According to mental health charity MIND, being under pressure is a normal part of life. But becoming overwhelmed by stress can lead to mental health issues or make existing problems worse.
Today marks National Stress Awareness Day and the day offers an opportunity to take a moment and focus again on our wellbeing and think about stress and how we manage it. And, more importantly, do we manage it?
If the answer is NO, how do you go about tackling a feeling that we all share at some time or another…
In her 2015 report, Nuffield Scholar and Director of the Focussed Farmers Project, Holly Beckett claimed that ‘mindfulness’ could help reduce stress, support consistent leadership skills, increase innovation, develop more effective leadership and increase the overall growth of the agricultural industry.
According to Holly: ‘The first step in stress management is learning what stress is and how it arises. When you understand the damage that stress does to the physical body and your mental state – it is quite a motivation to learn how to reduce it and if possible – eliminate it all together.
‘In evolutionary terms, the stress response was developed to save our lives – you may have heard of the fight or flight response. We are wired to not really pay attention to everyday, small things that are going on around us due to the brain saving its attentional spotlight for things that startled us or posed a threat – have you ever been accused of not paying attention? Not really hearing what your loved one or colleague is saying to you?
Holly continues: ‘Instead, what we often listen to is the 70,000 thoughts that pass through our mind each day, whilst we’re not fully paying attention to our surroundings and it is these which can cause us stress. Thinking about things that might happen, often thinking the worst of a situation. What if the milk price drops, what if the black grass gets worse, what if we have another bad winter, another summer of drought…These thoughts are not reality, but our mind cannot tell the difference and often through this allowance of constant mind-chatter, the stress response in the body is also triggered.
The damage to our bodies from stress can be very harmful and there are many ways in which we can recognise stress to know we need to do something different in our lives;
• Having trouble sleeping.
• Being short tempered or irritable
• Lack of appetite – or over-eating for some people.
• Getting frequent colds or other ailments
• Feeling panicked or anxious regularly
• Not being able to concentrate on one task
So what can we do to bust stress in our busy everyday lives?
Stephanie Berkeley, who leads the Farm Safety Foundation, has been working with Dr Amy Irwin and the NTS Ag team at the School of Psychology, University of Aberdeen on a short animation which highlights some practical recommendations
Talk about your worries:
Spend time with someone you trust. Talk to a friend, partner, parents or counsellor. Talk to your mates, you might be surprised to find out that they are or have experienced similar difficulties.
The help you need is available and people do care more than you realise, so all you have to do is SPEAK UP!
Eat a variety of fresh foods in a balanced diet.
Some foods actually cause increased tension, for example, coffee, tea, chocolate, alcohol and soft drinks.
These are foods we crave when we are stressed so be aware and try to limit your intake of them.
Make time to exercise, take time out, and spend time with family and friends:
Make some time (3 times a week minimum) for exercise such as walking, swimming or something you enjoy.
Give yourself a breather now and then.
Spend time with family and friends or find ways of meeting new friends.
Organise your work habits:
Get up 5 or 10 minutes earlier so you don’t have to rush.
Break large projects down into more manageable smaller tasks.
Spend 5 to 10 minutes at the end of the day preparing for the next day. This helps you gain control of your life.
Try to find a solution to conflict.
Learn to be more assertive and say NO.
Get enough sleep:
To help sleep, take a walk in the evening, practice relaxation or mindfulness????
Make your bedroom a sleeping zone which means remove the TV and your mobile phone or put it on airplane mode.
Put fun and laughter in your life:
Laughter really is the best medicine and has proven to be good for health and makes you feel good.
People deal with stress in different ways and one approach may be practical for one person but entirely unsuitable for another so you need to find out what will work practically for you.
According to Holly: ‘Recent developments in neuroscience (looking at the brain) have discovered that we can exercise to build the muscles in our brains, whatever age we are and mental training can build memory, concentration, focus, and creativity and reduce the stress
‘The body of scientific evidence is wide and expanding to support that the development of mindfulness, achieved by certain forms of meditation, results in an improvement in state of mind, protecting mental wellness and makes changes exceedingly quickly when a regular practice is undertaken.
To learn more about how you can manage your mind and reduce the risk of your mind mis-managing you, visit www.focussedfarmers.com and sign up for a free video series on how to develop purposeful focus.
The Farm Safety Foundation team have been working with NTSAg, School of Psychology at The University of Aberdeen on various projects including a Stress Management leaflet which you can download HERE or if you, or someone you know, is affected by stress and you would like more information and guidance, the Rural Support Directory has been developed by The YANA Project in partnership with Worshipful Company of Farmers and ourselves here at the Farm Safety Foundation and can offer a wealth of support in your local area. CLICK HERE