Have you taken time off work because of stress? Does stress zap your energy, and make you feel lethargic? Are you tired of stress making you feel ill?
Most of us have felt the full force and effects of excessive stress. The queue at the doctor's surgery is long because of stress, with burnout and fatigue both obvious causes. But stress has a habit of insidiously creeping up on us, with the cause not always clear.
Arm yourself with these three eye-opening reasons stress will make you ill.
#1: IT'S SCIENCE
Let's say your colleague (who has a cold) sneezes over five of your co-workers. Colds spread like wildfire through the office, but only two out of five of your colleagues get ill. Why?
Being overstressed produces excessive amounts of cortisol (the chemical we release that helps us deal with stress). Helping us cope with stress is one of cortisol's nice effects – the not so nice one is the impact it can have on anxiety and depression. Adversely, an increase in cortisol can increase anxiety and depression, resulting in more stress.
Your body has trillions of cells. Billions of cells get replenished every day. In a state of high stress, these cells don't get replaced as often as they would when you feel mentally and physically healthy.
A combination of excessive cortisol, high stress and a lack of cells being replenished can all lead to a long cycle of ill health. It will undoubtedly make catching the office cold a much more likely outcome.
#2: YOU SEE ALL STRESS AS BAD STRESS
Stress can be brutal at times. It's for this reason we can be forgiven for thinking all stress is bad. With such a mindset, it's easy to get overwhelemed by stress and let it permeate our health.
When you feel like you're drowning in a pool of stress, don't fight it. Fighting a natural reaction to the curveballs and challenges life and work present feels like an endless swim against the tide. You simply will not win that battle.
Stop splashing and spluttering. Appreciate that stress is going to be part of work and life, whatever you wish for or choose to believe. Go with it, sound in the knowledge stress is good. Don't fight it. Allow it to take you where you're heading.
When you stop fighting stress and go with it, you'll go with the current. You'll naturally continue to face challenges, but rather than life feeling out of control and manic, your resilience to stress will grow with your ability to work with it.
A simple change in mindset (knowing that stress can be healthy) can result in an entirely different experience.
#3: YOU THINK YOU'RE SUPERHUMAN
We act like Superman and Wonder Woman, only to have our egos and pride crushed when one day, we don't want to get out of bed in the morning.
No one is immune to burnout and fatigue.
Facing excessive stress doesn't make you weak – it makes you human.
We all have what I call a 'stress pot' – a limit as to how much stress we can take before wanting to implode. This limitation is different for everyone. It won't be the same as your colleague, partner or friend. (So do yourself a big favour and stop comparing yourself to them.)
It pays to know when you're overloading your stress pot based on how you feel.
A superhero will recognise their limitation and work within that. They won't pretend everything is OK when it's not. They're not afraid to say enough is enough; I need a break.
The superhero gets a day off, and everyone benefits in the long run.