Dealing with stress the write way
Life hasn’t always been a bed a
All joking apart life should come with a stress alert. Because there are times when everything feels too much. Overwhelm threatens to take over and in these moments, nothing is achieved.
Some stress is natural, but when that overload kicks in the toll on every part of your life is immeasurable.
This morning an old job popped into my head. In fact, I was mulling over several old jobs and contemplating how different things are and how much less stress I feel today compared to say ten or twenty years ago.
Though when I say less stress, what I feel is different. It will be different because my life is not the same as it was when I had to be out and on the road by 7.30am or earlier.
Instead these days I’m often out for the first doggie walk of the day before 7.30am, if you can call that stress. There are days, like yesterday when I overslept and was treated to a wet nose in my face to tell me to get up.
Looking back, there were some jobs that I have truly adored, the people, products, customers and banter combined have often made it a pleasure to step through the door.
But it wasn’t always been that way, I can remember times such as in the 1990’s when a sales team I was part of felt bullied, pressured and stressed by the management team. I was shocked when during a heart to heart, one of my male colleagues confided he had been crying and not sleeping over work.
In my unhappiness, overwhelm and desire to not talk, I had thought it was only me.
The stress led to him becoming ill. I and several others subsequently left. At other companies, I have witnessed aggression, sexual harassment, bullying and manipulation. Sadly I watched colleagues who couldn’t take the pressure, resorting to visits to the doctor with stress and other illnesses before resigning, leaving us with a big hole in our resources.
Many of us underestimate what the stress and pressure at work can cause to us individually, our work colleagues and our wider family.
I don’t know where you find yourself? In a job or as an entrepreneur. But none the less, there will be or have been times when ‘it’s all been too much.’
Back in the days of being in an office, I felt that with a shrinking economy and the chaos of government many organisations (mine included) were understandably trying to do more with less and that meant as colleagues left the work burden was usually shared amongst those that remained.
Not only that, it seemed that there was often the threat with economic uncertainty of possible redundancy. All of which adds pressure and stress.
Pressure and stress for some people is positive, they love the challenge, but for others it can be the beginning of a nightmare.
The stress of redundancy
Having been made redundant twice, I know from first hand experience, that how you handle it will vary depending on what else is going on in your life, who is there to support and what your financial situation is like, amongst other things.
I consider myself lucky, many people in a situation where they can see themselves and friends being side lined or played for a fool would have become ill, not sleep, angry, stressed, potentially turn to drink or worse.
The first time I was made redundant, I spiralled into the depths of despair, that was until I had managed to write my way through tons of negative words. I woke up one morning and decided to reach out. Within hours I had a contract which was fun to work on.
The second time, I was delighted to leave. Our directors had all resigned two months beforehand and the person appointed to the board was not someone I could work with. So when I was awarded the brown envelope of redundancy I was relieved.
In the lead up to this, I had also journaled, but in a more positive way. I’d been considering my options for a lot longer and was better prepared.
The cost of stress
But what is the cost to a business with stressed employees? You only have to Google this to discover the statistics and it is not only shocking but extremely sad.
In this report (UK HSE), it is stated that 15.4 million days are lost by 595,000 people to stress and anxiety. This number is rising. The cost and impact on each person and business must be immense.
What about the stress of being an entrepreneur then? Are there are different kinds of stressors to contend with? Of course, there are. There is still the workload and money. An entrepreneur has for the most part to be everything and everyone in their business in the early days and then has to learn how to build a business from an entrepreneurial mindset.
None of which is easy, but it is often more rewarding.
As an entrepreneur the need for self belief and emotional stability is high. But where do you find these resources and how can you maintain your balance in uncertain times?
When I look back, what I know is that for organisational culture to change, it must cascade from the top. If the top put mental health and effective communications on the top of the agenda and consider how to positively impact the lives of their employees we balance could be achieved. Couldn’t it?
First, of course, there is the need to remove the stigma attached to anxiety, stress and behaviour attributable to pressure and not penalise the careers of those who put family and self before work. It is surely not unreasonable to want your employees to be happy and healthy?
That’s organisations, but how does an entrepreneur manage their stress?
It’s a hard question to answer. Stress is everywhere and the grass is never greener.
What I know is that I have to take responsibility for my life and my health. I have to implement things or ways of working which means that I manage my stress.
As an entrepreneur, I can take regular breaks in the day, walk the dogs to clear my head or take some time to drink my tea on the terrace and look at the hills when I need some reflection time. Back in my office days, I’d take a walk around the outside of the building – not quite the same – but it did help.
Writing and stress
The biggest thing that has supported me all of my life is writing.
As a long term journaler, I get lots of my stuff out each night before I go to bed. I reflect on my writing often and write short stories which cover off a range of conflicts and emotions. Writing might not be for everyone, but there is research which proves its effectiveness and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) amongst other interventions uses writing to focus reflection and enable change.
When my spine fractured in 2018, I was in immense pain. For a few days I stared at the ceiling drifting in and out of painful sleep. What helped me was first of all writing in a journal and then deciding to write a book about my healing. Because I was unable to work this became my work. I spent endless days researching and studying and working out how to heal naturally.
Luckily I had trained as a naturopathic nutritionist and had been interested in nutrition and healing since my twenties. But none the less I felt like I was taking a medical degree with all of the other things I looked at.
Writing in my journal and writing a book, I believe saved my life.
I know writing works. Cathartic, entertaining, sometimes embarrassing writing has certainly been my saviour.
Try it for yourself, you may be amazed.
You start by buying a journal and simply allowing your words to flow. The power comes when you reflect and discover aha’s.
If you are unsure where to start, sign up for 101 days of being me. You will get journaling prompts for 101 days. What you will find is that after a short period of time that you will be in the writing habit and may not need a prompt. The prompts however, give you something to ponder.
101 days of being me
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