I had a conversation with someone the other day and we talked about the word stress, we kind of agreed that we use the word stress on a daily basis and in fact we often use it to replace the word busy. How often do you say you are busy or stressed? Perhaps more than ever our life is busier than ever, we are mostly a generation of live-to-workers rather than work-to-livers!

However stress doesn’t mean busy, it’s definition is “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”. Stress is our bodies way of sensing danger, but don’t we all use the word stress so much that we now think it’s acceptable? Take a moment and read the definition again and read the words, stress is our bodies way of sensing danger. How worrying but how desperately sad that so many of us are putting ourselves through such uncomfortable and traumatic experiences on a daily basis because of our fast paced and busy lives.

The tricky thing about stress is, if we don’t take care of it, if we don’t take it seriously then it can lead to other issues, physical issues such as headaches and migraines, and mental health issues such as anxiety, panic attacks and depression.

Although we often joke about stress and make light of how busy we are and our never ending to do lists, stress isn’t a funny matter. By the time stress has taken over, it will have happened so gradually you may not see it happening. All of the little things start mounting up and become bigger and bigger and trickier to solve or deal with, stress starts making everything feel very personal. When you’re consistently operating with high levels of stress over and over again, suddenly when that one person phones in sick or someone forgets the meeting you had planned or people haven’t followed a new routine or schedule you had agreed and planned – you don’t deal with it so well. In fact dare I say it, you may react emotionally and also irrationally, because it’s the tipping point of the one-more-thing-you-have-to-do type scenario. You start to say things like, I don’t need this, I work so hard, I give my all, I’ve bent over backwards for this person – sound familiar?

You may not like this part, but even if your job role is top dog, manager/director extraordinaire of the year – not everything is about you. It’s time to take a step back because when you are in a leadership role and you are taking everything personally you may not be as effective, you may not be getting the best out of your team and quite alarmingly you will be passing stress on to other people. Stress if you let it, will sneakily take over everything, sabotage your leadership skills and alienate people around you.

If you’re reading this and you can feel a hint of recognition no matter how infrequent busy, it’s time to take control. MHFA England call it address your stress and it was the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week earlier in the year, click on the link and it will take you to an address your stress toolkit so that you can take precious steps to tackle your stress.

Kate Moxley is an MHFA Instructor and delivers the Adult MHFA Two Day Course that enables individuals and organisations to create mentally healthy working environments that have the knowledge to signpost, support and advise colleagues who maybe experiencing mental ill health.

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