Today is #NationalStressAwarenessDay – my thought for the day on managing stress

I can’t remember the last time I did a surgery without seeing someone who is stressed. It seems to be the affliction of modern day Britain and some of that I am sure is the instant world in which we live.

It may seem light years away but it wasn’t actually that long ago that if we needed to write to someone it went through the post office. Fast forward a couple of decades and we have email and instant messaging, text messaging, Skype calling and a hundred other ways of getting hold of one another immediately. How often have you had an email in the morning with a follow up in the afternoon “just checking you had got my email”? It happens all the time and that is because we expect an instant answer and not just between the hours of 9 and 5. Mobile phones, tablets and laptops have been great for flexi working and working from home but they also mean that we never leave work at the office. So what, you might say but in evolutionary terms our bodies are lagging way behind modern technologies.

We are still pre programmed to react to stress with a rush of adrenalin. Now if that stress is a mammoth coming over the hill then adrenalin is just what you need to either stand and fight or run like mad for your life. In fact the adrenalin rush is called the “fight or flight reflex”. The problem is today’s stress triggers don’t come in the form of mammoths but in the form of daily deadlines, constantly changing diaries (let’s face it, it is so much easier to reschedule a meeting if everyone is instantly contactable), juggling home and work and trying to be the perfect parent, partner, work colleague etc. Living life like that is a bit like driving your car with your foot flat on the floor all day long. You would expect something to give wouldn’t you? Well it’s the same for the human body. We all have different thresholds and we may respond differently – some people shout, some cry, some have skin problems that flare, some appear to keep going and then fall apart with a mental health problem or a heart problem that will have been brewing for weeks. The point is that something will give in the end so isn’t it better to take our feet off the throttle before the engine forces us to?

The problem is our other modern affliction is seeing asking for or accepting help as some kind of weakness. I’d like to challenge that concept today. Once you have fallen apart with a mental or physical health problem you have no choice but to listen to those around you – chances are your doctor may have insisted you take time off from work. I think it’s a sign of strength not weakness to be brave enough to admit to yourself and then to others that things are getting a bit much. Not only that, it is often better for everyone around you to be given some warning allowing them to perhaps make minor adjustments to your schedule which could be the difference between you sinking and keeping your head above water.

So why not plan something each day that will allow you to take your foot off that pedal. It may be something really simple but it could make all the difference to your peace of mind and how you manage your stress levels.

I know it is much easier to say than do and people that know me will probably be shouting “pot and kettle” at their screens right now but I am actually going to take a leaf out of my own book this afternoon and I’m going to take my dog for a walk. I do that every afternoon I am at home but this time I’m going to switch my mobile off. I’m not going to check any emails, reply to any texts or make or receive any calls. The world won’t stop spinning because I am out of communication for half an hour but I’m sure my world will be a better place for just enjoying the autumnal countryside.