Stress and anxiety are destructive and dangerous. The physical and mental impacts of stress have been well documented and scientifically proven, but when you work in a service-based industry like ours, the implications are magnified exponentially.
If a new client visits and you don’t feel you gave them optimal or friendly service, perhaps due to feeling stressed during the treatment, you may experience feelings of guilt, which creates additional stress, which inhibits your ability to give good service to the next client. In psychological terms, this is known as a negative feedback loop.
We often feel at the mercy of negative feedback loops, but there are some actions you can take to reduce your feelings of stress and anxiety and perhaps help others do the same.
Note: this article should not be taken as medical advice. If you are experiencing extreme emotional trauma, please speak to a medical professional, or call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.
Pay Attention to Your Triggers
A “trigger” is a stimulus that activates feelings of stress or anxiety. There are two types of triggers – those we are aware of, and those that are activated subconsciously. The first category is easy to identify; an event, location or anything else that automatically creates feelings and you instantly know why. “I always feel this way whenever I…”
The other trigger is invisible, and the only evidence of its presence are the feelings and emotions we experience. The reasons for these triggers are complex, and worth researching if you are curious, but what’s more important here is how to deal with them.
1. Name them
By acknowledging the trigger, you are telling your brain that you have control, or at least awareness, of the situation. This may create a more powerful mental state than just feeling something for no reason.
2. Analyse them
Ask yourself why you are always triggered at certain times of day, when you visit specific locations or when you are spoken to in a certain tone. Awareness, again, can reduce the feelings of helplessness often associated with anxiety.
3. Write them down
Creating an “emotional journal,” might sound a little bit extreme, but it’s incredible how quickly you can take control of negative emotions when you can understand – and even predict – them.
4. Adjust your physiology
Emotional triggers are usually followed by a predictable series of mental and physical events. For example, if you are triggered in a certain location you might feel a sense of being in danger, followed by a stiffness in your neck. Because you are responding reactively these events occur in order, every time, reinforcing the trigger. By changing the order, also known as the syntax, of your reactions, you can reduce their impact.
It’s become something of a cliché thanks to numerous self-help books and motivational speakers, but being present, or mindful, is an important strategy for mental health. But what does it actually mean?
In this context, being present means focusing your mind on what you are doing in this exact moment. Of course, this is almost impossible – we have thousands of thoughts zooming through our head every day, but there is a simpler way to define presence.
Ask yourself, “what am I thinking about right now?” Then, pay close attention to the answer.
The opposite of being present is overthinking. Either about the past, which creates feelings of guilt, sadness and regret. Or about the future, which creates feelings of anxiety, fear and uncertainty. It’s likely that based on these two categories will be able to recognise what you spend most of your time thinking about. However you choose to become more present, be it mindfulness meditation, paying close attention to small actions that you would usually take for granted, or simply asking yourself what you are thinking about, it will be worth your while.
Do Something You Love
Our lives are busy, and due to the nature of our work, we are often more worried about the happiness of others than about our own. It has been proven that scheduled “happiness,” time is more likely to happen, so put some time aside and do something you enjoy.
It doesn’t need to be a big thing, just 30 minutes a day, or an hour a week at a specific time that is only yours. We see this every day in the clinic, so perhaps it’s time to practice what we preach. The added benefit being, you can tell clients about your wellness regime and demonstrate that you walk your talk.
Stress and anxiety will make you sick and reduce your enjoyment in life. Whatever actions you decide to take, don’t let feeling miserable be normal for you.