Sunday, 30 September 2012

Four Steps to Beating Stress at Work

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” - William James

You may not realise the serious implications that stress can have on your every day life. According to recent research in the Lancet Medical Journal, those who have high stress levels in the workplace and low control in decision making have a 23% increased risk of a heart attack.

Stress is caused by our body's natural “fight or flight” defences, releasing chemicals such as adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol into our bodies. Although this can be a fantastic defence mechanism at times, when these chemicals remain in our bodies for an extended period of time, they mean business, leading to Chronic stress.

Chronic stress can disrupt your life in many ways, as well as causing physical changes in your body, resulting in ailments such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), sickness and insomnia.  It may may also lead to emotional problems such as arguing with relatives, lack of confidence and esteem, forgetfulness and even depression.

Luckily, Scientists and Psychologists have been exploring ways in which stress can be reduced and managed:

Firstly – Get organised. If that pile of work is growing, plan what you're going to do and by when each week. A good mantra is: Defer, Delegate, Delete. Be realistic and prioritise- don't load yourself up with too much work as chances are this will only increase your stress. Set yourself reasonable, achievable targets and get them done.

Secondly – Reflect on the successes of each day. If you managed to get through the tasks you set yourself, you deserve a pat on the back. If not, don't worry about it – just spread out the remaining work evenly through the rest of your week's plan.

Thirdly – Relax. At the end of a hard day, you deserve to put your feet up and read that novel you started 4 months ago and never got round to. Keep work within the workplace if you can.  A few hours at home should be dedicated to spending time alone or with family switching off on a regular basis.

Fourthly – Employ some techniques to reduce your stress levels. Exercise is excellent for stress prevention, as is sex (lucky us!) ; so is seeing your friends and enjoying time with them- or even more focused activities such as Meditation and Mindfulness. Although this can be hard to grasp at first, there is plenty of help online such as

Finally –We all get stressed at times. You are not alone. It takes some time to reduce your stress levels, but you can get there. The most helpful thing you can do is take a positive attitude and try to smile. Take each day at a time.  If you're finding yourself overwhelmed by the effects of stress, seeking the help of a Counsellor or Therapist may help. Visit:  for more information.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Something for those Sleepless Nights

“A well spent day brings a happy sleep” - Leonardo Da Vinci


Insomnia is a common problem in what can be a stressful world. After a busy day, you'd think it would be easy to quickly drop off to sleep, but it turns out to be quite the opposite – we spend hours tossing and turning in what soon becomes a very tedious and frustrating process.

Often insomnia is linked to stress. Vgontzas et al (1998) found that those with higher stress level matched those who got less sleep. Of course the amount of sleep people need can vary, but it is the quality of the sleep which is important. Sleep is vital for rejuvenating your body and mind, and a fresh start in the morning can be just what we need for a happy and productive day.

You've probably heard of the phrase “Woke up on the wrong side of the bed” - Well here are a few useful suggestions as to preventing that from happening.

  • Make sure you are comfortable; whether it's the temperature of the room, the amount of light, the quality of the mattress – get to know your needs and work with them to get the best out of the night. This may involve compensating with a partner to balance both your needs.
  • Start to relax a few hours before bed; Try and make a nice routine for yourself, such as having a bath with candles, reading a book, having a warm milky drink. Doing all these things and getting used to a bed-time routine can drastically improve your sleeping!
  •  Eliminate exogenous zeitgebers; Or in layman's terms, cut out any night-time noise! If you live close to traffic, find some ear plugs. If you have noisy neighbours, ask them to turn the TV down. This is especially important if you are working night-shifts and need to sleep in the day, as these factors will distract you from your sleep and keep your mind in an active state.

As well as doing all or a few of the above, there are certain things to avoid when it comes to nodding off.

  • Don't sleep on conflict; If you and a partner/relative are having problems, try to resolve these issues before going to bed, as they will just play on your mind and keep you awake.
  • Don't study in bed; Whether it's paperwork, finance, or you happen to be a student, bed is not the place for work. Everything must be dealt with elsewhere, as you will come to associate your bed with stress and work, and you may end up feeling more alert around it! 
  •  Don't stay in bed if you can't sleep; Get up, go downstairs and keep yourself occupied – but with a relaxing task such as reading or listening to some calming music.
Remember, if this becomes a recurring problem for you rather than occasional, there are other options you can take. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been shown in recent study (Morinet al, 2004) to be more effective than sleeping pills when dealing with long term insomnia. It was discovered that in the short term sleeping pills are helpful, but in the long term, the insomnia needs to be fought with using techniques and improved sleeping habits, which is just what CBT can do for you.