Dealing with Stress & Lack of Sleep
The word stress is an indication of pressure or tension. Originally, it was describing a physical constraint that mechanical piece can endure like a cable or an arch for a bridge.
Today, stress is more used to describe our modern life style. There are two reasons for that:
- The complexity of our existence, our present life style is more complex than older times. Today, we must process more in formations (bank codes, social security, door access code, telephone, fax numbers and internet address numbers). The environment itself is more complex than before. For example, to navigate from an industrial park around a big metropolitan city, with all the cloverleaves access ramps, the indication panels and the intense traffic of other vehicles during rush hours. Actually, further the loss of feeling to be in control over the environment increases the level of stress dramatically.
- The frequent changes at a rapid pace, our lives are marked with a multitude of changes with higher frequency and more rapid rhythms. Change of job, change of residency, and changes of colleagues, friends and family. Today, we know well that the stress level is totally correlated with the number of changes imposed to the persons.
Now days, stress and the adaptation to our environment are linked, adapting to the change is totally part of the definition of stress.
Stress and Performance
In 1906, two American researchers, Yerkes and Dodson, have pointed out the evident well-known phenomenon today. The relation between the degree of activation, and the success to perform a task (at that time stress was not yet in usage). They demonstrated a Double Inverted Curve of Stress Versus Performance.
It is like what happens for the car: you must avoid underrun or overrun of the engine, the optimal performances for a given person are located in a medial zone of stimulation.
The curve is automatically shaping to fit identically to the task to be performed either simply or in a more complex way. But in case of a complex task, the best result is obtained with a lower level of stress
Stress, anxiety, and depression
Generally, there are confusions in regard to those three different situations. Stress is not a sickness, whereas anxiety or depression is pathological. An easy way to look at it:
A person is stressed when the signs that are complained about, appears only in the presence of stressors. If the work is stressful, one will feel better during weekends and holidays that means when the person will be at the distance of the stressor.
Anxiety is an appropriated term when the symptoms are persisting without the presence of the stressor. If long after or before to be exposed to the stressor, the person complains of different occurrences of tension or anxious matters, it is not any longer stress but rather anxiety. In this example. The person still persists to be a concern with the job despite the vacations or the weekend. The person has internalized the stress and can produce alone its own stress at the distance of the stressor.
Sometimes, what a patient indicates to the doctor as stress is in fact depression. The person becomes incapable to take any action, everything seems difficult and insurmountable, a feeling of acute tense, frustration, sadness, discouragement.
As much the stressed or anxious persons are still in action and capable of efforts to adapt, as much the depressed person renounce tot all efforts to fight and to think that any attempt to regain some control over the environment is unnecessary.
It is possible that those three phases can succeed one each other for the same person: exposed to too many important and repeated stressors, the person will first be stressed, then anxious and later might end up depressed.
Selye General Syndrome of Adaptation
After exposure to an acute stressor, the human organism first receives the blow, the time to mobilize resources (the alarm phase), then enter in a phase of resistance where all the physiological reactions are turned against the aggression, to then later drawn in power shortage when the energetic reserves are exhausted.
In a 1993 study produced in Geneva, Swiss, by the Bureau International of Travail (B.I.T):” Stress became one of the most important problems in today’s society, stress can endanger the physical and mental health of the persons, and furthermore, stress can cost a high price to the companies and national economies.”
In the United States only, the cost of stress for the industry is estimated already over 200 Billions of Dollars per year, in absenteeism, loss of productivity, health insurance, and direct medical costs. In Great Britain, it is considered to approach 10 percent of the Gross National Product.
We all are doing some kind of stress management without paying any attention to it: by walking few minutes to relax after a day’s work, by sharing confidences with a friend, Learning to react and deal with stressful situations
By being better prepared for what to expect, people can learn to improve how to cope with stress. Stress managers and consultants have developed many stress management programs.
Reacting to stress is an essential function of our organism, as essential than breathing or eating, excessive stress will trigger negative consequences. It is important to manage stress efficiently.
Focusing on Health
Comparing stress and nutrition is pertinent: to eat is necessary, but too much or improper eating habit can trigger health problems and shorten life expectancy.
It is better to contain our reactions to stress, as well as for our eating patterns, within non-damageable limits for our body. In short, managing stress is good for health.
Focusing on Efficiency
There is an optimal individual threshold in order for a person to be in peak performance and at best motivated. Therefore, it is interesting to mention the diversity of stress management programs focusing on sport or occupational specifics.
