This article is released to coincide with Stress Awareness Month. I was invited to talk about how to cope with stress at home and at the office by a group of professional women employed by a leading bank in London. This post is a more detailed account of my understanding of stress and some of my own strategies for handling stress applicable to both the work and home environment.
What is Stress?
Stress, according to an online dictionary, is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.
Stress is our body’s natural response to danger, threat or uncertainty. It causes the body to flood with hormones, specifically cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline). These hormones form part of the sympathetic nervous system and are called in to prepare the body to evade or confront danger or challenges. It’s a survival instinct. It’s commonly known as the fight, flight or freeze response mechanism.
The physical impact of stress is that it:
- increases our heart rate and blood pressure
- accelerates our breathing
- activates the sweat glands so that you sweat more
- tenses our muscles (ready for action)
- increases alertness (therefore counters drowsiness and sleep)
- inhibits the rest and digest mechanism (the parasympathetic nervous system).
Types of Stress
There are 2 forms of stress.
Acute stress is short-term stress connected to an isolated incident or event, such as a one-off argument with a colleague or spouse, moving house, changing jobs or even meeting an important deadline.
Chronic stress is more prolonged and serious in nature. Sources of chronic stress can be around lack of time or money, losing a job, persistent family problems, an unhappy marriage or a strained business alliance, divorce, bereavement or some other traumatic experience, such as abortion or pregnancy loss.
Long-term Effects of Chronic Stress
Chronic stress can have devastating effects on our health and well-being.
The physical effects can cause:
- unexpected weight gain or loss
- tension headaches and migraines
- muscular tension, cramps, pins and needles
- tightness in the chest and constricted breathing
- excessive sweating and body odour
- nervous spasms or twitching
- disturbed sleep or insomnia
- tummy upsets, constipation, diarrhoea
And over a sustained period of time, chronic stress can:
- compromise the immune system and make us susceptible to autoimmune diseases and infection
- make us more prone to heart disease and heart attacks
- make us more susceptible to strokes
- increase the risk of diabetes
- cause stomach ulcers, IBS and other digestive tract issues
- lead to adrenal fatigue, which has implications for women going through the menopause (possibly exacerbating symptoms of peri-menopause – check out this earlier blog post).
The mental and emotional fallout of stress include:
- long-term anxiety
- other mental health disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- lack of focus and mental perspicuity
- poor recall and memory
- lack of motivation
- lack of self-esteem.
Stress on the Rise
Stress is on the increase due to changes in culture and global events.
Women and men are now in interchangeable roles switching between breadwinner and care-giver. Whilst we have more technology at our fingertips to reduce the burden of mundane, repetitive tasks both at work and in the home, we also have the distraction of IT and growing consumerism that puts pressure on us to “have” more, rather than “be” more.
Terrorist attacks (Lockerbie, 9/11, London 7/7, Manchester Arena), Covid-19, the environmental degradation of our planet and even more recently the Ukrainian War are all examples of large-scale stressor events which have affected the global psyche and global stress levels.
Stress, especially for working parents, often arises from:
- multi-tasking in the office/work environment and at home
- conflicting priorities
- feelings of guilt
- pressure to have and do more
- tight or unrealistic deadlines.
The 4A Strategy to Cope with and Manage Stress
- Be aware of your emotions. How are you expressing yourself? Do you feel angry, impatient, worried, overwhelmed? These are all low vibration energy emotions. Start a journal to determine how you are feeling morning, noon and night.
- Be aware of your body’s response to stress: tightness in the upper back or chest cavity, clenching of the stomach or gut area, constriction in the throat or nasal passages, fogginess in the head or tiredness around and dryness in the eyes.
- Be aware of your focus – what is your self-talk? Is it negative? Are you judging yourself and others? Are you focusing on what you haven’t achieved rather than what you have? Are you focusing on lack of time and money, rather than being grateful for what you already have?
- Be aware of how you’re spending your time: are you getting easily distracted by family or colleagues gossiping, are you succumbing to social media pressure and over-exposure. Is being sucked into social media a form of procrastination or self-sabotage? Acknowledge and be truthful with yourself. No judgement, just curiosity and awareness.
2. Avoid & Adapt
Avoid the following and adapt your perspective and approach accordingly.
