October’s CABA supported breakfast event in Edinburgh looked at ways to deal with stress and explored how members tackle pressure in their everyday lives.
Whether it’s a deadline pile up, trying to balance our home and work life or dealing with changes in life and relationships, most us know what it’s like to feel under pressure. But what about when that pressure tips over into stress? The chances are we’ve all experienced stress and would like to handle it better. In CABA’s ‘Building Your Resilience’ breakfast session, delegates shared stories, exchanged ideas about how to cope with stress and pressure, and discovered an unexpected way that chocolate can help you prepare for stressful situations.
Stress affects us all…
The event was led by well-being expert, Lucy Whitehall, who helped delegates explore the difference between stress and pressure, discussed the symptoms of stress and encouraged everyone to share strategies for building resilience.
Stress is more than just a feeling, as Lucy explains, ‘(during the event) we talked about the pressures we are all under every day in all aspects of our lives. We discussed what happens when pressure tips over into stress and what that feels like in our bodies, in our minds and how it shows in our behavior, both towards ourselves and towards others.’
Lucy also explored the concept of mindfulness and explained its business benefits. Those present were able to take part in a demonstration of mindfulness by doing a ‘chocolate meditation’, an exercise that encourages participants to focus exclusively on the matter at hand (in this case, chocolate!).
Delegates learned to reconsider their thinking as well as share ideas during the session, as Lucy explains, ‘We shared some fantastic, achievable techniques to help us all tackle stress and pressure in a more proactive, responsive and healthy way. We know from studies in ‘neuroplasticity’ that we all have the capability to change the way our brains are wired. Through regular practice of coping strategies, we can manage life's inevitable ups and downs. We just need to get into the mental habit of checking in on ourselves, recognising when things are getting on top of us and taking decisive action!’
Lucy’s top tips for dealing with stressful situations:
- Create boundaries: both for yourself and others. One of our delegates turns off her electronic devices at her Friday evening 'cut off' time. This denotes her time to recover and recuperate. We all need to rest; it makes us stronger and more resilient.
- Manage expectations: when you have a piece of work that needs your full attention, remember that your brain is hard wired to focus on one thing at a time; humans have selective attention. To do a good job, one delegate turns on her 'out of office' message when she has to knuckle down. This lets her manage the expectations of others, letting them know that for a defined time, she is not to be disturbed
- Physical activity: just taking a short walk, preferably out in nature, even for 10 minutes has powerful benefits in reducing our stress response. Taking notice of our surroundings, the weather, the temperature, changing seasons, colours and textures - reminds us that we are part of something bigger and gives us space to gain perspective. Many people find that physical activity, taken on a regular basis, significantly reduces stress, depression and anxiety and there is significant evidence to support this. Our body floods with endorphins and we actively dissipate cortisol levels - the hormone associated with stress reaction.
- Challenge ourselves: ‘Is there another way of looking at this?’ ‘How did I deal with this situation last time?’ We are more resourceful than we realise. We've been through stressful times before and we've got through them. What worked? How can we repeat that activity? Metacognition describes 'knowing about knowing'. You can use the knowledge and experience you already have to deal with those familiar feelings of being overwhelmed?
- Attend to ourselves: we shouldn’t be afraid to show ourselves the compassion that we would show our loved ones if they were in our situation. Offer yourself the space to stop and take a considered view of how you will respond to a situation, reducing the tendency to revert to 'autopilot' and reminding yourself that you have a choice. Sometimes that choice might be to do nothing.... Do you really need to respond to that demanding email, right here, right now?
- Mindfulness: A powerful tool that helps us be more aware in the moment, not living in the past or worrying about what might happen next.
- Seek support: when we see those triggers in ourselves that tells us that we are reaching breaking point, resist the temptation to ignore it. Talk to friends, share with family or work colleagues. The chances are that your loved ones will already have seen that you aren't behaving as you normally might and they will want to help. Be brave enough to ask for support.
More about mindfulness
The books listed below offer accessible, often humorous and very realistic ways to incorporate a more mindful way of living into our days. Mindfulness training is now recommended by health services across the UK as an-evidence based method of reducing re-occurrence of many mental health conditions including depression and anxiety, which one in four of us will experience at least once in our lifetime.