The action centered on the stressor
Find a way to either not to be exposed to the stressor or reduce at least your exposure if you cannot eliminate the cause of the stress.
The action centered on the reaction to the stress:
With this strategy, you manage your stress by engaging in action not on the stressor, but directly on your own reaction to stress.
Increasing stress resistance:
In this third approach, you neither act upon the stressor nor your reaction to stress. Your goal is here to minimize your overall stress resistance, to recover better health by increasing your resilience to stress.
– Perhaps you realize that the stressor is only added to your being already tense because of over load at work, or any other concerning personal or family matters.
– You might decide to get better organized in life, to get a nice walk, to do a sport and get in better shape, to keep available time for your family and friends.
In order to implement the above tree different stress management strategies, you can use one or several approaches individually or mixed together
– Relaxation various methods.
– Diaphragmic Breathing to benefit from Vagal Nervous System
– Behavioral approach.
– Cognitive approach.
– Stress moderators.
A stress management program can be composed with different ingredients: rather than “The” perfect stress management program, there is many different programs each to each person depending of his or her stressor, of their sign of stress and the specific character (likewise a diet must always be adjusted to the concerned person). Anyway, it is imperative that the program contains only approach that has been validated scientifically.
Relaxation is the opposite of stress
This peaceful stage called “relaxing response” can be described as the opposite to “stress reaction”.
Indeed, with a person in a relaxation phase, we can notice different parameters at the opposite of the reaction to stress.
– Reduced cardiac and respiratory responses.
– Lower muscular tonus.
– Warmer extremities due to deeper skin dilatation.
– Lower artery pressure.
– Lower circulating catecholamine levels (adrenalin, no adrenalin).
– Reduced activity of the limbic system (all the cerebral nucleus involved for the process of emotions and preservation of the organism)
– All the above phenomenon are equally observed with sleep, but during the phase of relaxation, the person stay awake, and can voluntarily interrupt at any time the process
– Opposite of stress reaction, the relaxation reaction can be differentiated with two major characteristics.
– Relaxation is voluntary and must be decided by the person, as the reaction to stress is spontaneous and involuntary.
– Relaxation must be learned as reactions to stress are ingrained.
In stress management, relaxation appears the most direct path to control stress reaction, by inverting the physiological discomforting reactions to excessive stress.
I) Cognitive versus behavioral psychology to teach and learn Cognition has for origin the Latin expression cognosco (I know). Psychologists label cognition all mental consent representations from the person (image, internal discourse, judgment, anticipation). In common language, “Thought” is a good synonym for cognition. Many authors have researched for methods to control or modify the cognitive process particularly under conditions of stress, including in the situation of learning to assist the person to think differently in order to manage better in regard of difficult situations.
When “thinking differently”, a stressed person can attempt to control the reaction to stress, it is the strategy of coping centered on emotions for controlling stress conditions.
Training to a cognitive path is a method to expose a person to different difficult or dangerous situations in a well control environment and to demonstrate ways to avoid difficulties and danger under the proper procedure.
The cognitive path is to make the brain of the person to have an immediate fearless response as “been there, done that”, “ I know that can do it, because I succeeded to do it before”. After all you can only recognize what you have been exposed to before. How can you remember what you do not know?.
For example, how can you recognize, or imagine the scent of the passion fruit if you never tasted it beforehand?
The more we can train a person to be exposed to master difficult situations in a safe educational environment, the more we train them to recognize danger swiftly, and the procedure to prevent further disastrous situations.
For example, we have demonstrated on a hydraulic skidpad facility that we can train a driver to avoid a loss of control of the vehicle. With a proper technique focusing on a central vision rather than a peripheral vision, the person can avoid skidding by looking only toward the escape path rather than locking-on to the dangerous obstacle.
Well train, the driver will not panic, recognize early signs of danger, and adjust properly the right maneuver within few milliseconds to maintain the right the trajectory.
The behavioral approach In the situation of danger, or situations of discomfort, or simply feeling estranged to new stressful situations, a person will be alarmed, concerned and eventually afraid. This is normal behavior under those circumstances.
We can venture to explain that the behavioral approach is to say that people react in such a particular way when exposed to such specific situations.
Under pressure, under fatigue, under stress, under the influence of alcohol, under misinformation, under insufficient training: people will act inappropriately and therefore unintentionally but surely dangerously for themselves and others!
