12 APRIL 2017
written by Mike
WHAT IS STRESS?
PART I – CAUSES
The term used every day by millions of people to describe their feelings and anxieties.
We all get stressed out. And overcoming anxiety in a workplace will help you do a good job. You may dream of an awesome music career or start a design business. It does sound good on paper but with creative media, there are stressful moments too.
I would argue that small dose of stress can be good and will keep you on your toes. But prolonged condition will reflect on your work in a negative way. I know, it’s not the lightest of subjects, but I feel it is important to understand it so you can prepare how to deal with stressful times.
Let’s start with a classic, what is stress and why is it so bad for you?
Stress is your body’s defence instinct. It makes you turn the wheel just in time to avoid car collision or catch your mobile phone mid-air.
“Well, that’s good then, because of stress my smartphone’s screen is perfect!”
Yes and no.
Small doses of stress are good for you, but when it goes on for too long, it can result in bad physical, mental and social symptoms. In my case, it was insomnia, chest pains, and general distress. One of my close friends took a sick leave for depression related to stress. Another friend has mood swings and “grumpy” days.
On stressful days, your body consumes more energy. You get tired faster, but you can’t sleep. You want to do more, but you can’t focus. To the point, it starts to affect people around you. And it is bad.
According to the latest research from Harvard and Stanford Business Schools stress leads up to 120,000 deaths every year in the United States alone.
The study also looks at the negative impact on health care services and productivity.
I want to give you a little background about myself. I see myself as a calm guy that can approach problems with a strategy and plan. I don’t panic; I don’t sweat the small stuff. But I still found myself in a “stress-trap” not so long ago. A couple of years back we were working on a big film with tight deadlines.
It didn’t take too long before I started having chest pain, had troubles sleeping and begun to doubt my listening skills at work. Small problems become enormous, little mistakes seemed massive. As the stress bubble grows, it swallows more people with each day. We began to be short with each other; we lost the big picture of the project.
Your mind won’t shut; you think about your tasks before falling asleep and when you wake up. You dream about your job. And not the good kind of dreams either. When it all ended, we were drained. There was no energy left in any of us. But wait! The new project was around the corner. And the dance began again.
To me, it was a breaking point.
Lack of sleep, depression and anxiety had a big impact on my mental abilities. I could not understand why I was feeling so bad when in reality I had a good job, awesome girlfriend, and was in good health. I knew that something had to change.
Right, enough with my self-pity.
I started to research stress and techniques of fighting it. I realised two things:
Stress fuels itself.
It will make you hate your job.
You are stressed, your co-workers are stressed, your bosses are stressed and on and on and on. It is quite hard to detach from the situation when everyone around you is running like a chicken. You will hate going to work. Well, hate is a strong word, but it will be hard for you to get up every morning knowing that you will not enjoy your day.
And I don’t care how cool your job is. Stress will ruin it. In my case, I didn’t want to watch any movies anymore, even at home. The worst bit is that you worked so hard to get to that place, and now you don’t even enjoy it. Don’t worry though. The minute you realise that the job is the same, but it is stress that affects your perspective, you get out of that hole.
But we will get to that.
CAUSES OF STRESS
So what are the biggest causes of stress? According to that research paper, there are a few main ones.
– or rather the lack of it. When you don’t have the health insurance, it affects your financial and family situation. You stress about things like not having enough money to cover healthcare or costs of treatments. Unfortunately, is can be a closed loop as stress will have a negative impact on your health.
– it is easy to see how it fuels anxiety and depression. I remember after I finished college and moved towns I couldn’t find any job. Not even waiting job at a restaurant. It was winter and the weather did not help. I spend few weeks on a couch feeling sorry for myself. So I agree hundred percent with that point.
– it is a big one when you are on your own. “Will I get another client? What about my mortgage and family? Maybe I just become a teacher.” Sounds familiar? I bet it does. Job worries can cause a lot of stress especially when you are just starting out as a freelancer. It helps to have some extra income stream on a side.
– again a good one in our profession. Long hours anyone? Tight deadlines and last minute changes result in longer work days and stress. A couple of years ago I had to supervise night shift freelancers on a project. It was three weeks, and it completely threw me off my sleep patterns and balance. It took some time to get back to the routine.
– night shifts I mentioned earlier meant that I wouldn’t see my girlfriend for three weeks as she worked weekends. The funny thing is, we live together. We don’t have kids, but I can only imagine how stressful it can be when you don’t see your kids because of all the overtime. No wonder it is on the list.
Job control and demands
– one day you are a trainee, next you are supervising a team of people. With great power comes great responsibility. And with great responsibility comes great stress. You are not only in charge of your output but also of other people’s work quality. It can get tough.
– lack of mentorship, training, and general well-being support. We can find that in most big corporations. And yes I know there are HR department and yearly reviews and silly online tests. But in reality, a lack of proper social support means that sometimes you can feel like a number or a small gear in a big machine.
– favouritism, gossip, and other office politics. If you are not on good terms with your managers and colleagues, it can get stressful. No matter how good your work is.
These are of course just major causes of stress. Your situation may be different, but it doesn’t matter. Stress will make your life miserable. Well, maybe I’m too dramatic but it for sure won’t make it better.
Thanks for reading, in the next part I will talk a little about signs of stress.
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