Observed on November 2nd, 2018, National Stress Awareness Day provides individuals around the world an opportunity to think about their wellbeing and to seek advice or support on managing stress.
This yearly national campaign, organised by the International Stress Management Association (ISMA), aims to raise awareness of the causes of stress, and to provide education on how you can reduce your stress levels.
What is Stress?
Stress occurs when we perceive certain situations and demands exceed our ability to respond, react, and cope. In small amounts stress can be beneficial. Stress creates a boost of adrenaline, which provides a energy and drive to help us work well under pressure. However, excessive amounts of stress can lead to severe health problems, influencing our cardiovascular, immune, central nervous system, and neuroendocrine system.
When left unchecked, stress can take a severe emotional toll. Stress wreaks havoc on our emotional well being, as well as our physical health. It alters our ability to function effectively, think clearly, and take pleasure in the joys of life.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are two parts of the brain that are key players in the production and processing of anxiety – the amygdala and the hippocampus. Once the brain has encountered a threat, either tangible or perceived, it releases a surge of chemicals, such as cortisol and norepinephrine. These chemicals cause our hearts to pump faster in order to get more blood and oxygen circulating through our bodies; we essentially go into “survival mode.”
New research correlates prolonged stress and anxiety to structural degeneration of the hippocampus and impaired functioning of the prefrontal cortex. Over time, this long-term wear and tear will increase the risk of depression and dementia.
Causes of Stress
The pressures, factors, and situations that cause stress are referred to as ‘stressors.’ Typically connected with negative events, stressors can also manifest due to positive developments, such as the birth of a child, purchasing a home, or getting married.
Common causes of stress include:
- Major life changes, such as marriage, births, or loss of a loved one.
- Work, career problems or events.
- Relationship difficulties, including friends, family, coworkers, and significant others.
- Financial problems.
- Chronic pain and illness.
Stress in the Middle East
According to a recent study by Towers Watson, a global professional services company, stress is the biggest health risk for workers in the Middle East. However, the study also shows that stress is still a “hidden” issue in the region and is not often acknowledged by employers.
The Towers Watson Middle East Healthcare Survey was sent to 73 organisations, with staffing ranging from 200 up to 5,000, across multiple industries in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt. According to the study, the top factors that cause stress in the workplace included “the erosion of work-life balance, especially with technologies that require employees to be available after working hours, together with unclear or conflicting job expectations and inadequate staffing.”
Tips for Managing Stress Levels
There are many techniques to help to reduce stress levels. From minor short-term changes to long-term modifications to your lifestyle or routines, you can reduce stress levels in your life.
- Get moving – While exercise won’t make your stress triggers disappear, regular exercise has proven to help you stay healthy and more equipped to cope with any potential curveballs life may throw at you.
- Manage your time – Taking control of your routine and your schedule is empowering. When you plan enough time to get ready for the day, meet your work deadlines, and arrive on time to appointments, you will reduce the stressors associated with feeling rushed.
- Stay connected – Socialise with people you trust. A great support network of friends, colleagues, and family can help to ease your troubles and help you see things from a different point of view.
- Just breathe – Studies have shown that breathing techniques help to calm our body and mind during periods of intense pressure. Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. When you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to relax and calm down.
- Talk it out – Sometimes just talking about our pressures can help to reduce our stress levels. Whether your stress is caused at work or home, discussing your concerns can do wonders for your mind and body.
How to Participate in Stress Awareness Day
The most effective way to celebrate Stress Awareness Day is to take the opportunity to assess the stress in your daily life. What can you control? What stress factors are beyond your control?
Take time to regularly examine your life and discover all of your stressors. Only then can you take the necessary steps to try to remove recurring stress factors from your life.
At the Brain Workshop, we’ve leveraged brain based training to help individuals reduce their levels of chronic stress. Cognitive training has proven to help individuals manage their personal expectations, organise their schedules, to make faster more efficient decisions, and to better manage their time.
If you are interested in learning more about how the Brain Workshop can help you manage your stress levels, contact a member of our team today.