Behavioral psychology supplies a lot of formations about how people react when exposed to certain situations in life, it exemplifies the relation of the cause from effect. But Cognitive psychology can explain what is the process to perceive or to feel in regard to different situations, it exemplifies the relation of the effect from the cause.
Under proper training, we can educate a person to react because well informed differently and subsequently modify the effect that the cause would have had if not well prepared.
By teaching the symptoms of problems, stress, accident, danger, we train to avoid disastrous consequences, independently of the cause of potentially difficult situations one can be exposed in a constantly changing environment of our modern life.
II) What motivation is behind people to make a change
It is easy to reengineer a product, it is more difficult to transform a company, and it is difficult to change a corporation policy, procedure and attitude. It is easy to create new products, new laws, a new society, but it is difficult to have the people to use it. Why? It is just because it is difficult to change over habits, attitudes, and usage by the people.
People have a tendency to play to keep for what they think they know, instead of changing for what they do not know.
What you do not know is naturally not of interest, therefore if you get better informed, educated, and exposed to something new, you might well consider looking into it. Particularly, if it feels good or makes sense, you might go for it now on.
Habits are resilient and strong, but change can be quick if people like the sampling test they can be eventually exposed to.
Health and safety campaigns are not much successful, because people are used to doing it the “old way”. For example, protecting lives with safe sex education does only work (partially) after that people are heavily exposed to massive aid campaigns to protect them from the dangers to enter in relations with others.
This is the difficulty of rapidly trying to change behaviors in modern quick-paced society. We can explain the consequences and the cause of the problems, but we can find how to operate the transition to better situations.
Particularly it is more difficult to transfer the concept of prevention and preventive maintenances. Why to bother before the problem becomes a serious concern!
Remember, you do not know what you have not experienced before. This is why we are advocating not teaching about pain and difficulties, but rather educating about well-being. It is difficult to make someone change his or her pattern if we cannot show him or her improvements in a preferably physical or at least realistic manner.
There is no progress without stress. To change, one needs first to recognize a problem or a need and to dream about an improving solution to his or her personal specific situation. People have to imagine a better situation in order to project themselves into a “cool” sweeter outcome.
Show me the progress! , Show me the better feeling! , Show me a better life! The answer is difficult because even if we show other persons an example, he or she will not perceive how it relates to them personally.
The solution is motivation. Only motivated students can learn, only motivated teachers can educate. It takes motivated persons to be trained by motivated educators.
One more time, we believe that the secret is first to present an honest proposition and to show the benefits with a cognitive process. By experiencing so to speak in the flesh, trough repetitive short hand-on sessions to be exposed to a new technique.
To well educate, we need good educators, to motivate, we need a more needed in demand of individuals: good motivators. Both educators and trainers need to possess pedagogical skills in order to properly motivate by real applied examples to him or her who listen and practice.
We have been able to witness that the individual physical cognitive process can work rapidly by small steps but sure visible progress increments.
The key to motivation for change is to make it easily accessible and immediately understandable. It does work for me! Is it not the best and only testimonial to adhere durably to novelty and progress?
Metacognition and Self Care
As discussed in the definitions, metacognition is the practice of thinking about thinking. The following section is intended to provide you with resources to assess how you evaluate your current thought process and condition.
This survey was modified from an assessment of self-care in child welfare workers.
Answer the questions honestly as they relate to you as A) Not at all B) Slight Extent C) Moderate Extent D) Great Extent E) Very Great Extent
1. I work with teams within my organization.
2. I request and expect regular supervision and supportive consultation.
3. I utilize peer support.
4. I attend regular safety training.
5. I balance my caseloads so that I am not dealing with too much.
6. I have sufficient release time and safe physical space to relax in.
7. I attend training on secondary trauma.
8. I seek continuing education on the effects of trauma on helping professionals.
9. I utilize agency resources such as employee assistance programs for intermittent support if needed.
10. I cultivate a workplace culture that normalizes (and does not stigmatize) getting help for mental health professionals.
11. I would consider therapy for unresolved trauma that my work may be activating.
12. I set realistic goals and expectations for myself.
13. I practice stress management through meditation, prayer, conscious relaxation, deep breathing, and exercise.
14. I have developed a written plan for myself that is focused on work-life balance.
What were your answers? If you find that a majority of your responses were not at all or a slight extent you may need to engage in MindfulChoice℠ to find a solution. This may require reaching out to your organization, friends, or family.
Please feel free contacting us at https://mindfocusedcoaching.com