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Updated: Nov 5, 2021

Well the episodes have been coming thick and fast this last two weeks but this is the last in that rapid fire series which I have been releasing in response to the Covid19 situation here in the UK. As always do not fret however as if you are listening to this in the brighter and better future which I believe we will be enjoying sometime soon, as this one is back on track and very much another of my evergreen shows which reflect every day life and work. In the last episode I discussed freelance anxieties and money woes with productivity expert and trainer David Thomas of David Thomas Media who was filled with incredible advice. If you missed it then please check back and give it a listen. David was an incredible guest and his wisdom and positive energy make it a very valuable show.

Today though we are looking at something which I’ve been no stranger to myself over the last few years and it’s still something that I suffer with from time to time. Largely I have it covered but I can’t deny that stress and Anxiety are two things that tie and again become unwelcome guests at my table.

The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another... said William James, but if only it were so simple. Stress, which is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances and its close cousin; Anxiety: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome are not things which can be so easily wished away.

The other day there I lost my mobile phone, that’s a cellphone for you US and Canadian listeners. I’d been watching Youtube in my bed before getting up, and you can look out for a future episode on TECHNOLOGY ADDICTION for more on that – I’ll be honest with you – I have a problem with it – but anyway… I’d watched some Youtube Vids, then got up and showered before heading into a fight direction job, but when I came out the shower I could not for the life of me find that phone.

For the next two and a half hours I turned my house upside down looking for it and my previously happy and in control state of mind rapidly descended into a jabbering wreck of woolly minded stress. I checked every place I might have put it and then I rechecked and checked them again. I tried to find it using the SAMSUNG FIND MY PHONE APP but I kept on getting a fail to load message and I couldn’t get in and that frustrated me even further.

The phone, you see, was still on both do not disturb and silent from the day before. I even got to the point that I looked in the fridge and it sounds crazy but I also looked in the stew that I was making. I was really getting worked up about it and talked through it to myself again and again, running through where I’d been and what I’d been doing that morning countless times and I got increasingly anxious about it due to the job that I’d have to go to.

The phone was something I used all the time, not just for communication but also on the jobs that I do to take photos and videos of rehearsals etc. I begun to even doubt my sanity and started thinking someone had come in and stolen it or that it was in the car, but I knew, absolutely, that I’d not been out to the car. The only good thing that came of all this is that I knew I could talk about it here on the stress episode I had coming up.

Anyway I got it in the end as the find my phone app finally worked and it was in a very random place on a high shelf hidden behind the kitchen door. At a random point in the morning you see I’d cleaned a whiteboard, that’s another addiction of mine, and when I picked up the cloth to clear the board, I’d lain the phone down on the shelf where the wipe cloth had been sitting. So mystery solved, but I had to accept that I had gotten very very stressed about the whole thing indeed.

I try to take it one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once. Ashleigh Brilliant Unquote

I feel like I’m always harping on about it here on the show but I had the mother or all stress related breakdowns back in 2012 after I’d made my first feature so getting stressed out about a lost phone like that made me worry a little about my own health and wellbeing and take a bit of a step back. Of course I was never really in jeopardy of having a breakdown just because of a lost phone, but if perhaps I’d lost it on top of a series of other setbacks, when I was already feeling frustrated or anxious about things or when my mental wellbeing had taken hits from a series of rejections other problems for example, then the stress of losing a phone could have pushed me well into a state of mental overwhelm, and from there it’s only a hop skip and a jump into going mental illness. As I talked about in my comfort eating episode it can take a build up of a few very small things to begin to stress me out.

It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it. Hans Selye Unquote

Stress has both an emotional and physical effect on us and it’s something that all of us humans have to face in our lives. It can come from any event or thought, an experience that makes you feel angry, frustrated, disappointed, pressured, tired, nervous or overwhelmed. Symptoms include; tiredness, insomnia, headaches, chest pain, muscle pain, appetite changes and poor sex drive. It also lowers the responses of the immune system as hormones are released as part of the body’s response.

The Mental Health Foundation did a study of stress in 2018. It is the largest known study of stress levels in the UK. Here are some of the figures from that study.

§ In the past year, 74% of people have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope.

§ 30% of older people reported never feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope in the past year, compared to 7% of young adults.

§ 46% reported that they ate too much or ate unhealthily due to stress. 29% reported that they started drinking or increased their drinking, and 16% reported that they started smoking or increased their smoking.

