The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) defines stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them.” The HSE has commissioned research into stress levels in the workplace all over the UK and have come up with the following jaw-dropping statistics:-
1. Approximately 500,000 people in the UK experience work-related stress at a level that they believe is making them ill.
2. Five million people in the UK feel “very” or “extremely” stressed by their work.
3. Around 12.8 million working days a year were lost to stress and stress-related illness in 2004/5. (Probably even higher in the U.S.).
And this is just the tip of the iceberg… this is just the work-related stress. Add to that the stresses of family life (need I say more?), the stress of making enough money to keep the wolf from the door and enjoy a pleasant lifestyle, the stress of trying to be who and what everyone wants us to be…and so on.
Some level of stress is essential to our functioning…we just wouldn’t be motivated to actually DO anything without it. When it’s something we want to do, we call it exciting. When it’s something we’d rather not do, we call it stressful! The effect on our body and mind is actually the same, believe it or not. Adrenaline shoots round our system, heart rate and blood pressure rise, our pupils dilate, our muscles get ready for action…. And then Daniel Craig puts his clothes back on!!
But you get my drift….our bodies are designed by Mother Nature to go into “Fight or Flight” mode, seeing as that’s what kept us alive millions of years ago when that noise in the bushes could have meant that either Bambi or Godzilla was behind us…
So life without any kind of stress would be unutterably boring. But our lives today have stresses that last over long periods of time – stresses that can’t be dealt with by running away or bashing something with a club…tempting though it may seem when your boss/child/mother-in-law is winding you up! And stress over a long period of time is what does us in. Your body is not designed to deal with these hormones staying in the system – the idea was that once Man had escaped from the predator, the hormones subsided. Job Well Done. Man then either slept, ate said predator or….You get the idea! (This is where Daniel Craig reappears…)
Long-term exposure to stress hormones can cause problems inside us. Big problems. High blood pressure, heart disease, strokes and some forms of cancer have been linked to high levels of stress sustained for years. Stress is one of the main causes of premature death in the developed world. Sobering thought, isn’t it? Well, now that you’ve read all this and got all stressed about your stress levels, what can you do about them?
You’ll have to read the next instalment for stress-busting ideas! (Hint: This might just involve some Pilates). Until next time…
All the best,