There are many people who despite outward appearance are always struggling inside with feeling ill at ease. It could be that they thought if they achieved a level of success as defined by society that they would feel the contentment they – and everyone – needs.
But even when they get excellent status and first-rate material wealth, there remains a familiar but progressively uncomfortable feeling of being ill at ease. Or it could be that someone figures the uneasy feeling they always seem to have carried will ease as they get older.
This can sometimes seem to give short-term relief. But it is never the real solution – and it often becomes the first and most obvious problem to deal with for someone seeking recovery.
Not why the addiction but why the pain
Frequently, addiction to alcohol, drugs or an unhealthy behavior is the reason someone seeks help in the first place. But to fully recover from an addiction, the reason for the pain needs to be explored and resolved.
Indeed, this is one of the key reasons for someone feeling always ill at ease. It is to do with an unresolved history.
The reason is that we are forming so quickly when we are children. All children need to have their needs met – we all need to feel loved and valued – and yet sometimes due to many different reasons this doesn’t happen.
As we are all different, everyone will experience trauma in a different manner. Someone may see problems start immediately after the trauma, yet others may not be aware of being affected until years later.
If there’s a trauma that’s not been resolved, it can put the person that it remains inside at risk for nearly every sort of physical, mental or emotional health problem.
Unresolved trauma is toxic. It will in nearly every case haunt someone for the rest of their lives – yet often in a manner that doesn’t seem connected.
For years after a trauma and deep into adulthood somebody might try to mask over or forget their past. Many people go through their entire life believing it cannot adversely affect them in any way.
Actually it is most often behind most of the way they live and many of what they and others believe are their character traits. These are in fact coping mechanisms.
Somebody might think: “My childhood wasn’t great, but many people had it much worse” or “It wasn’t really that bad when I think about my childhood.” This is known as idealization – when a person persuades themselves that someone or something that happened was okay.
To mask the real pain they might go completely the other way and convince themselves that it was actually totally fine or even good. So such as: “My father was a great man” when the reality that they do not feel they can face is that he regularly abused them.
So idealization is a survival technique to avoid overwhelming pain if the truth is admitted. It seems the better – and perhaps easier – option than looking at the severe wound that’s been left inside them.
But trauma derives from a Greek word meaning “wound” – and as with a severe physical wound, if left untreated it will fester. So it will get increasingly more painful as time goes on.
Most people do not make the connection that old untreated wounds will have all manner of adverse mental and physical consequences. But something that happened years before can subconsciously trigger a response in us such as shame, fear, self-pity, anger or guilt.
There’s a phrase used in therapy: if it’s hysterical it’s historical. This is when sometimes a reaction seems to be entirely inappropriate to what is actually happening.
For instance, a 50-year-old man gets extremely angry and clearly upset as well because he is waiting to pay a restaurant bill and it seems the waiter has served someone else ahead of him. The reaction of extreme anger that this man shows might be due to the man getting a similar feeling that he got as a child when he was regularly ignored by his mother who was an alcoholic.
In some ways it is the child in this man who is reacting, and he’s reacting to his mother rather than the waiter. He wants to deal with the waiter in the manner he wished he had dealt with his mother.
It is why everyone in the restaurant is looking over wondering just what’s going on. When the man leaves the restaurant he is similarly shocked as to why he reacted in the manner that he just did. The truth is he hasn’t made the connection, so he has no idea and he is now distraught at that.
Ill at ease to disease
It is not just what happens to us that affects us. We are also affected by how sensitive we are and to what extent we have been unable to feel the pain caused by something traumatic.
As well, that means to what extent we have been able to make any sense of what happened. This means because we have not made any sense of it that we will still be carrying it deep inside and it will be negatively impacting on us in myriad ways.
Until traumas are looked at they will strongly influence what relationships we have, how we are as parents, how we think and feel, our belief systems – and basically how we are in this world.
For the vast majority it will leave an almost continual feeling of being ill at ease, whatever they do or achieve in life. It is no wonder so many mental and physical health problems are called a disease.
Break down that word: “dis-” is a prefix denoting reversal or absence of an action or state. So disease is because we are not at ease.