It also gives stats on the Psychological effects of stress

§ 51% of adults who felt stressed reported feeling depressed, and 61% reported feeling anxious.

§ Of the people who said they had felt stress at some point in their lives, 16% had self-harmed and 32% said they had had suicidal thoughts and feelings.

§ 37% of adults who reported feeling stressed reported feeling lonely as a result.

Finally the study lists these stats in relation to causes of stress

§ 36% of all adults who reported stress in the previous year cited either their own or a friend/relative's long-term health condition as a factor. This rose to 44% of adults over 55.

§ Of those who reported feeling stressed in the past year, 22% cited debt as a stressor.

§ For people who reported high levels of stress, 12% said that feeling like they need to respond to messages instantly was a stressor.

§ 49% of 18-24 year olds who have experienced high levels of stress, felt that comparing themselves to others was a source of stress, which was higher than in any of the older age groups.

§ 36% of women who felt high levels of stress related this to their comfort with their appearance and body image, compared to 23% of men.

§ Housing worries are a key source of stress for younger people (32% of 18-24 year olds cited it as a source of stress in the past year). This is less so for older people (22% for 45-54 year olds and just 7% for over 55s).

§ Younger people have higher stress related to the pressure to succeed. 60% of 18-24 year olds and 41% of 25-34 year olds cited this, compared to 17% of 45-54s and 6% of over 55s).

I will link to this study as always in the show notes of this episode. Full show notes will be shown on the official website

You don't know what people are really like until they're under a lot of stress. Tim Allen Unquote

People with high levels of stress will likely have a quicker trigger for frustration, or become irritable much more easily and it can lead to life-altering conditions such as High blood pressure, headaches, stomach ulcers, chronic insomnia, obesity, and diabetes.

It can also cause abnormal physical behaviours such as abuse of tobacco, drugs or alcohol and sometimes stress can cause issues like over or under eating. These are common physical effects that stress has on us.

I could go on all day about the symptoms but if you are a living breathing human being, especially one that has an interest in this topic, then you’ll already be very much aware of what stress is. Don’t worry though, as ever, there are solutions to our problems.

Everybody is different when it comes to stress and how they react to it. When you are in a stressful situation it can cause an increase in the level of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol in your body.

The physical symptoms of fight or flight are what the human body has learned over thousands of years to operate efficiently and at the highest level...anxiety is a cognitive interpretation of that physical response. John Eliot Unquote

While I’m on that quote. For me stress comes from worry about where I am now and things that I am immediately dealing with. Anxiety is similar but it comes from worry about tomorrow, the future or put simply, the unknown.

The stress related chemical reactions I mentioned cause what in layman’s terms is known as the “fight or flight” response. This is hard-wired into our brains, and born out of the fear and worry we once had for being eaten by sabre toothed tigers or let’s face it, other bad humans who once upon a time may have wanted to kill us. They are the remnants of an instinct designed to protect us from bodily harm when we are under some kind of threat in our lives.

When stress comes along it can be tough but there are ways of dealing with it and preparing to reduce it. I’ve delved back into the notes I have from the 6 week Stress Control class that I took part in, post breakdown back in 2012, and the advice I derived from that experience is as follows.

  1. Deal with problems on the spot. Don't bottle up your feelings. Use techniques like the 5 second rule or perhaps more appropriately the 2 minute rule to ensure that your troubles don’t build up and cause you more and more stress as time goes on.

  2. Strong confiding relationships. Today’s lesson was partly compiled by Megan Reilly who points out that talking to someone can help relieve some of the frustration you have on your mind and that talking to someone you don’t know might help instead of talking to someone you know. It all depends on your comfort zones. I’d add to this that - If someone you're close to is stressed there are lots of practical things you can do to support them – even though you probably can't change the situation they're in. I’m going to link in the shownotes to a document you can download from which gives a lot of advice on stress. The section relating to this is very good. It suggests that as a relative or friend, that you can Help someone to reflect on whether they are stressed by listening to them, reassuring them that stressful situations can pass, and the you can help them identify their triggers, address the causes of stress and help them to practice some relaxation techniques. It’s a short but very useful pdf so look to the shownotes for more information.