- Multi-tasking – do one thing at a time and give it your fullest attention before moving on to the next. Setting clearly defined, manageable goals for the day and week ahead.
- Information and assignment overload – we can get easily overwhelmed and stressed by expecting too much of ourselves and setting ridiculous targets. Be realistic. Take a step back and assign importance and urgency ratings to each task you plan to do each day. Start the task with the highest score and work your way down. This can apply to work-related tasks or jobs at home.
- Compromising your energy by not communicating your wants and needs – this is your need for balance, creativity and self-expression. Communication and leadership when interacting with others are key components to self-regulation.
- Long periods of physical inactivity – leads to lymph stagnation and restricted blood flow (causing all sorts of physical ailments, such as swelling of joints, high blood pressure, headaches). Try switching your mode of transport to involve more walking. Take a lunchtime break that involves walking. Take the stairs, not the lift. Get your 10,000 steps in or go to a workout/fitness class. Dog walk or offer to dog walk. Walk to the shops. Start swimming before work or after work (great to de-stress).
- Insufficient water intake – as with lack of physical activity, this will cause more physical (and therefore more mental and emotional) stress. Our body is mainly made up of water and water is vital for the efficient flow of blood, transport of nutrients to our cells and lymph flow (a vital part of our detoxification and immune system). Have a thermos flask on your desk with some herbal/fruit tea or with some (lemon) water or low calorie squash.
- Poor eating habits – avoid sugary or fatty foods (junk food is often the first port of call when stressed). Processed foods and our guilt around eating less nutritious foods add to the stress spiral. Instead eat complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, fatty acids found in fish, meat, eggs and nuts and more fruit.
- Over-exertion and lack of rest – know your physical, mental and emotional limitations and boundaries. Take regular 10-15 minute breaks throughout your day (2-3 x am and 2-3 x pm), You will benefit in terms of greater productivity when you do come back to your tasks.
- Toxic environments, people and media – move away from negative talk (yourself and other’s dialogues), reduce consumption of sensational media (tabloids, social media and TV in particular). Listen to news in a short, succinct format (radio). Listen to inspirational podcasts or books on audible. Some great podcasts include: Dare to Lead by Brene Brown, Oprah’s Super Soul, Say Yes with Carla Hall, The Marie Forleo Podcast.
- We are not victims, we are creators of our reality, so be “response-able” (read Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”). If there is a situation that we don’t like and it’s causing us stress, look within to see what’s activating this. The Law of Cause & Effect works to create an external reality that is a reflection of our internal state. If we’re ill at ease, feeling constrained, lacking, stressed and worried, then you will create or rather manifest more of the same on the outside. Also read “As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen.
- We are all human and deserve forgiveness, compassion, kindness and validation. We all can deviate and follow the wrong track in life when misguided by ego self or others’ demands and expectations. Offer support, encouragement and give compliments regularly. Not only the person receiving this will benefit, you too will raise your energy vibration in doing this.
- Negative thinking gets you nowhere: it’s a fixed mindset. Embrace positivity and a solutions-focused, not a problem-focused mentality – a growth mindset.
As an example in relation to money. Instead of thinking, “I am terrible with money, and I will never be able to control my finances or get out of debt,” try this new thought and manifestation mantra:
“I’ve not made very wise choices in the past with my money, but I’m resilient and I learn fast. I am willing and able to adopt a more healthy mindset around money. Money is a beautiful expression of energy and worth. It flows to me effortlessly when I think grateful, appreciative thoughts about myself and others in my life. Do read The Having: The Secret Art of Feeling and Growing Rich by Suh Yun Lee and Jooyun Hong.
- Your body needs to rest and recover sufficiently to be able to function optimally (mental and physical rest are intertwined). Find yourself a calm setting to just be on your own for a bit during the day. Sit out in the garden if working from home and the weather is clement, or sit on a park bench, or go out to a café in a garden centre or a pub with a beer garden or conservatory. Just absorb the environment, look at and listen to the birds, observe the flora and fauna. Don’t feel the need to do anything. Book yourself in for regular reflexology treatments (foot or face). Reflexology is an incredible, yet extremely underrated, way to de-stress and re-energise.
