Unit 1 – Reflective Statement
Stress is a natural human response when we are faced with a challenging, threatening or unexpected situation and can manifest strongly in the mind and body in a variety of ways. These physiological effects are different for everyone and can also change for one person from situation to situation. Sometimes stress can occur suddenly as an immediate response for example when faced with an angry dog. However, it can also build up overtime for example being in a workplace where there is pressure and an expectation placed on employees to achieve targets consistently and constantly. Individuals can also put themselves under stress when comparing themselves to others or getting caught up in social media and societal expectations.
I have directly experienced stress in different situations throughout my life and I don’t expect this ever to stop. However, something I’ve noticed is that as I get older I am more likely to recognise signs of stress early on, or know when I am in a situation that could cause me stress. I am constantly building up my resilience to stress and becoming more aware of how to deal with it. This could be through using methods and stress management techniques I’ve tried in the past that have worked, or others that I have heard about and can have a go at using. Not everything works for everyone so it’s important to try different methods so when you need to manage personal stress you can do it almost without thinking.
In my role when working from home I will occasionally find myself stressed, and I think it’s important to note that I can feel stressed more easily when I am tired, but then because I am stressed it can affect my sleeping negatively and so the cycle continues. I get stressed at work if I feel out of control, if it feels like work is piling up and I’m unable to think clearly and know what I need to do next. I can get stressed if I have spent time working on planning a session for young people when I’m told that some things have to be changed at the last minute.
I’ve found a technique that works for me in times of both work and personal stress, is to go outside and walk all the way around my local park. Leaving my house until returning to my front door takes around 30 mins, and I purposefully leave my phone at home. I go out in any weather, don’t listen to any music and when I’m outside, I focus on my breathing and on noticing small details in nature. This usually works for me as a reset to calm down and process my thoughts in a way that means when I get back if my heart was beating fast it has slowed down and sweaty palms or nauseous feelings have also subsided. I re-enter with a clear idea of what I need to do next, or if I have had any irrational thoughts, then they have usually gone. It’s good to automatically know what my body and mind needs at a time of stress without needing to think through options, I can just put my shoes on and go and trust my stress will be managed in that way
Going outside and walking, especially in nature works wherever I can access that. However, in my role as a facilitator of sessions for young people in a mentoring programme, I cannot just leave the space when experiencing stress, so I then need to employ other techniques.
I’ve found that focussing on my breathing works well, breathing in for a count of 4 and out for 5. This can be done easily, without drawing attention to myself and has a fast effect. I also like the exercise of looking around and noticing everything of a certain colour.
In my role as facilitator if my stress is being heightened by the actions of the group, it could become apparent that others are also feeling stressed, and perhaps everyone needs to take a bit of time for themselves or to reset. In such a situation, I would feel confident to suggest one of these simple exercises. For this to be accepted and effective it’s important to give clarity on the expectation, particularly length of time, so everyone knows even if they are struggling, it won’t be for long. For example I once said we will have a minute to sit quietly and focus on our own breathing and I set a timer which went off after 1 minute, that worked well. I also think regularly bringing in stress management techniques to practice together as a group in each session could even pre-empt potential situations, or at least prepare those of us sharing the space to manage our reactions to stressful occurrences.