The good news is that moderate amounts of stress and anxiety can improve our performance and ability in the short term. But ongoing stress is counter-productive. Learn about The Three R’s Stress Reduction Model to get the most from your life!
Ongoing stress is counter-productive – it impedes our ability to cope, giving us an overdose of the ‘fight/flight/freeze’ hormones generated by our bodies sympathetic nervous system. In the cases where stress is unrelenting, and we feel unable to cope with the demands being made of us, we need to take steps to turn off the stress response.
The Mental Health Foundation have developed a three-step model to minimise, manage and recover from stress.
We all face multiple demands on our time and energy. To keep moving, we need to have enough fuel to manage these demands. It’s important to recognise the areas in your world that help you refuel and make time for these.
Part of this equation is to make sure you have the right balance of:
– Regular exercise
– Healthy food
– Activities that bring you joy
– Time for relaxing, socialising and connecting with others
Identify what areas of your physical, mental, spiritual and social wellbeing need replenishing. There will be times when the amount of fuel we use needs to be reduced, so choosing to reduce demands for a time can keep us going until we are able to restore our energy.
We may not be able to control the situation that triggers our stress response, or we may have multiple causes of stress. When the situation is out of our control or dangerous, we need support and help from others.
For other stressors, we can explore what options are available to either change the situation, rethink the problem, or accept what has happened. Identifying what the issues and situations are that are impacting on stress levels and recognising the impacts will support effective problem solving.
This can involve:
– Identifying our stressors and our stress reactions
– Looking at protective factors and resources
– Finding possible solutions and choosing the right ones for us
– Planning, practicing and reviewing our success.
The human brain is hardwired to operate on the principle of minimising danger and maximising rewards. Basically, people are attracted to and engage (approach) with activities that are pleasurable and rewarding, and move away (avoid) activities that are threatening or painful.
If the work environment is perceived as unsafe, the sympathetic nervous system (or fight, flight or freeze) is activated, leading to employees who are stressed, unhappy, disengaged, angry, cynical, uncommunicative, taking sick leave and/or leaving.
If the work environment is perceived as safe, the parasympathetic (or rest and digest) nervous system is activated. This leads to workers who are more open, engaged, productive, creative, and connected.
To be able to recover from stress we need to regularly turn on our parasympathetic or relaxation response. Try activities that provide a mind/body connection, ground you in the present, and bring peace and relaxation, such as:
– Mindfulness meditation
– Deep breathing exercises
– Walking in nature.
On the plus side, our response to stress helps us to prepare for challenges, but in order to avoid the psychosocial hazards of too much stress, we need to turn off the fight/flight/freeze response and take opportunities to refuel, rest and recover.