International Stress Awareness Week – What’s It All About?
Between 4th – 8th November 2019 is International Stress Awareness Week, a movement driven by Carole Spiers and the International Stress Management Association. They are a registered charity focused on promoting best practice in the field of stress management and Carole has worked in this area for many years.
I know we have an awful lot of awareness days, weeks and months and can easily become a fit fatigued by them. But this one has been going for longer than the majority of awareness days, and it’s simply an opportunity to talk about this really important subject – and hopefully keep that conversation going all year.
The theme for this year is all about resilience and I couldn’t be happier with that given it’s what I work with day-in and day-out.
Have It All Without Burning Out – My Book
Next week, on the 14th November, I’m launching my book ‘Have It All Without Burning Out’ which is centred around the subjects of stress, resilience and burnout. These subjects are extremely dear to me, having experienced chronic stress for many years that ultimately resulted in burnout and a long recovery period.
In the book, I cover in some depth how we can proactively and easily build our resilience – our ability to adapt well to challenges and bounce back quickly. (Register your interest here).
I describe the whole concept as a bit like an ‘all you can eat buffet’ – you don’t have to eat everything in one sitting, nor do you have to give everything a try. There’s a huge menu of options available to you and the key is to choose those which you like and are relevant to you and your life. The person next to you might make completely different choices and that’s absolutely fine.
Building Resilience Proactively
I tend to think of building resilience in five key areas – the areas in which I see people in my coaching practice get the greatest and easiest benefits from. I focus on the subjects of Body, Mind, Connection, Environment and Time, and in my book each of these has a whole chapter to itself full of practical suggestions and useful insights.
Stress is a very physiological response and it’s fascinating when you understand just how many roles it plays in just about all areas of our bodies. How we nourish our bodies can, therefore, have an enormous positive impact on how we are able to manage stress and proactively build resilience.
From deep breathing, getting good quality sleep, re-introducing the true art of resting, and moving our bodies, right through to staying hydrated and consuming great food. It all makes a difference and the effects of getting this right for you can be remarkably powerful
The more we can take care of our bodies the better our body can then handle stress and contribute towards our resilience. Makes sense doesn’t it?
Our thoughts, beliefs and overall mindset are such a powerful influence on how we experience and perceive our daily lives. The whole subject of mental health (or rather mental ill-health) has shone a much-needed spotlight into this area in recent years. But of course, our minds are not separate from our bodies – we are integrated beings with a big interconnected web of interactions.
There are many things we can influence when it comes what’s influencing our mindset and ultimately our stress levels. There are many simple and proactive things we can do to contribute towards a healthy state of mind that enable us to build resilience. From having a clear purpose and choosing how we spend oud days, to mindfulness, meditation, and even practicing gratitude. There is so much that we can do – and it really does make a difference.
I enjoy seeing this subject being talked about more and more. You’ll have heard people say that we’re more connected than we’ve ever been due to technological advancements, but at the same time we have become more isolated than any generation before us. Loneliness is shown to carry health risks and is believed to be on the increase.
Being connected will mean different things to different people – we all have our own unique needs. But having some form of connection is widely viewed as a key human need. Being connected and having good relationships helps us to manage stress and work through challenging times. The sense of togetherness can help us build resilience.
And the good news is that we can all play an easy part – in helping ourselves and others. Whether that’s by actively seeking connection in a way that works for you, choosing carefully who you spend time with, practicing kindness, having a good old belly laugh, or even having a hug! Connection really does play a part in stress management.
Not always the most obvious stress management technique, until you start to think about it. But of course the environment we spend our time on will have a significant influence on how we feel, how we can respond to things, and whether we experience more stress or calm.
We can use our environment to create energy, excitement and action, just as we can use it to help is calm, get grounded and relax. The trick is to ensure that you know what your needs are and how best to choose an environment that nourishes those needs.
The use of nature and green space is always at the top of the list and is widely recognised as being good for our health. But we can also think about things like how we use light or noise, the impact that clutter has on us, and the benefits of low-toxin living. They all play a role in our resilience levels.
The biggest obstacle of all – the thing that is most scarce and the thing that money can’t buy! Lack of time is a major stressor for many people, as we live life at a hundred miles an hour, packing in more and more into our already full schedules. Sound familiar?
Getting the right priorities, practices and techniques in place when it comes to time really is a core foundation of keeping resilience levels high. Without these things it’s easy to spiral out of control quickly and feel like you’re on a road to nowhere.
Whilst they might sound simple, they can also be the hardest to tackle for many. Putting yourself first, saying no more often and avoiding distraction – easy to say; not always easy to do. But get this right and you’re definitely onto a winner!
Small Steps, Great Places
My approach to managing the stress we experience in our lives and keeping ourselves in a resilient and healthy place is all about one small step at a time. In our busy and overwhelming lives trying to tackle too much will ultimately end in some form of failure, disappointment – or maybe even burnout. Knowing what’s right for you and taking one small step after another is the key to getting to your great place.