By: Courtney West
April is National Stress Awareness Month. Stress is triggered by a sense of danger. Once upon a time, this saved us from being eaten by dinosaurs. When this happened, our body made an instant decision whether to stand up and fight or run. Today, the dinosaurs are extinct, but the same instinct still exists in us. The triggers are now conflicts at work, seemingly endless workloads and financial concerns.
The flight or flight instinct sends an instant rush of hormones throughout your body – increasing heart rate, blood pressure and glucose levels. This is great if we need to race away from a dinosaur, but detrimental when sitting at our desks. Days, weeks and months of consistent stress can damage our immune system, weaken our heart and raise our risk of various diseases.
Identifying the stress symptoms is important to be able to distinguish a bad day from ongoing detrimental stress. Some common symptoms include:
- General feeling of being overwhelmed and that life is unmanageable
- Constant fatigue
- Irritability and increased hostility
- Less confidence in yourself
- Repeatedly questioning your choices
Luckily, there are some things we can do to combat the stress and increase our overall well-being. Recognizing the stressors helps minimize your reaction to the fight or flight instinct:
- Prioritize what you can control, letting go of what you are unable to change
- Focus your mind on something that creates calm – meditation takes practice, but has proven long term benefits
- Develop a vision for yourself, both short term and long term. Then set realistic goals for achieving this vision. Remember small steps are easier to accomplish than large overreaching ideas.
Self-care is paramount to ensuring the improvement of your body's response to stressors. 10-15 minutes a day helps the mind let go and the body relax. We have found some great ways to relax around the office:
- Take a walk on your lunch break
- Read a book
- Take a few minutes to sit in quiet
- Have a cup of tea
- Go for a run
Remember, if life is too stressful, there is always help available. Please visit https://www.stress.org/workplace-stress/ for additional resources.