friends and an increased sense that the moon landing was a hoax.
This all sounds a bit doom and gloom doesn’t it? But it also probably doesn’t sound unfamiliar. Developing a useful stress management plan is essential for staying afloat in the fast moving, contemporary world. And we don’t just mean work-related stress, but stress of all kinds – domestic, social, economic and bad-hair-day stress alike.
Here are a few tips for improving your relationship with stress:
- We instinctively react negatively towards stress. But stress isn’t always our enemy. Stress can be a powerful motivating tool, pushing us to think creatively in the workplace or to devote more attention to close relationships. For instance, stressing over a loved one’s birthday might encourage you to pull out a cookbook and finally learn how to bake their beloved carrot and walnut cupcakes.
- In a similar vain, try to reframe arduous demands as opportunities for growth. Writing a 6000-word essay on the poetry of William Wordsworth could initially seem like torture. But even if you think The Prelude stinks, the writing assignment could proffer an unexpected revelation or give you a buzz from criticising his blank verse.
- Take a step back and recognise the virtues that fill your everyday agenda. We’re all guilty of occasionally whinging about things that others would see as positive boons. So next time your friend pleads you to go and see their am-dram group performing A Streetcar Named Desire, remind yourself what a privilege it is to do such things, rather than moaning about the obligation.
- Lastly, set aside time to slow down and chill out. Especially in our world of high-speed internet connections and surplus gadgetry, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and suffocated. Turn off your phone and laptop, stick on your favourite soothing music or mindless soap and relish the meditative calm.
We live in a world hell bent on motion and efficiency, but not all activity is productivity. Vitality depends on giving ourselves time to breathe and be free of stress, even if it is only for a fleeting moment.
Want to learn more stress management techniques? Happy hosts training on Stress Management and Mindfulness, either at Happy’s training centre in London or for private groups across the UK. Contact us for more details and to book.