A few months ago I sent out a survey to help me understand how others perceived stress whilst I am building my business https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/M79KK8C.
I was surprised by the level of response but I was even more surprised at the honesty. Having had a serious bout of stress, anxiety and panic attacks myself it was heart-warming to finally confirm that I am not on my own. I think I already realised this to some extent but we just don’t really talk about stress openly.
One question I asked in my survey was ‘Please use 3 words/sentences to describe what stress feels like for you’. 247 words came back as your descriptors.
We often talk about how stress motivates us, or we need it to do our best work, or it is what gets us out of bed in the morning. I had an expectation that there would be a mixed bag of positive and negative words used.
So what was the mix?
Out of the 247 words we used for stress, just 4 were positive or neutral, the remaining 243 were heartbreaking and painful to read. I felt each one of them.
Reading the words and being able to empathise with the feelings, it really got to me.
The survey showed 48% of respondents did not talk openly about their stress. A personal preference for some. However 45% of respondents did not talk more openly about their stress because they were worried that it would affect future opportunities, 26% because they were embarrassed, 35% because of the stigma it carried.
If we only talked about stress more, related to each other, understood that it was perfectly natural and not treat people as weak if they feel stress we may just actually reduce stress levels.
For me a big part of stress reduction is reducing the embarrassment, the stigma and the worry it creates through understanding and communication.
Stress is not a willy wanging opportunity. It does not matter if one person looks like they can take more than someone else. Stress is perfectly natural, normal and expected.
I am not going to profess to have ‘5 tips to never have stress again’, but there are things that help. Next time someone around you looks like they are stressed, hints that they are having a hard time or just having a bad day. Speak to them, take five minutes, just to see how they feel you don’t even have to try and help just listen.
Taking five minutes to listen to someone, so they don’t feel alone, weak, like they have done something wrong or that they are not good enough. This may well be enough just to calm their breathing, reduce the cortisol and adrenaline levels and bring them back to a balance that they can deal with.
I am on a mission to coach others to be proud of their stress. For the word not to be taboo, for you to celebrate that you pushed your boundaries, know your limits and deal with future spikes effectively and share your experience and knowledge with others.
Originally published at medium.com