- You only have 24 hours in a day and a third of that should be allocated to sleep or some form of rest. Being all things to everyone serves neither yourself nor any member of your family or work community.
- Your well-being and self-care by doing a yoga and/or breathing practice, booking in a complementary therapy (massage/reflexology). Why not indulge in a scented bath or listen to calming music in a room by yourself. Fragrance the room with a diffuser incorporating essential oils: lavender, geranium and bergamot are great to calm and restore mood.
- Your joy by doing creative things. If your job does not provide a creative outlet and is fairly mundane, adopt a sideline interest or a hobby that draws on and satisfies your creative spirit (we all have this urge to create within us and this is expressed in different ways depending on our talents, abilities, knowledge, insight).
- Your contribution – helping others helps you. We are wired to feel good when we help others. Offer to mentor, to be an accountability partner or just be a considerate, attentive listener to someone else. Alternatively, do volunteer or charity work.
- Community spirit – build or join a community of positive-thinkers and share your experiences and expertise. Look for or create a networking group that supports working women’s self-development and fosters work-life balance.
- Your capacity to self-regulate – start a meditation practice (in particular a body scan meditation which involves progressive muscle relaxation), try out journalling and deep heart-centred breathing.
- Your self-love, by treating yourself to verbal/written compliments (write a self-love and self-appreciation journal daily or several times a week) and give yourself little gifts/rewards for achieving both minor and significant milestones. Listen to this self-love meditation I created.
- Your self-belief by saying positive, self-affirming affirmations: I am capable, I am strong and resilient, I appreciate myself, I am good with money, I manage my time effectively, I look after my health and know it to be an expression of self-love and self-worth. What I focus on, I grow.
- Your ability to manifest positive things in your life – start visualising morning, noon and night (best time is just before sleep or immediately after waking, when your subconscious mind is most receptive to positive manipulation from the conscious mind). But instead of thinking of your ideal life, think from your ideal life. Embody being the person who is in your ideal life scene: feel their feelings, their higher vibration energy of having everything they desire accomplished. Look at the big movie screen and also components of it (enact in your mind individual scenes or scenarios, injecting positive emotion into these). Einstein said imagination is more powerful than knowledge and is the “preview of life’s coming attractions”. I recommend you read Neville Goddard’s Awakened Imagination.
If you need more help or support in tackling a stressful situation or environment, do not hesitate to reach out and connect with me one on one. I do not have a medical or psychology degree or a counselling background, but I am trained in holistic therapies and as an Energy Alignment Method mentor (someone who specialises in releasing resistant energy from the head, heart and body and guides you to embrace a more positive, higher vibrational state).
What our clients say about our Reflexology treatments...
Such a talented therapist Esther is among the best. I’ve enjoyed her massage skills and her reflexology treatments are excellent.
I’m pleased to be experiencing the recently introduced Zone Facelift and after just one treatment I can see the difference. Looking forward to completing my package and seeing the results. I can highly recommend Mindbody Oasis.
Wow! What else can I say? Had a neck, shoulder and back massage with Esther last night. I have had many massages but this was by far the best! Then I had a Reflexology treatment which was amazing. Thank you very much Esther. Next treatment already booked. Looking forward to it very much.
I’ve just had 3 great facial reflexology treatments and found them brilliant. They helped me relax, as well as relieve some sinus pressure I have been suffering with. Highly recommend booking a course of treatments with Esther!
I loved the facial reflexology – it improved my general wellbeing, reduced the frequency of severe migraine and my skin glowed….Ooh and I actually fell asleep during treatment which is unheard of 😊 I need to book my next one for after pay day! 😊 x
Esther is a talented and knowledgeable therapist, who takes the time to explain your treatment and makes sure you're comfortable throughout. I can particularly recommend the hot stones massage, and face and foot reflexology.
I would recommend the Indian Head massage and reflexology. I have had both treatments and they were truly amazing.
Esther is very professional and her treatments are something else. This is way I am going to continue having regular treatments.
I had a course of Reflexology with the lovely Esther, and found the treatment so relaxing which followed with the best nights sleep ever!
Esther quite literally has magic hands! I had been suffering with a back problem and found the sessions really helped.
5* would highly recommend!