Stress in the Workplace - Is Stress Affecting You?
We all hear about 'stress', in fact, it has now become one of those things that we say 'I'm so stressed'. What though does it really mean? There is not a true definition of 'Stress', it really does vary, though the general consensus is it is a physiological reaction to external factors. Although it normally is perceived as negative, it does in fact have positive benefits. The key is that stress or our 'flight or fight response', is only ever designed to be short-term!
The need for extra adrenaline and cortisol when in this short-term mode is great. For those about to run a race, or speak in front of an audience, this little extra kick is very positive. It is the long-term effects that are causing so many to suffer from health issues.
Fight or Flight?
This is one of many of our 'primitive' responses, leftover from our early caveman days when the need to rapidly respond to a perceived danger was a matter of life or death. It has not evolved and hence we are left with the inability to simply 'turn off' this automatic response.
The Physical Effects of Stress
When activated our body takes immediate action.
- The Adrenal Gland releases the hormones cortisol and adrenaline - causing the heart to beat faster as blood flow increases to our muscles.
- Cortisol also increases our desire for energy-rich foods - hence the cravings for sugar or carbohydrates.
- The pre-frontal cortex (the area that affects concentration, decision making, judgement and social interactions) is slowed by these hormones.
- The hippocampus (which produces new brain cells) slows production.
- The vagus nerve - which links the brain to the gut is also affected and the function of gut bacteria slows down.
- Immunity declines as the production of our immune fighting cells are compromised.
- Adrenaline - when it is continually produced prohibits normal sleep cycles.
- The brain shrinks! Yes, from brain scans we can now clearly see that certain areas (mainly the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex) actually start to shrink when the stress hormones are produced continually.
How do we feel?
These physical affects of long-term stress obviously start to impact not only our brain functions: difficulty sleeping, headaches, weight gain, change of appetite, aching muscles etc but also our emotional and mental health too.
When stressed it is more likely you will become more irritable, less able to take the time to see the rational answer and reacting immediately to situations. This can often lead to mental health issues as we struggle to deal with everyday situations and little things can mount up, causing distress and conflict at work and at home.
Do any of those symptoms and situations sound familiar? If so, then in all likelihood you are suffering from the longterm effects of stress.
The Good News
It is not all bad! Not only are we now more aware of what stress looks like, but also the many factors that cause stress and also a whole range of tools on how to deal with these symptoms. Mindfulness being one.
A Mindful Approach
There is growing evidence that mindful tools can, in fact, impact stress. From organisations such as the American Institute of Stress or in the UK The Mindfulness Initiative, more and more organisations are seeing that the tools of mindfulness can be used with great success.
If you would like to know how Mindfulness can help you then check out the blog on "mindful tools for work-related stress' or for the facts and figures relating to the cost to business of work-related stress then head here.
There is help out there, so do take the time to read, or contact us for how we can help your organisation.
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Rachel Hawkes is a mum to twin teenagers and teaches baby and kids yoga & mindfulness classes, alongside running a business Wellbeing Centre. She is a published author of 2 books relating to Mindful Parenting and loves to share her tips and ideas wherever she can.
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