  3. The 3rd thing my notes suggest when feeling stressed is that you Slow down. If you don't get as much as you'd like done it's no big deal. There's always another day. This is something I’ve been struggling with lately as I have had a bit of a motivation loss in recent weeks, and it is certainly making me more stressed. It’s good to recognise that slowing down and missing a few self set deadlines may be no bad thing. Along with this I’d say get some sleep. This is a common problem when you’re stressed. Could your physical or mental health be impacting your ability to sleep? Could you amend your environment to help improve your sleep? Could you get up instead of staying in bed when your mind is worrying at night? Could you make small changes to your lifestyle to help your get a restful sleep? I’ll link in the show notes to an article I found:

  4. One thing at a time. Don't overload your system. Don't try to keep too many balls in the air at the one time. I no longer multi task because I found it frustrating. I use this method every day to get things done one thing at a time. It’s true that putting one thing off to do another can make you feel a little stressed but the pay off of ticking off tasks much quicker is worth it.

  5. Must's and should's. Work out what you can cope with and be happy with this. If I do this I'll do this. If not I'll do it another time.

  6. Coping with ruts. Plan weekends. Do something different. Go for a drive. Go for a long walk. Take up new hobbies. This is yet another thing that’s been on my mind recently and I keep thinking of this quote by Steven Covey To achieve goals you've never achieved before, you need to start doing things you've never done before. Change things up. Be flexible. Don’t get stuck in a rut.

  7. Divide problems up. Make them a sum of their parts. It’s my most favourite technique which makes life easy. Split things up and easily tackle large and complex tasks rather than worrying about the whole thing being insurmountable.

  8. Past experience. Learn from your mistakes. How did you deal with this problem before?

  9. Eating. Over the long term try to eat more healthy foods. Stay away from fried and fatty foods. Cut down on salt. Eat more fruit, veg and whole wheat bread. Don't eat too much.

  10. Look and sound relaxed. Try to look calm. Relax. Just because we're in a STRESSFUL situation doesn't mean that we have to get stressed out. You may be in the storm. The key is, don't let the storm get in YOU. Joel Osteen Unquote

  11. Don't accept other peoples targets. Discuss them. If you can't agree say NO.

  12. Smoking.

  13. Situations beyond your control. Stop hitting your head off a brick wall unless you feel that the wall can come down. I learned long ago to focus on things you can control and don't even pay attention to things you don't. Bryan Cranston unquote

  14. Build relaxation into your life. Put time aside just for you. Take a walk, phone a friends, read a book, watch tv, listen to music. Get a dog.

  15. Prioritise. Decide what can be done and what can wait. Keep revising your list.

  16. Do the worst thing first. “If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first." Brian Tracy unquote. This is another way of saying that if you have two important tasks before you, start with the biggest, hardest, and most important task first.”

  17. Don't try to be superman or supergirl for that matter . Live with your faults. The house and job will be there long after I am gone. Don't try to be perfect. None of us are.

  18. Confide in others. Seek out who you can trust and let them know how you feel. They may be able to see ways out that you cannot.

  19. Other peoples shoes. What advice would you give someone else if they were in your shoes?

  20. Keep a structure to each day. Build routine in your life. Try to get out of the house as part of that structure. To go for a paper? Up, washed, dressed, breakfast. Eat at usual times, try to see people. Go to bed at a reasonable hour.

  21. Tablets

  22. Kiss it goodbye. Say goodbye to work when finished and get into life mode.

  23. Avoid caffeine: Because caffeine and stress can both elevate cortisol levels, high amounts of caffeine (or stress) can lead to the negative health effects associated with prolonged elevated levels of cortisol. Therefore, try to avoid any drinks with caffeine to lessen the impact of stress. I’d add though that small to moderate amounts of caffeine can lift your mood and give you a boost.

  24. Avoid Alcohol and other drugs which can make you paranoid about things you never thought you would be worried about. Alcohol is a depressant and can lead to you being unable to focus on the important things in life, leaving you in a mire of irrelevances that get you all worked up.

  25. Research also suggests that you can keep a stress diary and I can kinda see the value of this. As you write down everything you are feeling in your moments of stress it will get it off your chest. Then in the future, if you like, you can look back at it and reflect on the actions you took at that time so that you know how to cope with certain similar situations. For example how to be more confident in a job interview for the future if you were nervous and stressed out before. You can also write in a journal if you don’t feel like speaking to friends or professionals about your experiences” - Megan who helped put this episode together says on this subject “I write in a journal to help me think in certain situations I face in my life that I don’t understand. From writing it down in my journal, I can then stop, think and react in the most sensible and adult way. Mostly when I write in my journal, I tend to get things off my chest that are frustrating me or making me nervous. Sometimes I look back in my journal when I’m stuck in certain situations that I’d been in before. After that, I reflect and learn”

  26. Exercise. This can help relieve stress and allows to release frustration and anger. As mentioned before it can also help you to break you out of the rut that you find yourself in. Going for a jog, or walking the dog which I can vouch for, will help to relieve stress. even listening to music can help relieve stress as it eases your mind. Exercise is really important to me - it's therapeutic. So if I'm ever feeling tense or stressed or like I'm about to have a meltdown, I'll put on my iPod and head to the gym or out on a bike ride along Lake Michigan with the girls. Michelle Obama Unquote

  27. Sugar. You can also manage your stress by avoiding or reducing your intake of sugars. Too much sugar can cause energy crashes (sugar crashes) and this can lead to you feeling tired and irritable.

