At any point in time, you’ll suffer from varying levels of stress. Each individual will experience and manage stress differently. It’s perfectly normal to have some stress in your container, but as humans, we can only hold on to so much.
What is stress?
Stress is often described as overwhelming, loss of control, or constantly feeling like you’re under an immense sense of pressure.
The right amount of pressure can be motivating and can push us to feel challenged. Working under pressure can be a good thing as people need to be stretched so they’re not bored. Too much stress, however, and it can begin to do the opposite and it can lead to the individual being under strain. It’s really important to start looking at how we can release some of the pressure before it becomes unmanageable.
The Stress Container
We’ve been using the concept of ‘The Stress Container’ in recent workshops around ‘Developing Your Resilience’. Originally developed in 2002 by Professor Alison Brabban and Dr Douglas Turkington. It’s important to note that being more resilient doesn’t mean not experiencing stress. Instead, the workshop is all about how we prepare for stress, how we deal with it in the moment, and how we recover afterwards – sounds a bit like elite sports!
At work, we’ll probably never know everything that’s splashing around in someone else’s stress container unless we know them outside of work too. It’s easy to judge what seems to be an overreaction to a situation as ‘they just can’t seem to handle stress.’
It’s also difficult to know you might be reaching the point where any further stress is going to tip you over the edge. This is commonly identified with feelings of burnout or not being able to face work. It’s often others that will notice the change in our behaviours before we do, as we’ve often got our head down, busy trying to crack on with mission impossible.
Where does stress come from?
Stress can come from home, work, relationships, money, health, and many other situations. The only way we can deal with increasing pressure and demands on us is to activate the release valve and let some of the pressure out. It helps to think about how much stress is in your container and how you’re releasing it so that it doesn’t become unmanageable for you and spill out over the sides.
How do I de-stress?
We can de-stress in ways that boost our wellbeing, such as exercise, reading a book, spending time with people we love and care about, and our pets. The more of these things we do, the more capacity we create in our container to be able to absorb any other stresses coming our way.
There are also some unhelpful coping mechanisms that we may turn to, like drinking alcohol, or unconscious behaviours like lashing out at the people close to us. These might help to release the pressure in the short term but then cause problems to our relationships or wellbeing down the line.
The comment we hear most when we discuss this in a workshop is how surprised people are when they hear their colleagues talk about feeling under pressure as most of them talk about feeling stressed, they assume it’s just them and that they’re not coping as well as others. Even if you can’t solve someone’s problem, just listening can be a positive release valve for them.
Talking is often the first step and if we’re having these real conversations in the workplace, we’re more likely to build trust with each other. Having open and honest relationships at work means that you’re more likely to be able to respond well to challenges as a team. If you need support with this, please get in touch as we’d love to help.