Battling the Physical Symptoms of Stress

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The pace of life will never be as slow as we experience it right now. Does that excite or scare you? The Pace of Life Project was set up by Prof Richard Wiseman in collaboration with the British Council to measure the speed of life across major global cities including London, Madrid, Singapore, and New York.A study carried out in the early 1990s demonstrated that pedestrians’ speed of walking provides a reliable measure of the pace of life in a city, and that people in fast-moving cities are less likely to help others and have higher rates of coronary heart disease. Using identical methods to those employed in the previous work, the present day research teams discovered that the pace of life is now 10% faster than in the early 1990s. 

An increasingly fast-paced lifestyle, sooner or later can end up affecting our health in ways that we do not always expect or can identify. The so-called “burnout” is increasingly common and can be fatally silent. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a chronic condition that’s a direct response to our 24/7 “always on” work cultures – which, combined with a climate of economic uncertainty, make for a perfect storm in our physiology. According to this article from the Harvard Business Review, this effect can be explained by our biology:

Our stress response system evolved to protect us from danger. However, it cannot distinguish between a saber-toothed tiger in the wild and a harsh email. Each time one of our three primal survival needs are not met – for safety (e.g. a company downsizing), reward (e.g. poor performance feedback) and connection (e.g. working on a team with a cut-throat “each to his own” philosophy), the “fight or flight” stress team of biochemical reactions in the body kicks into gear.

Research and public health reports also warn of the problem and how stress that is affecting society in general. It is a chronic problem that affects all areas of our lives, from work to leisure with family and friends.

In the U.S., three out of four of us will suffer from at least one chronic disease in our lifetimes. Collectively, those diseases account for more than 86% of our healthcare costs. Stress in the workplace costs the U.S. economy upwards of 300 billion dollars per year with up to a 190 billion dollar healthcare spend. And despite the popularity of social media, loneliness and social isolation are on the rise, with one in four Americans reporting they do not have even one person to discuss important matters with.

Thus, for example in the workplace, we can ask ourselves “how can productivity, creativity, and innovation thrive under such circumstances?” Thinking about it, such effects are not irreversible. And a solution to this problem is to build resilience. Harvard’s Parneet Pal outlines how we can 

1. Pick a habit — a keystone habit — and make it stick. A keystone habit is a change that often triggers other good changes, because it alters how you see yourself. 

2. Surround yourself with like-minded people. Sticking to a new lifestyle habit is easier, more fun and effective when we do it with others. This social support is a bonus independent factor helping us live longer and healthier lives.

3. When you stumble (and you will stumble), pick yourself up with compassion. 

Howe useful are such tips for building resilience to stress in your working life?

(This post comes from our Designing Deeper blog
(Este post foi retirado do nosso blog Designing Deeper)