Facing our traumas is certainly not easy, but it is the key to healing. When we heal and understand ourselves, then we can start to become our true selves. This means we will feel at ease.
An abnormal culture
There is another aspect to why some people feel ill at ease. That is cultural and family expectations.
For instance, far too many people become someone they are not comfortable with due to family pressure – such as: “Our family has always worked in law.”
It might be that someone climbs this ladder of success and everyone around them is saying how well they’ve done. Indeed by Western society’s values, this person is a success – with all the material evidence such as brand-new cars and a big house not to mention the status of being a high career achiever.
But deep inside the person knows it is not really them… There is another calling, and not answering it leaves them feeling constantly ill at ease.
They may well have climbed the ladder of success. But it is planted firmly against the wrong building.
Because of this feeling of being continually ill at ease, this person might turn to drink, drugs or succumb to a behavioral addiction in an attempt to ease it. They might develop depression, stress or anxiety.
“So much of what we call abnormality in this culture is actually normal responses to an abnormal culture,” says addiction expert Dr Gabor Maté, author of some of the world’s bestselling recovery books, including In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts. “The abnormality does not reside in the pathology of individuals, but in the very culture that drives people into suffering and dysfunction.”
So his belief is that the way in which our society is set up doesn’t work for many if not most people. In fact, our culture is made to keep people away from discovering and being their true self.
There are also a great many people who are ill at ease because of both an unresolved trauma combined with society’s and/or family expectations. Indeed, somebody who has a trauma that’s not been resolved is quite possibly more likely to follow what they are told because they are seeking love and approval so desperately, because they are urgently searching for a way to stop their pain.
Many of us kept a diary when we were younger, hidden away from prying eyes and filled with our everyday thoughts, struggles, and emotions. But then we grew up, and the responsibilities of life got in the way of writing in our journals.
This is exactly what makes journaling even more important today as we navigate life’s stresses and challenges. When you journal, you can gain more clarity of thought about what you’re struggling with within that moment, which improves your overall mental health.
But What Is Stress?
People carelessly use the word “stress” in conversations. However, when people genuinely say they’re stressed, they’re usually referring to a much more serious mental and emotional condition. Simply put, stress is your physical and psychological reaction to something that upsets your balance. The more extreme the upset or stressor, the greater your reaction.
Now, some stressors can occur suddenly, such as the loss of a loved one through death or divorce, loss of a job or business, or an unexpected medical diagnosis. Most times, however, stress builds over time, like when we choose to stay in unhealthy relationships, cope with an unpleasant boss, regret missed opportunities, or accept circumstances that are detrimental to our well-being.
Stress is a perfectly normal response because it signals that we’re off balance. However, you should not ignore these symptoms of stress:
Journaling is an evidence-based strategy for stress management, as numerous studies have demonstrated. Studies about expressive writing have found that journaling reduces blood pressure and improves immunity, leading to fewer doctors’ visits and shorter hospital stays and improved mood and memory. Journaling is such a powerful stress management tool because it helps us to:
Identify and Prioritize Your Stressors
Recognizing the key causes of stress in your life is a solid step towards stress management. If your stressors are not readily apparent, write a daily journal for a week or two and then read your entries. It may be easy to identify the recurring themes that point to your stress.
Recognize Stress Triggers
If certain people, things, or situations trigger your stress and anxiety, you can learn to spot them early and avoid them as much as possible. If the stressors are unavoidable, you can incorporate exercises like breathing or personal mantras to manage your reactions.
Catch Negative Thoughts and Behaviors Early
Negative self-talk and intrusive thoughts are considerable challenges in stress management. Journaling teaches you to recognize and organize your thoughts and shift from a negative to a positive perspective.
Brainstorm Solutions to Reduce or Eleminate Your Stressors
With your stressors identified, journaling can help you think about creative solutions to improve the quality of your life. This may mean reducing contact with stressful people and increasing the time you spend doing the things you love with people who care about you.
