Are you managing-stress levels on a daily basis?
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The daily commute equals Stress City!
Oh boy, try managing-stress levels when it’s sweltering in the UK and London is experiencing one of its hottest days since 1976. ( Recorded 21st June 2017.)
First thing in the morning people are crowded onto the tube (underground) train – virtually almost cheek to cheek.
Silently trying to avert their gaze whilst staring up the nostrils, or worse down at the shirt or blouse, of a fellow traveller! Ever noticed people who stand with their eyes closed?
It’s not the most comfortable way to travel, physically it’s hot and sweaty, emotionally it’s stressful but it’s something a lot of people appear to generally learn to live with, because they see no alternative, and need to get to work on time!
What’s the difference between individual stress and chronic stress?
This is very different to individual stress events, like imagine the boss arrives at your desk and says ‘Office now ______’, or you’re feeling stressed because you’ve ‘just had an argument with ______again…sheesh!’ This kind of stress is very much in the foreground of the mind when it happens and applies to circumstances where there is a resolution in sight. You meet with your boss, you have the outcome or later you make up with_____.
Chronic inescapable stress:
Lurks in the background and is persistent. What can you do about it…
The daily rush hour train commute can set up a persistent type of stress. Yes, there is an end in sight but suddenly there is a signal problem on the line, and bang goes another 5 minutes waiting in a tunnel. Building up your expectation of being late for work…again! And guess what – yep, we may have to go through it all again this evening and tomorrow….
Without strategies to cope it’s a daily, 5 times a week annoying affair and a creeping stress builder.
Looking on the lighter side we can still look forward to our weekend break from the commute, and taking into account those yearly holidays!
Making sense of what’s going on can help some people.
It’s said that our conscious mind is at any one time aware of just those things we need to be aware of – like now you’re reading or listening to this blog.
We are designed to place out of mind anything we don’t need to be aware of in this moment. That gets sent into the background or our sub-conscious mind where its monitored for possible changes, when it will come back into your awareness.
” Doh! Just missed my tube stop because I had zoned out…you get the idea.”
With persistent chronic inescapable stress, we can be emotionally aroused and reacting to the discomfort of the situation at the ‘unconscious’ level.
One of the reasons for experiencing negative emotional arousal is because as humans, we prefer to be within a ‘herd’ of people who we can relate to.
Be that individuals or groups of people who are like minded and share similar values, we find that stepping outside of those familiar ‘herds’ can be unsettling.
So, one can speculate that traveling in close confinement everyday with people we don’t know, in the rush hour, can arouse our natural internal security system to feel stressed-out which can trigger a type of ‘danger-alert’ felt by our body and experienced as anxiety.
Even when we consciously recognize that all is safe. Add the annoying commuter with a splash of signal failure on the line and our internal alarm bells, including our emotions get ramped up!
We may become consciously used to the daily crush, we may zone out on the journey. We may rationalize our experience, as it’s the only way to get to work.
But our unconscious doesn’t get that and at a deeper level is still reacting to the stress of it all.
We get off the train and feel a huge sense of relief. Or we feel agitated and angry with the prospect that we may have had to tell the boss that the train was delayed. Even if, after all that worry, the facts are that we arrived on time.
And of course, sometimes the opposite occurs and we have to face the boss or our team members. Forgetting that they will probably be late too. Time to reach for the ritualistic coffee or cigarette – but that’s another story for another time.
All is not lost! You don’t have to be resigned to fate!
What’s inside your control?
Very often it’s a feeling of a loss of control that creates so much stress for us as human beings. So, what alternatives could give you a sense of control and therefore begin to calm down that unconscious emotional arousal
Taking back control!
It could all start the night before! Firstly, sit down with a piece of paper and make a list in a column on the left of things that cause you stress at the beginning of your day. What one action could you take to make an improvement.
For example, it could be to make an evening plan on what to prioritize in the new day with a couple of ideas and an adaptable order for actions.
Managing-stress by Breathing:
If you find your breathing has become shallow, or you’re forgetting to breathe whilst crowded in that metal tube – try this 7/11 technique. This activity connects with the ‘para-sympathetic’ nervous system that tells the brain to step off the anxiety accelerator, whist calming down your nervous system.
Managing-stress with decent bed time routines:
That means you could get up earlier and take the opportunity to walk a bit further before getting on the underground.
Managing-stress through exercise:
Exercise encourages endorphins to flow, in preference to the cortisol-stress hormones. Endorphin’s are the body’s natural opiates, producing a positive feeling in the body.
Exit the underground earlier too and take that extra stroll to work.
Managing-stress means building in fun:
Think ahead to include something which is fun in your day, or just relaxing. That could be as simple as making a lunch time promise to yourself for a 20-minute walk in the local park.
Managing-stress through distraction:
So, you’re on the underground and a seat has become available! Read a book, or meditate. Have plenty of water to sip.
Acts of kindness.
What could you do to make the journey better for your fellow commuters? And notice the positive things that people do for others too. Not everyone is grumpy…
You may like to give some of these tips a go because every little bit helps when we’re seeking healthier outcomes from our daily traveling routines.
If travel is becoming or has always been more of a problem producing heightened anxiety or panic attacks then this could be time to get some professional therapy. It’s never too late to seek help when wanting positive changes.
For appointments in my office, or via Skype or alternative on-line meeting links.
“It’s bad enough most of us spend an hour a day getting to and from work, but spare a thought for those extreme commuters who travel for more than 10, or even 15, hours a week. “TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady Source: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2015/nov/09/million-people-two-hours-commuting-tuc-study
Source: BBC Radio 4 – News/weather report for 21st June 2017
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