Stress is both friend and foe. The stress response itself has evolved to protect us from danger. Boiled down, it’s the flight-or-fight response that gets the body ready for action.
Now in the good old days, this worked a charm if you needed to outrun a hungry dinosaur say, but less so if the perceived threat is a looming deadline, difficult boss, or a challenging client or agency discussion.
A recent study by Workfront found that 71% of marketers admitted to feeling “burnt out” while 66% said they expect their stress levels at work to increase.
With the events co-ordinator role listed as the 5th most stressful job in the world (the 5th) it was unsurprising to find In the recent Eventwell study that 1 in 3 respondents had had personal experience of a mental health disorder.
Stress is often caused by three key things:
Work related stress
This results from lack of control over work and working conditions, lack of recognition, high levels of expectation and the demands of the role.
This results from focusing too much on work without enough ‘life’, a lack of support, lack of proper nutrition, sleep or personal self care and too many responsibilities (both inside and outside the work place. In addition financial and relationship stresses are common in this category.
For those type A, perfectionist types – we’re talking to you. The constant need for control and perfection can often result in higher levels of stress.
In the Eventwell study respondents cited the specific pressure and demands of working in the events industry included long hours, lack of routine, poor food availability, travel and high pressure work environments.
73% of respondents stated work load or responsibilities as their number one pressure.
To put this into context moving home was number 8 and bereavement was number 9. It’s little wonder the people working in our industry experience such high levels of stress.
The simple fact is, most of us, at some time, will experience stress and even harness it to our benefit. However, consistent and long-term exposure to stress plays havoc with our bodies. Here are just a few of the ways stress impacts your body:
- Increased cortisol production: Associated with weight gain (especially in the stomach), inability to lose weight or gain muscle, premature aging.
- Decreased nutrient absorption: Due to decreased enzymatic production from the stomach, pancreas and liver, decreased bile flow from gall bladder, decreased oxygenation and gastrointestinal blood flow.
- Increased nutrient excretion: Urinary loss of calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, chromium, selenium, and various microminerals.
- Decreased gut flora populations: Healthy intestinal bacteria are destroyed by stress, which can lead to immune problems, skin disorders, nutrient deficiencies, and digestive distress.
- Increase in salt retention: Can lead to high blood pressure.
- Decrease in thermic efficiency: Your ability to burn calories is diminished.
- Decrease in thyroid hormone: Can lead to a decrease in metabolic activity throughout the body.
- Increase in blood cholesterol: Stress by itself will raise LDL levels.
- Decrease in sex hormones: Can mean lower sex drive, low energy, decreased muscle mass.
- Increase in inflammation: The basis of many significant ailments, including brain and heart disease.
- Increased swallowing rate: A fast swallowing rate is a likely factor in digestive upset.
- Increased food sensitivities and allergies: Plenty of anecdotal evidence, most likely due to decreased immunity and leaky gut.
When your body is flooded with chemicals to prepare to “fly or fight” what you need to do is to access the relaxation state. This response puts the brakes on stress and brings your body and mind back into a state of equilibrium. How you react to stress may influence the relaxation technique that works best for you:
If you tend to become angry, agitated or wound up under stress then it’s likely you are in the “fight response”. If this is you, then you’ll respond best activities that slow and quieten you, such as meditation, listening to relaxing music, deep breathing, or guided visualisation.
If you tend to become depressed, withdrawn, or spaced out under stress then it’s likely you are in the “flight response” and you’ll respond best to stress relief activities that energise and stimulate your nervous system, such as exercise, massage or something like power yoga.
If you tend to “freeze” or become “stuck” under stress, your need to invoke the fight or flight response so you can choose the best stress relief techniques. To do this, choose a physical activity that engages both your arms and legs, such as running, dancing, or yoga and focus on the sensations in your limbs as you move.
This will help you in the short term, but do you want to know the secret to reducing stress in your life?
Self care. Period.
Prioritising your self care on a regular and consistent basis creates space, supports your wellbeing, means you have time for health promoting activities like proper nutrition, exercise, time out, time with friends – it means you balance your world.
It’s not just a quick break, or a week or two in the sun, it’s about daily, focused and unwavering commitment to looking after your physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.
It won’t remove stress from your life, if only, but it will give you better tools to cope when stressful situations happen.
About the Author
Melissa Noakes is an Experiential Marketing specialist and listed in Event 100 as a leading figure in the UK’s event industry. She is also a trained health coach, life coach Hypnotherapist and NLP practitioner and is the author of The Little Book of Self Care published by Penguin.