Ecosystem of Health—Let’s Talk Stressors and Stress Relief
We find ourselves in a time where stress is a hot topic; unfortunately, the majority of talk around stress isn’t about all the ways people are dealing with it and the healthy habits they are undertaking, but rather about the causes of stress and people’s experiences with burnout.
Do you believe in a work life balance? Does it exist? If yes, do you have it? Or do you think your life would be easier and stress-free if you just had a cape? Let’s talk about it, you might be pleasantly surprised to find you don’t need to be a superhero to live stress-free!
Stress as a concept is fairly vague but it’s one that impacts our ecosystem of health—the connection between our mind, body, the food we eat, ability to exercise, and our spiritual wellness. When we are stressed to excess levels or for long periods of time it starts to affect our ecosystem of health. It changes our habits and affects our mood, we essentially become in a state where we lose clarity.
For many people, the biggest source of stress is in the workplace. It is within the work environment that workplace stressors emerge. The environment/culture of our organization, the work we do, the people we interact with all have the potential to amplify stressors or to help us mitigate the stressors we face. The MARS Model refers to how the functions of motivation, ability, role perceptions, and situational factors affect the performance of employees in an organization. The Model explains that performance, with limited stressors felt, is associated to the support employees receive from their managers/leaders. An idea that also translates to everyday life; people with good support systems are often better equipped to manage their stress levels as they do not feel alone and have room to try things out and obtain help.
The concept of organizational stress is by no means a new phenomenon, but it is one that generates renewed attention as an organization with an unhealthy culture can be the cause of their own shortcomings. Also, a topic of renewed interest when it comes to finding solutions that work to lessen the feeling of stress and effects of stressors.
You are your most valuable resource and your organization’s. Human resources are one of the most important assets as organizations continuously invest in their employees and depend on their performance for success. So, how do we maintain our well being as an employee and a person? I’m differentiating the two as we can lose ourselves in a role; also, our wellbeing from an organization’s point of view might be much different than our own.
Workplace stress is seen as a matter requiring urgent investigation as stress, in general, is a booming industry and employees perceive more stress than ever before. More alarming are the negative health effects on our being (mind, body, and soul). Stress isn’t contained, it might originate in the workplace, but it gets translated to other aspects of our daily lives as the lines between life and work blur. The stressor of blurred boundaries can lead to work-family conflict, as the lack of balance between work and personal life greatly increases stress as it is associated to neglecting relations.
Really, I believe we have moved past the notions of work/life balance; today, it’s not always about finding balance between work and life, there is no perfect equilibrium, instead, it’s about the flow. About how we are able to navigate the terrain of life in a manner that brings us inner peace. We will always face challenges, but it’s our ability to deal with them and maintain our wellbeing while doing so that differentiates us. It’s also what makes us successful. Similar to how leadership is associated to one’s ability to be unflappable, the ability to stay calm in the sight of chaos.
We talk about stress, but what is it? Stress relates to the physiological, psychological, or behavioral responses of individuals to stressors. In more detail, stressors refer to an event, person or even circumstances that are deemed threatening to the point that it causes the body to go on alert. Have you noticed that climates that do not promote diversity (in terms of age, religion, physical abilities, ethnicity, nationality, sex, and other characteristics) are breeding grounds for stress? The feeling of being displaced or of not fitting in causes internal stress.
In the workplace, most often stress can be reduced through good leadership, employee participation and an organization’s overall commitment to treating their employees as human beings with specific needs. Outside of work, an effective way to manage stress is through exercise.
As human beings, we all share commonalities in our basic needs. Based on Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs, those are physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs. Having a lacuna in one or more of these areas is likely to lead to greater feelings of stress in and out of the workplace. It means that regardless of where the stressor originated, we will not handle it as well as when all basic needs are met. What’s also interesting to note is that the fulfillment of these basic needs contributes to our level of motivation. In other words, it influences the habits we adopt and our health.
Do we have the potential to address our own needs? Heck yeah, each person is responsible for their life! For the most part we have the power to remove ourselves from an environment or from people that are causing us stress. It’s all about embracing our ability to adapt, control what we can, and to let go of what we can’t. Sometimes easier said than done! Doing so removes a lot of emotional and mental stress. We can work on ourselves to feel safe, loved and like we belong; when we are happy and blooming, we often find our community.
When I reflect back, I found my community through Barre Fitness. It’s that place where you feel at ease, where you love showing up everyday, look forward to seeing those familiar faces and doing something good for yourself and others. We have a duty to ourselves and yet somehow it’s forgotten. We have a duty to look after ourselves and to nurture our wellbeing. As mothers, friends, wives, girlfriends, employees, colleagues we often take on the role of happiness providers but really all we can do is to stay calm, offer advice, support, encourage, but the burden to be the fixer or do it all, doesn’t fall on us. We are only responsible for how we act. We can’t be everything to everyone, we sure do try but the amount of stress that comes from trying to be the perfect wife, perfect friend, perfect daughter, perfect employee, it’s simply exhausting, unsustainable, and will never lead to a sense of fulfillment and happiness.
Would life be easier if we had a cape? I don’t believe it would, we would still have the same basic needs and we don’t need to always be doing more. It’s not necessarily good to be busy all the time and what we do that keeps us busy on a daily basis isn’t necessarily the good things, especially if they cause stress. Small amounts of stress are okay, it’s even good for you, but it must be at manageable levels. Having unrealistic expectations for ourselves can leave us feeling like we are never going to get to where we want, which unknowingly leads to increased levels of stress and eventually burnout.
What’s interesting is the negative effects of stress are often physical, we get pains, can develop cancers, experience anguish, anxiety, depression, insomnia, we basically lose our ability to control our body in the moment. Likewise, physical exercise is often a very effective remedy to stress, it lessens our perceptions of stressors by shifting our focus to mindfulness and pushes our body to release feel good hormones.
Exercise is a great stress relief to the anxious mind and it’s the one thing we can all easily implement. You don’t need a cape to book a fitness class or to put on your running shoes. It’s attainable! You just have to develop the awareness to make a change and incorporate healthy remedies to stressors, like regular physical activity. Of course, physical activity is not the only way to destress but finding your way to minimize your stress is essential. Have you found your way?
Years from now, you want to make sure when you look at your life, it’s one that you chose for yourself, not one you settled for or stumble through with high periods of stress. You want to be living life full of gratitude and as your full self. You’re the only person who can make a change and show up differently to alter your interactions so that you don’t feel depleted or negatively affected by stressors.
Progress isn’t always external. It doesn’t need to be validated. Progress can be solely focused on YOU. How happy you are, if you’re eating to fuel your body, exercising regularly to treat your physical and mental health and resting enough.
Next time you’re faced with stressors that negatively impact your ecosystem of health, try turning to exercise for relief, it gives clarity and peace to react with calmness. There’s this saying I love to remind myself of, “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference”. It’s important to take responsibility for our actions but that does not extend to the actions of those around us, it’s okay to be everything just for you. A cape wouldn’t give you the power to do that, it has to come from within.
Never sacrifice your mental health. After all, you are your most precious asset. We only have one body. Let’s respect it!