Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Life: What is stress?

The not so funny thing about stress.

Why does it seem that suffering from stress, or being overwhelmed by a stressful situation is so synonymous with being weak, or incapable? Far more often the case is that he or she has probably gone over and above what was asked of them, or that they have been juggling so many balls that you'd probably need 18 metaphorical hands. 
What even is stress anyway? Fear? Responsibility? Helplessness? A never ending to do list with no way of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, or not knowing when you'll get to the stage where you can stop, take a breath, stand in stillness for a while and come back fresher with more clarity and calmer.

It can cause lack of sleep, it causes you to not care about things, like what shoes you put with your outfit, or whether you should have really washed your hair this morning. Personally, working in fashion, and as someone who cares a lot about shoes and hair, I guess that should have been a big sign that it was all a bit too much.

By definition it is: a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. Stress is a reaction to a stimulus that disturbs our physical or mental equilibrium. In other words, it's an omnipresent part of life. A stressful event, or series of stressful events can trigger the “fight-or-flight” response, causing hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to surge through the body​.

I see it a bit like a pan of boiling water: you adjust the flame underneath and the blistering bubbles of steam subside and the surface becomes calm again, sure the water underneath looks busy, like the ​water ​​is trying to mimic Oxford street shoppers on a Saturday, but the water is under control again. The thing is, that eventually left unattended that flame does its job and the water over boils.

I think that's how I largely deal with stress, I figure out ways to subside the ​it, a couple of glasses of wine here, a wonderful friend who says "hmm" and "that's ridiculous" and "have you tried writing a to do list" in all the right places there, but none of it solves the source of the problem. So for the past few months I have been concentrating on managing my stress, reclaiming control over the overwhelming cloud of responsibility & rebalancing my commitments. By no means have I won the battle yet, but realising that this is my life and I am too old and life is too short to be huddled in a toilet cubicle talking to myself.

For me my stress is/was 100% work related. So I reclaimed my ‘own’ time, including mornings, lunch breaks and evenings. Working all day every day is exhausting and clouds your vision so:

  • I stopped checking my emails on my way into work - all that did was create an unorganised panic based to-do list
  • I made a conscious effort to have a lunch break – ok, I haven’t managed every day, but the few times I do manage it, it makes a world of difference
  • I negotiated flexible working hours. – fairly extreme, but I was doing 10.5+ hour days, regularly, for consecutive months. So I called HR, had my contract realigned so every other weekend I have 3 days to gather my thoughts and take a real break. It has taken a while to not feel guilty or like I am skiving, but it works.

Sure, I still suffer from the odd time where I am unable to see the end / light / surface but making the decision to reclaim my time helped me. 

How do you deal with your stresses?

J x

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