A guest blog by Debbie Robinson

Do you sometimes feel like your life is a roller coaster? Does your life feel like it is one saga or drama after another? Has this turbulent ride left you feeling frazzled and stressed out?

In small doses stress can help you rise to a challenge, but too much of it can damage your physical and mental wellbeing. At its most simple, stress is your body’s physical response to mental or emotional pressure. Our jobs, relationships, family life or money can all add to our levels of stress. 

When you’re stressed, your body believes it’s under attack and switches to what’s known as ‘fight or flight’ mode. As a result, a mix of hormones and chemicals are released into your body so that you prepare for physical action- to fight or to run away. When the ‘threat’ passes, your body usually returns to normal, but if you’re continually in ‘fight or flight’ mode this might not be the case. 

To understand how stress is affecting you, you can look at two things: what’s causing your stress, and how you react to it.

What’s causing your stress?

Are there things in your situation that cause you to become stressed? This could be pressure at work, problems with your health or worries about money. Some stress triggers are limited to a particular event, such as a bereavement or a relationship breakdown. Others, like work pressure, can continue over time.

How do you react to stress?

Everyone reacts differently to causes of potential stress. You might be able to cope well with difficult situations or you might find that minor issues greatly affect you. You may be able to cope well with one type of problem, like having a difficult discussion with a client about their lack of treatment compliance but be badly affected by another such as speaking to a colleague about their regular lateness, or how to deal with your finances and make ends meet. If you’re facing more than one issue that is causing you stress, you’re more likely to be affected.

Stress can upset how you think, your emotions and how you act (your behaviours). We all experience stress differently. Sometimes you might feel like you can’t see beyond the ‘fog’ of stress, and other times you might not even be aware you are actually stressed.

Early signs of stress can include sweating, headaches, and losing your appetite or your ability to concentrate. Spotting these signs early, and taking appropriate action, will help prevent your stress from getting worse.

Be aware of things like: 

  • drinking or smoking too much 
  • overeating
  • sleeping poorly 
  • a racing heart 
  • shaking, chills or hot flushes 
  • a tingling sensation in your arms or legs 
  • butterflies in your stomach

You may also experience:

  • headaches
  • muscle tension or pain
  • dizziness
  • high blood pressure
  • indigestion or heartburn
  • constipation or diarrhoea
  • shallow breathing or hyperventilating
  • problems having or enjoying sex

Why you should take action on stress

Reducing stress in your everyday life is vital for maintaining your health. Lowering your stress can improve your mood, boost your immune system, and allow you to be more productive. 

Stress and your body

Stress isn’t an illness itself, but when it gets the better of you, it increases your risk of developing other illnesses, from a head cold to heart disease or diabetes.

Stress and your mind

In certain situations, stress can cause other mental health conditions, or make them worse. For example, if you aren’t managing your stress, you’re more likely to experience anxiety or depression.  

Stress and your sleep

When you’re affected by stress you might find it hard to get to or stay asleep, or you may find your sleep is poor. And if you’re missing out on sleep, this can contribute to your stress, creating a never-ending cycle.

Five ways to improve your mental well- being:

  1. Connect with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in them.
  • Be active Go for a walk or run. Step outside, cycle, play a game, garden, dance – anything you fancy. Just do it! Exercise makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity that you enjoy!
  • Take notice Catch sight of beautiful things. Be curious, remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons, savour the moment, whether you are walking to work, eating your lunch or talking to friends. Be in the moment. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling.
  • Keep learning Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course you keep wanting to attend but never get around to. Take a different responsibility at work, learn to play an instrument, or speak another language, learn to cook your favourite meal. Set yourself a challenge that you will enjoy.
  • Give Do something nice for a friend, colleague or stranger, thank someone, smile, volunteer your time, or join a community group. Look out as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness as linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding.

Remember, it’s not always possible to control stressful events and experiences but it is possible to change the way you respond to them!

Debbie Robinson is a business mentor, coach and trainer who has guided and supported numerous businesses and their teams, helping them to develop happy, harmonious and financially sustainable businesses.

In 2015 she had the opportunity to provide coaching and training to the independent veterinary sector on behalf of Vet Dynamics, where she coached and mentored some of the UK’s now top performing independent veterinary practices.

Debbie founded VetNetics in 2022 to help veterinary practices and their teams develop leadership skills and understanding, to create happy, harmonious and empowering workplace cultures.

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