April is Stress Awareness Month! You’re probably thinking two things:
1) “They celebrate the strangest things on the internet…”, and
2) “I don’t need anyone making me aware of how stressed I am!”
In fact, Stress Awareness Month is an important time to appreciate the detrimental effects that stress can have on our lives. Desk Life Project has always had a strong focus on work life balance, and recognising the importance of slowing down when you’re feeling stressed.
Recently I went into a room and stood in front of a panel of people to pitch my business to them. The lead up to that day was probably one of the most stressful things I’ve had to deal with in quite a while. As someone whose public speaking experience amounts to a few assignments in university and announcing to a public toilet queue “I think the one at the end is free”, talking to the panel for the mere 3 and a half minutes that it took to pitch produced so many weird symptoms in my body; sweating, shivering, stomach cramps, uncontrollable fidgeting, dry mouth, increased heart rate, an irregular breathing pattern, even memory loss after the event. I literally couldn’t remember what happened during the pitch. The stress I felt during the preparation for the event was awful, and although I always vow that I’ll never do anything like it again, I’m constantly signing up for more events, more projects, more stress-inducing stuff. Because it’s the good kind of stress. It’s a one-off, big event that understandably produces those kind of reactions.
But what about when you’re feeling those symptoms in everyday life? What about when a simple client deadline starts to lose you sleep? Or when stress begins to manifest itself in the form of not wanting to leave the house, hair falling out, or in my case, subconscious tongue chewing that’s so bad you need to start chewing gum to give your mouth a rest. Gross but true! This is the bad kind of stress, the kind you shouldn’t be feeling so regularly, and the kind that we take on far too much of from work.
Here are some things I believe we should all remember:
- Most of what we stress about doesn’t even happen. The next time you feel yourself going to that dark, anxious corner of your brain, ask yourself: am I anticipating the worst possible outcome of a situation instead of taking it as it comes? Yes, expecting the bad and being pleasantly surprised by the good can be effective, but if it’s causing you to feel stressed for a long period of time then it’s probably not worth it, and you need to adjust your thinking.
- Prioritise your health. No ifs, no buts. If your health is being affected, and yes that includes the health of your mind, then nothing is worth risking that. Not even a job. If you’re feeling physically and/or mentally stressed then it could be time to take a step back from that to-do list and evaluate how you’re really feeling. You may need to make changes to the way you do things, but stress is your body’s way of saying “slow down”.
- Stress isn’t something to be embarrassed about. Many people try to pretend they aren’t feeling any pressure at work due to the watchful eyes of colleagues and managers ready to pounce, but oftentimes that’s just our perception of the environment. It is in every company’s best interest to keep you working at your optimum productivity level, so not feeling on top form due to stress isn’t something to hide from them, it’s something to be open and honest about so they can help make the changes that you need.
We all talk about self-care so much these days, but when you’re under pressure to finish something it’s not always easy to see through the workload to the other side, or to even allow relaxation to come into your mind at all. If you are feeling overloaded with stress at the moment, then try to use the last week of Stress Awareness Month to sort out your workload and make the changes you need to. If you’re not in a stressed place right now, then perhaps there’s someone around you, a colleague or friend, who you recognise as feeling stressed. Lend a hand where you can, and help to spread the message that stress shouldn’t be something to hide, it’s something to talk about and sort out together. A problem shared is a problem halved, after all, so let’s talk about it.
Have you been feeling stressed recently? Let us know what you’ve done to de-stress and get back on track!