Gain Valuable Self-Knowledge
Self-awareness is an invaluable gift. Knowing who you really are, means that very little can upset your balance. You will know what to care about and what to let go of, which is a great stress management skill.
Process Traumatic Events in a Controlled Way
It’s perfectly normal for our minds to shy away from addressing traumatic events that cause us tremendous stress. However, these events will surface at certain points in time, either through panic attacks, angry outbursts, withdrawal, or other unhealthy ways. Journaling gives you control over the traumatic event as you calmly process the emotions and behaviors linked to the event.
Direct Your Attention to More Positive, Wholesome Life Events and Emotions
Good things are worth recognizing and celebrating, and unfortunately, they may be so small that we ignore them. Include in your journal that great cup of coffee you had, that heartwarming smile from a loved one, a clear, sunny day, or even just a good drive home from work. It’s the simple things that can steer our focus from negativity and stress.
How to Journal
Journaling doesn’t necessarily involve pen and paper, especially with the advent of journaling apps for smartphones. Try both a traditional notepad and a journaling app to see what works best for you. Keep the following tips in mind to get the most benefits from journaling:
Write Every Day
You may set a reminder every day to write a journal entry or write whenever you feel overwhelmed, regardless of the time of day. The aim is to build a journaling habit to figure out the best time that works for you.
Keep Your Journal at Hand
If you prefer to keep a notebook or diary, keep it within reach. If you choose a smartphone journaling app, pin the icon to your home screen.
Don’t Limit Yourself to Words
We understand that not all people can express themselves adequately with the written word. Remember, your journal does not judge you, so you can sketch, draw or doodle, attach photos, write on the margins, and ignore spelling mistakes, as long as you can freely capture your emotions.
Decide Whether to Share Your Journal
The contents of a journal should be private, but they can help close friends and loved ones to understand your situation. You could try sharing an entry with a trustworthy companion to foster empathy and improve your communication.
Types of Journals for Stress Management
A blank page can be daunting even to the best of writers, but thankfully there are some easy-to-start journals that you can explore:
A Gratitude Journal
This is a simple, effective type of journal that focuses on the positive aspects of everyday life. Take a few minutes of your day to write down at least three things in your life that you are grateful for. A gratitude journal also creates a record of positivity that you can always return to whenever your struggles resurface.
An Emotional Release Journal
This works best with smartphone journaling because when you’re in the moment of anger, depression, or anxiety, you can grab your phone and type away. At the same time, you can journal about positive experiences that might overwhelm you as well. An emotional release journal is mainly for catharsis, which helps to manage pent-up emotions.
A Planning Journal
Sometimes planning out your day with a to-do list can help you calm down and focus on what’s important. A planning journal uses checklists to organize our time and unclutter our minds. You can list items according to priority, with allowance for schedule changes to minimize anxiety.
Challenges of Journaling
Although journaling has proven benefits for managing stress, it may not work for everyone. For example, individuals living with learning disabilities or physical disabilities may find writing difficult. Other than physical challenges, most of us may short of time, find journaling a trivial task, or simply be unwilling to face our stress in constructive ways.
Let’s not forget those of us who are perfectionists who may become overly concerned with their handwriting, grammar, language, even the quality of pen and paper or journaling app, which distracts from reducing stress.
There are workarounds to these challenges, such as using voice notes or recordings of your journal entries instead of writing by hand or typing. Text-to-speech can also convert your voice into written journal entries.
Structure each journal entry to always conclude with gratitude, solutions to problems, or your hopes and aspirations. Ending your journal entry on a positive note can decrease anxiety and encourage you to keep on writing.
You can also combine journaling with a relaxing activity to encourage you to adopt the habit easier. For example, brew a good cup of your favorite tea and enjoy it while you journal, or cuddle with your pet, or play some music in the background to get your thoughts flowing. This makes your journal time special and worth looking forward to after a long, stressful day.
