A problem shared

12 April 2022, Dr Phil James, Chief Executive, CIEH

Illustration of a man struggling under the weight of a tangled cloud.

In recognition of Stress Awareness Month I wanted to share with you my experience of stress, and the coping mechanisms I use to manage it.

When I feel stressed, I try to accept that stress happens to everyone and is not necessarily a bad or unavoidable thing. If I’m feeling anxious about something, I see it as a sign that something is important to me or matters to those I care about. That’s a positive thing, especially if I can work out exactly what it is that’s at stake and why.

Feeling under pressure is part of being human and it’s widely accepted that some level of stress is good for all of us. Everyone is different though, so while some people really need an element of pressure to help them get things done, for others, too much pressure for too long can lead to chronic levels of stress, and an overwhelming feeling of being unable to cope.

So, it’s important to know your own body and recognise the triggers and symptoms of stress as they relate to you. That way, you can look after yourself and spot when it’s time to get help. Some of the signs I look for in myself are things like having trouble sleeping, or finding myself worrying about something in the future at the expense of enjoying the here and now. A loved one, partner, or good friend can often spot when you’re suffering from stress better than you can yourself, so listen to them too.

For me, taking a break, going out for a walk, or getting absorbed in a good movie are some of my go-to stress busters. But I think it’s important to learn what works for you, rather than trying to follow someone else. However, I do have a top tip that I think applies to everyone; away from the heat of the current situation, ask yourself “Why do I feel this way?”. You might not get any immediate answers, but you may be able to rationalise your feelings and come to appreciate that you have more in common with other people than you think. What’s more, a problem shared isn’t just a way of unburdening yourself onto someone else. It can be a generous offer to someone who themselves may be struggling with stress and unsure of what to do.

The Mental Health Foundation has a comprehensive section on how to manage and reduce stress which I hope some, if not all of you, will find useful in some way.

Other online resources related to stress that may be of interest:

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