Whether you’re a key worker who’s under extra pressure at work or trying to juggle children and work at home, it’s an incredibly stressful time at the moment.
Though we can’t change the circumstances, we can take steps to understand the impact on us and learn some techniques to help keep our stress levels in check.
What is pressure?
When we think of pressure, we usually think of it in a negative way, but there’s a close relationship between pressure and performance.
Whether it’s elite athletes or a challenging shift at work, the right amount of pressure can help us focus and perform at our best.
However, when we’re under too much pressure or we work under a lot of pressure for too long, we tip over into the ‘strain’ zone.
This is called the pressure-performance curve. To stay balanced, we need to move back and forth between the stretch and comfort zones, giving us time to recover.
If we’re always in the stretch zone, it quickly turns into strain and even burnout. Learning to recognise your personal signs of being under strain and how to navigate back to your comfort zone is key to managing pressure.
What is stress?
When the pressure becomes too much and we end up in the strain zone, we begin to feel a lot of stress.
Mental health charity Mind defines stress as situations and events that put us under pressure or our reaction to the pressure of stressful events and situations.
Stress isn’t just a mental phenomenon. Because body and mind are so interconnected, the effects of stress present in the body. Similarly, looking after our bodies can help alleviate the stress we feel in our minds.
The brain is connected to the body via the nervous system. When our mind and body are disconnected, we may experience signs of imbalance, including feelings of stress, fatigue, loneliness and depression.
By taking steps to ensure our mind and body work in tandem, we give ourselves the best chance of feeling equipped to deal with life and work.
Red flags you’re experiencing stress
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Worrying more than usual
- Forgetting things
- Difficulty concentrating
- Unable to make decisions
- Quick to anger
- Difficulty sleeping
- Using alcohol or cigarettes more to cope
Coping with stress and pressure
When you’re busy at work and worrying about loved ones at home, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and feel out of control.
By thinking ahead, anticipating pressure and putting in place coping strategies, you can help make sure that pressure doesn’t turn into stress.
Here’s a four-part plan to build your resilience and reduce stress.
- Acknowledge: When you’re really busy, it can be hard to find time to take stock. Put aside half an hour to explore which worries or things you have to do are causing you the most stress at the moment. Writing them down can be a good way to start looking at your worries more objectively, evaluating if there are any you can solve or put aside. Doing this can also highlight just how much you’re trying to cope with showing just how important it is to be kind to yourself at the moment and make time to look after you.
- Anticipate: Using the list of stress-causing worries you’ve made, have a look to see if there are any patterns - do certain situations or tasks always make you feel stressed? Are there times of the day when stress really builds? Identifying these risk factors can help you put a plan in place to mitigate them next time they arise.
- Plan: With the insight you have into stressful situations and times, make a plan of how you can deal with that situation next time it arises. There might be something you can do to make it less stressful or, if it can’t be avoided, it might be a case of building in recovery time afterwards to bring you back to your comfort zone.
- Protect: Knowing that you’re in a high-pressure, high-stress situation, give some thought to activities that help you relax and how you can proactively build more of those into your schedule.