Journaling on its own may not be enough to manage stress, especially if you also struggle with major depression and addiction. For the greatest benefits to your mental health, combine journaling with:
Eating a healthy, balanced diet
Daily meditation and relaxation
Avoiding alcohol and drugs
Adequate sleeping time
Take Some Private Time Away from Stress Today
Journaling is a healthy practice for stress management, but sometimes life can become more overwhelming than daily journals can resolve. That is why Tikvah Lake Recovery in Florida offers a personalized retreat for mental health recovery. We prioritize your privacy and offer the most experienced clinical and medical staff, as well as spiritual and culinary professionals, to help with addiction and mental health treatment. Get in touch with Tikvah Lake for bespoke mental health rehabilitation for yourself or a loved one today.
In 2020, the American Psychological Association sounded a loud alarm bell. Stress levels among Americans had reached such a high level that they considered it a national emergency.
Stress was an endemic problem in our society well before the pandemic disrupted our lives. The World Health Organization declared it the “health epidemic of the 21st century” in 2017. But the increased uncertainty, health concerns, and significant changes Covid 19 brought with it have only exacerbated the issue.
Although many factors contribute to this mental health emergency, stress at work remains a common contributor. 64% of employed Americans report that their work is a source of stress.
For those in high-level roles, the issue is only amplified. Executives take on increased responsibility and, with it, longer working hours and the pressure of managing the future of their companies and teams, as well as their own workloads.
This demanding work schedule leaves executives at a high risk of stress. And stress is associated in turn with burnout, a recognized condition, with symptoms that include extreme fatigue, difficulty concentrating and thinking, and increased negativity.
This work-related stress isn’t only a concern for the mental wellbeing of executives. It also has an impact on their physical health.
Short-term stress can lead to headaches, difficulty sleeping, and digestive issues. Continuing to feel stressed in the long term has even more serious consequences. Research has linked stress with a range of chronic diseases, including:
high blood pressure,
a lowered immune system,
stomach ulcers, diabetes,
If you are experiencing work-related stress, you are not alone. The impact of a demanding job and long working hours leaves many corporate executives under extreme pressure to perform.
There are strategies you can develop that will help you manage stress at work. Some of these are habits you can incorporate into your working day, while others may require changes to your life outside the office.
1. Understand Your Main Stressors
Before you start trying to troubleshoot your work-related stress, take some time to identify where the main pressure is coming from.
Perhaps your workload is simply too much, leaving you feeling overwhelmed. Maybe your work schedule has taken over your life to an unmanageable extent, giving you no time for rest, relaxation, or to pursue other areas of interest.
You might feel that your efforts are going unrecognized by your colleagues. Or your daily tasks might feel unrewarding because you are constantly having to deal with problems and setbacks.
Of course, you are likely experiencing a combination of these issues. But identifying which are most pressing can help you prioritize solutions that will relieve some of the strain.
As well as understanding the main causes of your stress, learn to recognize what increased stress levels look like for you. Often it comes with physical symptoms, such as a raised heart rate, tense muscles, feeling hot, or being suddenly uncomfortable.
You may also notice changes in your behavior. Your temper might be shorter, and you might speak more loudly. Or you may be someone who becomes quieter and more distant when your mind is preoccupied with stress.
Being able to recognize when your stress levels are rising helps you to put coping strategies in place.
Don’t forget that this is not a moment to judge yourself or to fight the stress. Acknowledging what you are feeling is a necessary part of learning when you need to make changes.
2. Take a Break
In the face of workplace stress, one immediate solution is to temporarily remove yourself from the situation. This is easier if you are on your own at your desk. But even in meetings, you can request a short break to let everyone regroup.
Stepping away from your workload when there is so much to do can be a difficult task. It is tempting to press on to get as much done as possible.
But stress often clouds our thoughts and stops us from performing at our best. Taking a short break gives you the breathing space to clear your mind and feel calmer, instead of becoming overwhelmed.
Try to schedule regular breaks throughout your working day, including a decent interval of time between meetings. You can supplement these regular breaks with an emergency breather when you notice your stress levels are rising.
According to Forbes, more than 90% of leaders find they manage stress better when they take a short break from what they are doing.
If you can, go outside to give yourself a change of environment. A walk can also help. But even some quiet time spent taking deep breaths can make a huge difference to your frame of mind.
