By Iris Schaden – Your Transformational Coach
After recovering from the initial paralysing shock, some of you may have felt relieved that the constant racing to appointments and social gatherings had come to a halt, and instead embraced the new possibilities that opened up. Or perhaps you may have never before felt so disconnected or removed from others.
Since the beginning of 2020, our world very quickly turned digital. Working from home has become the new norm; face-to-face now means via webcam, companies and team leaders had to quickly adapt to a new management style, and businesses were forced to reduce the impact on their financials via redundancies. Since March, 830 000 people have lost their jobs in Australia alone. The World Bank forecasts that the pandemic will cause the worst global recession since World War II. It is no surprise that individuals are under enormous pressure. If you feel exhausted, hopeless, experience high levels of stress and feel generally overwhelmed, you are not alone. Stress-induced anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues for adults and school children. If it persists it can lead to depression – the primary mental health disorder in workplaces.
Stress is When Demand Exceeds Your Capacity
Ongoing pressure, loss of interpersonal relationships, financial hardship or a perceived threat to your private or work environment, are all triggers of stress.
So, what happens to your body during a stressful time? Your sympathetic nervous system – the body’s fight-flight-or-freeze response – activates to protect you from a perceived external threat or danger and will flood your body with high levels of adrenalin and cortisol. This ‘maximum power’ response over a long-term period is not sustainable. It places enormous strain on your body and brain.
As a result, your focus becomes very narrow and you struggle to effectively process information and see the big picture. You find that you are spending your time focusing on worst-case scenarios, rather than opportunities. Your sleep is disrupted by a swirl of ‘what ifs’. You have little enthusiasm for plans to rebuild your life or discussions of lessons learned. Your body releases glucose into your bloodstream to ensure you have enough energy to cope with the stress and this causes your metabolism to slow down as you use up this energy source over fat.
Your body does this for a reason. This built-in response has been highly adaptive for thousands of years and is still valuable for short periods of stress. The good news is, there is a stress-curing ‘drug’ that your body can also produce.
Neurobiologically, adrenaline can be replaced by dopamine – the ‘feel good’ chemical. While adrenaline leads us to fight or flee, dopamine opens our brain synapses: we become excited about what is to come, and it triggers our sense of curiosity. When we have a healthy dopamine level, we make plans and we have the ability to be optimistic, which leads us to forward-looking action.
Below I like to share with you my personal stress management routine which promotes healthy levels of dopamine and encourages overall long-term wellness.
Master your stress and stay in control by:
✓ Starting your day with a breathing exercise (5 counts in/out).
✓ Eating more plant-based, fresh cooked food and smaller in portion size.
✓ Ensuring you stay hydrated throughout the day.
✓ Actively taking a mindful rest and looking up (widening your view).
✓ Moving with fun: run, walk, rollerblade, do yoga, cycle, dance – anything you enjoy.
✓ Breaking up major projects into smaller tasks.
✓ Avoiding negative news or limiting your exposure.
✓ Connecting with loved ones and nature.
✓ Getting sufficient sleep.
Has stress become your new norm?
In a report published May 2020, the United Nations warned of a global mental health crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The isolation, the fear, the uncertainty, the economic turmoil – they all cause or could cause psychological distress,” says Devora Kestel, director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) mental health department. “The mental health and wellbeing of whole societies have been severely impacted by this crisis and are a priority to be addressed urgently.”
If your body’s stress response is constantly switched on, it becomes easier to trigger and it takes longer for your body to return to its normal state. This is when stress becomes problematic and the impact can have a measurable effect on your wellbeing, day-to-day performance and relationships.
You might wonder why that is. If your body goes into fight or flight, you can easily misinterpret information, misread those around you or miss important information altogether. It is difficult to see the full picture when facing a perceived threat. And to make it worse, often we will unconsciously search through our past experiences for a similar moment to seek guidance. This results in repeating old habits.
If you find you are experiencing this, I strongly recommend you stop and take the time to become aware of what is really going on. Try to identify the root cause of your stress. Think about where you feel it in your body. Ask yourself if you are still aligned with your values, your lifestyle or the company you work for. What motivates you? What would you like to have less of in your life?
As a Coach, I will be your sounding board and provide you with a safe space to talk things through, give you time to reflect, help identify your obstacles and figure out what is beyond.
Be the boss of your body and mind before your health and relationships fall apart.
Get in touch and let me help you make changes.
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