- In the short term, working over 21 hours continuously is equivalent to being legally drunk. (International Leadership Research Institute, Evan Robinson)
- Life today is on average 44% more difficult than 30 years ago (IHM)
- The number of workers calling in sick due to stress tripled from 1996 to 2000 (Journal of Organizational Development)
- 60-80% of industrial accidents are due to stress (NIOH&S)
- Depression has doubled with every generation since the 1920s (Cryer)
- 5 Hours ( Average Amount of time it takes me to write this article)
These facts are not to depress just to inform. Most people don't have a good handle on their stress. They focus on the unpleasant, and usually unexpected, things that happen every day. That's not just stress, its life.
Most people attribute stress to outside sources but it’s actually the way we look at situations that produce stressful reactions. When people distort their perception, this causes a stressful response.
Common ways we look at a situation and distort our perception which produces a stressful reaction:
-Negative Thinking and Self Talk- When every change, scenario or suggestion is skewed to be perceived as negative. (Example- My life would be fine if it weren’t for other people, or this just sucks)
-Over generalizing. When small negative things influence the way we perceive other situations.
-Overanalyzing. When you focus on small negative details you lose site of the bigger picture reality. (Example- My manager said I did a good job on that report but I don’t believe him, he’s just trying to be nice or he wants me to work overtime. Leadership hates me.)
-Self Blame. When you continually feel you are not good enough (Example- Why did I say that? Only a moron would say something like that!) If you are too busy worrying about how to react you miss the spontaneous inspiration of the moment.
-Rigid Exaggeration. When you only think in extremes ( black/ white, yes/ no, always/ never). Example- Leadership never notices the work that I do (even though they often does)
‘‘The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.’’ ( John Milton)
How does chronic stress (caused by the above perceptions) negatively affect your health? It can do so in four ways:
1. It causes long-term wear and tear on your body, reducing its resistance to disease
2. It can directly contribute to illness, from headaches to heart attacks
3. It can aggravate existing illnesses
4. It can lead to unhealthy habits, such as smoking, drinking, overeating, and not getting enough sleep.
The hormones released during stress literally wear down your body.
Self Development Stress management techniques
1) ‘‘Ignorance is bliss.’’
As a public speaker, One of my favorite stress management techniques.
A key source of stress is feeling out of control. However, it’s not about how much control you actually have but how much you think you have. Here ignorance IS Bliss, if you believe you have control over a stressful situation even if you don’t, your right. For example if you were forced to work a bad shift but you did not know it was a bad thing, it might not matter to you one way or the other and you would experience no added stress.
Another example, if all of your colleagues dreaded a visit from corporate office but you didn’t know what that visit meant you might be excited about the visit instead of dreading it. As a professional speaker i would rather not know everyones opinion of me, only the authentic critical comments matter.
2) Think Positive
Catch yourself in any one of the above thought/behavior patterns and THINK POSITIVE. The moment you choose positive thought you instantly release the stress in your body and it balances all of the above thought patterns that distort our perception and cause stress.
Positive thinking is a choice; your brain is wired to think predominantly positive or negative. When you make a conscious effort to think positively you alter your neural pathways and your thinking patterns change (in a positive way). As an inspirational speaker I always take in other inspirational speeches when I can because they are great reminders. You need the reinforcement.
3) Laugh at it
Humor instantly halts your bodies stress response. Humor also helps you reframe a situation to see it as less threatening. When all goes wrong and you have no control anyways, go ahead and laugh, add years to your life- your body will thank you.
You can add up to 20 years to your life by choosing to gain control over your stress response. (in a Seminar from the Stress Management Institute, 2001)