  28. On the back of that I’d add that you should just eat properly. Having a well-balanced and nutritious diet can not only help relieve your stress but can make you feel healthier and more positive in the future.

  29. Therapy – I’ve talked about this before and it’s not only something which we shouldn’t be embarrassed by but it’s a lot more affordable than you might imagine and it’s incredibly helpful if you are lost or locked up due to stress. When it comes to speaking up to health professionals it may be difficult at first, but it all takes time. If you have patience with the treatment you are given then it will work. Another option would be to join a group therapy class and talk your problems out with others.

  30. Calming breathing exercises Self-hypnosis and meditation have been scientifically proven to help alleviate stress after just eight weeks of a regular practice. Numerous studies have shown that meditation is an effective stress-management tool, ultimately reprogramming the brain to the extent that meditators end up with more capacity to manage stress. I’ll also link to a page of relaxation related audio from the nhs in the show notes

Summing Up

In life -

  • Try to keep things in perspective.

  • Remember that having a bad day is a universal human experience; it’s not the world acting against you.

  • When your inner critic or an outer critic finds faults or wind you up try and find truth and exception to what is being said.

  • If you stumble or feel you have failed, don’t beat yourself up

  • Act as if you were your own best friend: be kind and supportive

  • Take a few minutes each day to appreciate yourself

Stress is a natural reaction to many situations in life, such as work, family, relationships and money problems. A moderate amount of stress can help us perform better in challenging situations, but it is important that we manage our stress and keep it at a healthy level to prevent long-term damage to our bodies and minds.

Call To Action

Your call to action today is to go for a walk. Yes, you heard me. Just get out and go for a walk. If you are still in lockdown due to COVID 19 then this will be easy, but once life returns to a degree of normality this habit may start to fall away. Stay on top of it, and enjoy it.

Walking can frequently reduce the incidence of many of the stress-related conditions, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.

People with regular walking regimens also report reduced stress levels and a self-confidence that comes from taking an active role in their well-being.

“It releases tension from the major muscle groups, deepens the breathing and quiets the nervous system and it gets us out into nature, which is a relaxing and stress relieving environment.”

Aim at first for at least two 10-minute walks a week. After two or three weeks, gradually increase the frequency and duration of your walks. According to Everyday Health five or six 30-minute walks a week are usually recommended to maintain health and stress management. One tip to get you into the habit, is just to tell yourself you are walking to the 1st lamppost in your street. This will help combat your own laziness as once you get there, you may just keep on going. And remember you are walking for fun, you don’t need to get rush things.

If you recognise the symptoms of stress in yourself I hope that you can find the courage and the energy to take some of the steps I recommend to reduce it. 8 years ago I found myself in a stress related breakdown, confused, lost and questioning my perception of reality in a way that is reminiscent of The Truman Show. At that point I hadn’t had a holiday in 18 years - looking back it isn’t any wonder that I found myself in that place.

Later in the season if things go as planned and I don’t find myself committing more shows to the lock down situation, I’ll be looking very specifically at taking breaks and holidays but if already think that you are heading in that direction don’t be afraid to slow down and relax. Relaxation is a skill that needs to be learned and it will improve with practice. Tell yourself that it is okay to prioritise self-care – and try to re-write your thoughts of I can’t into thoughts of I can...

Next week I’m going to be interviewing another podcaster, Julian Cosky from the Productivity Matters podcast and we are going to be discussing 10 awesome apps to make you more productive. Julian is an awesome guy with a lot of knowledge in this area as his show for a long time focused on productivity apps and how they can be used to make your life and work simpler and more efficient.

I’ll end now with these wise words from Lily Tomlin who said - For fast-acting relief try slowing down.

Now, take control of your own destiny, don’t get too stressed out, keep on shootin’ and join me next time on FILM PRO PRODUCTIVITY AND SUCCESS!


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