With the new year upon us, I thought I’d give some thought to health and share my views on one of the biggest cause of workplace sick days and household traumas - STRESS.
Ask any top performer, be it an athlete, sportsman, singer, actor, or even a celebrity dancer or skater, and they will all tell you that they perform best when they feed off the pressure of the moment and the adrenalin kicks in.
And it’s very similar for us mere mortals in our everyday life. We need some pressure, drive, motivation or incentive to do our best and our body is a great machine at getting the adrenalin flowing when we need it.
In its most basic form, our body’s response to a potentially stressful situation is the ‘fight or flight’ reaction – where it gears us up to deal with a perceived threat. In our evolutionary years, this was likely to be the sabre toothed tiger – but modern day variations range from an actual threat to our physical wellbeing to a Boss on the war-path, a road raged driver, a challenging situation like public speaking, a daunting task - or even Christmas with the in-laws!
When you experience stress, your body goes through a series of physiological responses that feed into your nervous system and circulatory system and affect everything from hormones to heart rate.
The “fight-or-flight” response of the body during times of stress is well-documented. This instinctive response floods your body with adrenaline and cortisol, which increases heart rate, redirects blood flow to the muscular system, releases fats into the bloodstream for use as energy, increases breathing rate, tenses muscles, and increases your blood’s clotting ability—all of which are intended to help you fight off (or run from) an opponent.
We’ve all heard of amazing feats of strength and courage in stressful situations – like the mother who lifts a car off her injured child, the man who runs for 10 miles for help, the children who rescue an injured parent - all helped by the physiological reaction to stress.
The only problem is, if the cause of stress is not a sabre-toothed tiger but a long day at the office, your body doesn’t know the difference, so it reacts to all stress in the same way. Over time, this can wreak havoc on your health physically, mentally, and emotionally. The situations may vary – but the physiological reaction can be very similar.
Stress affects your cardiovascular system in several ways:
Over time, the physiological reactions to stress can take a toll on your cardiovascular system:
If in doubt, check it out. A 10 minute blood pressure test with the doctor or a 5 minute blood test for cholesterol levels could save your life.
I had my BP checked this week, by accident – literally! I was taking the mother-in-law to A&E, walked out of the hospital car park and got whacked on the head by the barrier arm. There was blood everywhere, but thankfully only superficial - at least I was in the best place and I’ve lived to write this article!
However, during the routine check-up for concussion, the nurse took my BP and it was through the roof. It settled back down when I visited the doctor three days later – but still too high - and as a result, I’m on the pill! So perhaps the car park barrier did me a favour after all.
The bottom line is that pressure is good for us to perform at our best, but chronic stress is very, very bad for us.
So here are a few tips to help you manage stress in a good way:
Some people are, naturally, better at coping with stress than others (different personality types etc.) and my article isn’t intended to solve problems (I’m not a doctor or psychologist), but rather to raise awareness levels – both in yourself and also those close to you.
As business advisors, we care about the health of your business – and this includes you.
Here’s looking forward to a perceptibly less stressful 2014 - and not being attacked by car park barriers!
At Frost Group, we want to make things as easy as possible for you. That is why, if you can’t come to us, we’ll come to you. We operate face to face, nationwide meetings, wherever is most convenient for you.