I am not sure how many of you knew this but Tuesday 2 November was National Stress Awareness Day run by ISMA International Stress Management Association UK. The aim was to promote wellbeing and resilience at work. My firm, laid on stress awareness activities in all its offices. Between 12 and 2 we had the opportunity of a 10 minute neck and shoulder massage, blood pressure tests, a talk on health and stress management and they even laid on a healthy lunch for us.
We all suffer from stress in one form or another and up to a point it can be healthy for us. It is the fight or flight syndrome, but continually being in this state means that the body chemicals associated with Flight/Fight are then constantly stimulated and the result is ill health of one type or another. It can cause nervous breakdowns, strokes or worst of all heart attacks. According to research our levels of stress have doubled in four years. We worry about our financial situations, the security of our jobs and deal with work loads, which have increased due to the reduction of staffing levels.
I put my name down for a head and shoulder massage, badly needed because that area is where stress takes its toll. I wear my shoulders like earings, my neck crunches as I move and rarely am I able to lean my head from side to side, it is so tight. The massages were being provided by a sports masseur from the local gym, he laughed at me when I asked if he could work on concrete. It was only when he started on my shoulders he realised I was not joking, the muscles were so knotted they popped as he manipulated them. Ten minutes was not enough. I must get into the habit of having a regular massage, not only will it help loosen the muscles, it may help prevent my Friday migraine.
Unfortunately, I have suffered from migraine since I was 9 and it is hereditary, my mother suffered and my daughters suffer. They come in clusters, I can go for months without anything and then I have one after the other, for weeks on end. Totally debilitating, sometimes once the aura has gone, I can get through the rest of the day, although feeling like I had a hangover. Occasionally, one will pole-axe me for at least 48 hours. My migraines used to be caused by missing meals, but in the last few years stress, together with neck and shoulder tension, have been my trigger. This is not always the case with other migraine sufferers, some people can’ t eat chocolate, cheese or red wine. I know never to drink coffee, unless it is decaffeinated, in the mornings because I have a very good chance of a migraine within a couple of hours.
I am a great one to preach but the talk we had on Tuesday, coupled with the migraine I had today made me really think hard about my lifestyle. Being aware of stress levels and learning to manage them is very important to our health and well being. The ISMA recommend the following:
- Put yourself first – eat and drink healthily and find time for regular physical activities, even it is a 10 minute walk;
- Prioritize tasks – choose 3 most urgent tasks in the morning to put at the top of your list. Reschedule, renegotiate commitments and delegate if possible;
- Take time to relax and mentally unwind
- Empathise with others – take time to listen to other people and look for solutions
- Live life to the full – take time to appreciate the good things you have in your life.
- Become aware of your needs – take short breaks and learn when and how to say no
- Renew your priorities – see 2 in Wellbeing
- Believe in yourself – accept yourself for who you are today
- Consider positive options – practice being objective and understanding
- Procrastination steals your time – take control and reward yourself for getting things done.
From reading all about stress management it would appear that the main things to remember are:
- A healthy diet and lifestyle
- learn how to manage our days, know your limitations and do not take on too much
- Avoid conflict if possible
- Accept what you cannot change
- Take time to relax
I don’t think anyone of us can honestly say we have not suffered from stress, and as I said at the beginning, it is something that more and more of us suffer from. It is important to take care of ourselves, it starts from within and we are the only ones who are responsible for how we live and our health. Please take time to read the The 60 Second Tranquilizer, print it out if you can and pin it to the wall, or your desk. As it says at the bottom of the page:
REMEMBER – IF YOU ARE RELAXED – YOU CAN’T BE TENSE
- Stress Relief, Migraine Relief (everydayhealth.com)
- Managing stress – why it’s important for your health (bupa.com.au)
- Time Management: (stressrecovery.info)
- ISMA Downloads and products (Institute of Stress Management)