I chatted with Ruth where we talked about the challenges of carrying around stress in our lives and how we can find our own strategies to overcome this often stigmatised condition many of us face.
Do you know the difference between stress and pressure? Ruth talks about the difference and how illnesses can aggravated by everyday stress that is allowed to build and escalate unchecked. By using techniques we can learn to reduce our stress levels, organisations can also promote good health by removing some of the causes of stress in the workplace. Each person can have their own triggers, often something in their personal life, a lived experience or even some childhood memory that doesn't get left behind. Negative experiences can build and compound and we just aren't able to offload without tackling our stress as an illness. With Health and Wellness being promoted in many organisation it is important that learning to overcome stress is part of their Good Mental Health programmes and to remove the sigma of talking about their stress.
Joanne sat down to talk to Ruth Fogg of Stressworx to discuss ‘Stress! We don’t need to suffer and be victims to our emotions.’
Ruth believes that we tend to not fully understand what causes us stress. Everyone will experience stress at some point in their lives, so it is something we can all identify with, but if we can understand the reasons why we are stressed, what triggers it and learn how to manage it; then it stops being able to control us. Ruth’s strap line is ‘positive solutions for peace of mind’, the idea being that if you have peace of mind, stress will not affect you as you will be able to cope with any curve balls life throws your way.
By delving into our childhoods, we can begin to understand how memories are stored in the subconscious mind. Our conscious mind only makes up about 5% compared to the subconscious part – meaning things become automatic, we only think about things when we are learning and then it becomes second nature. When we experience an upsetting event/incident this is stored as a memory and our subconscious mind can bring back these old feelings if triggered by something in the current day. Unless we know how to deal with this initial upsetting memory it stays there and will continue to grow until it becomes insurmountable.
One of the biggest hurdles to overcoming stress is that we often do not acknowledge it until it is too late. As Ruth states: prevention is better than cure. This is due to stigma and confusion between pressure and stress. We absorb stress like a sponge and carry it with us and if we do not address this, then it can make us ill. Statistics show that 80% of illnesses can be linked to stress. We need to try and deal with the route cause and Ruth is an advocate of self-help methods and coping strategies. It is important, and often empowering for people to be able to feel as though they are helping themselves. It is hard to differentiate between stress and anxiety, because if you are anxious then you are likely to also be stressed. Our value systems and resulting conflicting believes can be big causes of stress and this can be within the workplace or home life, affecting relationships. These can all trigger lack of self-esteem and confidence, but it may be that you are just within the wrong setting/culture where you do not feel you can be yourself. Beliefs that we have instilled upon us at a young age can have a negative impact on us throughout our lives.
Ruth points out that stress can affect people of any age. Within children it tends to manifest in behaviour, so they may not be sleeping, eating etc. Ruth finds younger children respond well to a worry animal that they can talk to and put under their pillow, who takes their worries away overnight. Teenagers especially seem to suffer stress, as they try to find their identity and place in the world.
What the mind suppresses, the body will express. People often forget about the mind body connection and we focus too much on physical, rather than mental health. Our behaviour can be greatly affected by stress, often causing irritability and a feeling that you need to push people away, something that exacerbates the issue. Although people’s awareness of mental health has been raised, the subsequent action and ways to receive help needs improvement. During the COVID 19 pandemic the CAMS waiting list has increased to between 6-7 months, so we have resulting suicides while people are waiting for help. Before lockdown organisations were losing on average 12 billion pounds to stress, which equates to £1,035 per person. These figures do not include money lost due to presentism, where people are not well enough to be at work but are too worried to not be there. Statistics show for every £1 invested in any form of stress management training there is a £3 return showing that happy people are far more productive.
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