Here's Why We Need To (Keep On) Talking About Stress

And why we need to stop trivialising it.
Is it all worth it?
Is it all worth it?

Whether you're already at your desk, on your commute to work (or hey, maybe you're reading this in bed), take a moment to consider how different your morning would have been if a train delay left you thirty minutes late.

What would this mean to you? How would it make you feel?

Because we as a society say stress is normal, it continues to go under the radar. If we are not busy, well, what are we doing?

"For some people, this wouldn't impact them as they believe things will happen when they are supposed to," Bronwen Sciortino, author and CEO of SheIQ Life told the Huffington Post Australia.

"However, if you are so flat out and pack so much into your day, that half hour block would feel so overwhelming and would make a massive impact."

At this point, you may be thinking, "Hey, we all have jobs, here".

This is what Sciortino believed for two decades of her career working in financial services.

"I found myself in a situation where I was working long days and operating on two to three hours of sleep each night. I was exhausted and worked myself to a breakdown," Sciortino said.

For eight years, Sciortino was told she had a patch of psoriasis on her head. When she finally made her way into a dermatologists' office, she found out it was skin cancer.

"At that point, I was just annoyed. It was something else that I had to schedule in my day," Sciortino said.

"I had six centimetres of my head cut out and was back home that afternoon. At my post-op check up four days later, the shock of seeing the wound was enough. I dropped."

Understanding how her own stress had been conditioned turned into work.

Busy is just a badge that we put on, but we don't stop to think about what we are busy with and what stress this is adding to our lives.

"We trivialise stress. Look at the messages around us... If you're sick or a bit tired, we're told to soldier on," Sciortino said.

"Because we as a society say stress is normal, it continues to go under the radar. If we are not busy, than what are we doing?

"Busy is just a badge that we put on, but we don't stop to think about what we are busy with and what stress this is adding to our lives."

Being a leader at work

These stresses are only magnified in the corporate world.

"The traditional leadership model is outdated, and because of our social conditioning, many people don't even know who they are before they become a leader," Sciortino said.

This is a trait she has noticed particularly among young women who are rising up the corporate ladder.

It can be lonely at the top.
It can be lonely at the top.

"If you are a female in a male-dominated industry, you feel like you have to prove that you're worthy of being there," she said.

"Added to this is the stress of wanting to nourish or grow the people who are below you and that makes the role even harder."

If we simply allow this to continue, the implications of our daily stress can turn drastic.

"If you keep pushing, eventually you will drop and it will be a difficult climb to get back up again."

Sciortino's book, Keep It Super Simple, outlines a number of small steps that people -- from all walks of life -- can consider.

They may sound simple... but that's exactly the point.

"If you can make your life simple, it becomes less impactful. It's all about the little things that you can do incrementally that can make an immediate impact in the first instance," Sciortino said.

"Long term, these small changes will completely change the direction of your life -- and you won't even notice."

Enjoy a morning yoga session? Do this more.
Enjoy a morning yoga session? Do this more.

Spend time on things you enjoy doing.

"One of the things that we are taught is that a lot of things we spend time doing are those that we think we should be doing," Sciortino said.

"It's all part of our drive to success."

To counter this, Sciortino offers the following exercise to spend time on things you enjoy.

  1. Make a list of all the things you spend time doing. Draw two columns next to this -- one for those that you enjoy doing, and the other for those that you don't. Take note.
  2. Make a separate list of things that you would like to be doing.
  3. Now, remove one thing off your 'don't-like list' and devise a plan to stop doing it. Decide whether you want to replace it with something from your 'like list' (see step 2) or whether you want to leave that time free.

"The things that we want to be doing unnaturally are the things that increase our energy. Those are the things we should be spending our time on," Sciortino said.

Align your work with your values.

Let's face it: everyone's roles (in life and work) are stressful. Part of the issue, however, is that we often up in roles that are not right for us.

"I spent twenty years of my career trying to work in an environment that didn't fit in with my values. I tried and tried to make it work," Sciortino said.

Put yourself in an environment where you feel energised by being there, and your situation will change.

Whilst it may not be possible to divert yourself entirely, consider small changes that you can make.

Spend time with positive people.

Which brings us here.

"Again, we spend too much time in situations with people that can drain our energy."
"Again, we spend too much time in situations with people that can drain our energy."

Sciortino recommends intentionally connecting with positive people -- those that you have in your life to pick you up. This can be both inside and outside of the workplace.

"Your friends should be people who help you to re-energise, but they should also be those who help you to grow an develop," she said.

Manage your energy levels carefully.

"Your energy levels will be what allows you to remain balanced," Sciortino said. "The more drained you feel and the more tired you are, the less likely you are to make healthy decisions.

"Understanding who you are and how you re-energise is critically important."

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