Let's redefine stress so it fits into how you handle your life. Stress is the tension that you create to keep pressure on yourself. We do this because it keeps us on our toes ready to quickly answer a manager's question or finish a report before the deadline.
It's hard to admit that our stress is our fault, but it really is. If a lion was tracking you in the middle of an open field this stress would cause your heartbeat to skyrocket, igniting your thought processes and forcing you to act. Let's take a step back...If you weren't afraid of dying or pain, and you really wanted to end your life, how do you think you would feel?
You would probably be cool as a cucumber because you would be willing to take the pain to end the pain.
If you were afraid of being eaten by a lion you would run like the inner track star that has always been dying to come out. This acute stress occurs because your heart is pumping like crazy, trying to keep the blood flowing to all the vital muscles. You want to live so you find the best actions to make it happen.
We feel this acute stress because it's fast, intense and takes over the whole body. This stress occurs when we are giving a big presentation, approaching a deadline, and other major events. It's easy to recover from this type of stress because we have no choice. Our bodies crash, shutting down our brains and forcing us to relax.
The problem with chronic stress is that it's soft and slow. It's a small river wearing away the rock bed. We don't even realize that our happiness is eroding away. Over time the constant pressure breaks us down.
We carry this burden with us wherever we go. We martyr ourselves out to the world, so the people in our lives know how much we give and give.
Imagine you had to stand for hours at a time. The first hour may be easy, but slowly the burden becomes too great and your muscles and ligaments can't handle the constant strain. You would collapse from exhaustion. There is documentary to illustrate this point, which I tried to find on Google and YouTube, but was unable to remember the name of the movie. The film follows a competition to win a car. A group of contestants try to stand and keep their hand on a car for longer than the other participants, and as soon both hands are no longer touching the car they lose. It's an excellent chance to watch people at their best and worst. They become delirious and eventually the pain is too much. All except for one, who looked like he was on the brink of letting go too.
Your chronic stress does the same thing to you. Imagine if you had to stand in one place for hours or even days; eventually you'd have to give in and rest. We all need leisure breaks to help us stabilize our productivity.
Ease Yourself Back In
After allowing yourself a break, you shouldn't just jump back in at full speed. You need to ease yourself back into a slower pace of work. I know this is hard to do at some jobs. Management expects full speed ahead.
If you enjoy what you do then you have to be creative with your effort. Try to work in smaller batches and when each batch is done then take a small break: bathroom, water, or a nice conversation with a co-worker. One of my favorites is making all kinds of crazy faces into a mirror. It usually makes me laugh and relieves the internal pressure that I put on myself.
You have to find the pace at which you are comfortable working. Your flow will fluctuate, so be willing to plow through work if that's the type of mood you are in. Just don't be afraid to take a break when you need it. It's all about being flexible with how you are feeling that day.
Do you take scheduled breaks or do you just go with how you feel?
When You Are Freaking Out Because You Are Stressed Read These Articles:
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- Why are Icelanders so Good at Working Happy?
- Stress Management Journal
- Work Bullies are Stressful
- Hand Massage for Stress Relief
Images courtesy of Clover_1