3. Brush Up on Time Management Skills
A demanding workload is a common feature of executive roles. If you’ve identified this as one of your main sources of stress, putting some new time management techniques in place might help you feel more organized and on top of your tasks.
If someone else manages your diary, you will need to involve them with this step. Block out time where you aren’t available for meetings or calls, so you know you will be able to focus when you need to.
You likely have a lengthy to-do list already. But a step many people miss is allocating time to tasks. Make it a priority at the start of your day to work through your to-do list and plan when you will tackle each item throughout the day.
You can use an online calendar to visualize what your day will look like. This gives you an easy tool to map out what you can reasonably accomplish in the time available, including regular breaks.
Not only does this keep you organized, but it also saves you from having to decide which item to work on next.
Muting your email notifications is another useful technique to maintain focus and prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.
If your workload is consistently more than you can accomplish in the time available, you may need to look at delegating some of your tasks. There may be members of your team who would relish the opportunity to increase their skills and responsibility.
You may also need to have an honest discussion with other members of the management team about the resources available. If they are also feeling overwhelmed, there is a wider strategic issue that needs addressing.
4. Reclaim Your Life-Work Balance
The rise in home-based and online working has meant the separation between work and home life has quickly become blurred. If you were working overtime before the pandemic, you might find that your hours have only increased.
If work is causing you anxiety and you do little else, it makes sense that your stress levels will become harder to manage.
Studies show that having a poor life-work balance is linked to occupational stress, fatigue, and depression. Reclaiming your leisure time is an essential step in managing your stress at work.
Pushing back on long working hours can be tricky, especially if your workplace culture expects people to go above and beyond. But you are likely to be more productive in the time that you are at work if you are rested and fulfilled by your non-working hours.
If you are working at home, give yourself a cut-off point where you will shut down the computer and mute your work emails. If you are in the office, make it a habit to stop working when you leave. And then make sure you leave at a decent time.
It isn’t only about working shorter hours. What you do with your leisure time can also have a significant impact on your stress.
There is evidence that people who spend time enjoying their hobbies are less likely to experience stress and depression. This includes music, art, crafting, sport, or spending time in nature. Socializing with friends and family can also help to reduce stress, provided it doesn’t become just another item on your to-do list.
5. Prioritize Your General Health
When work-related stress is occupying your mind, it is easy to let your physical health slip too. Making the time to eat well, get enough sleep, and move your body regularly might feel impossible when you have so much to do.
These are basic things, but they make a significant difference to your ability to manage stress, both at work and at home. So, they need to be a priority, even if that feels unreachable at first.
Exercise brings many benefits to your physical and mental health. Stress reduction is one of them. According to Harvard Health, even a 20-minute walk can help to decrease your stress levels and clear your head.
Getting enough sleep can be hard when circling work pressure stops your mind from switching off at night. But research from the American Psychological Association suggests that a good night’s sleep can reduce stress, especially in those whose stress levels are high.
It can take some time to build healthy habits and then see their effect. However, you’ll find you are better able to cope when your basic needs are met.
Breaking Free of Work Stress
No one’s work is completely stress-free. But feeling continuously overwhelmed by your workload is worrying news for your health, as well as your productivity.
The suggestions in this article can help you to find a better balance. However, sometimes your stress has remained so high for so long that you need a proper break to rejuvenate.
If you are struggling with work stress and would like to talk through your options, contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help.
Stress is a state of tension resulting from demanding or adverse circumstances. It is a normal condition for people to have in order to boost energy and focus our attention.
Whether real or perceived, if we feel under threat in any way a chemical reaction happens inside our bodies that allows us to react in a manner that will help us achieve something or stop us getting hurt. This is most commonly known as the “fight or flight” response.
Everything we need to prepare or protect ourselves is made ready. It increases our heart rate, breathing quickens, blood pressure rises and muscles tighten.
However it is only meant to be a temporary state. When the perceived or actual danger is over and we’ve survived or achieved what was needed we should return to normal.
That means our blood flow will once again resume to the parts of our body that were not needed if we had to fight or flight. Consequently, our digestive and immune systems will return to maximum effectiveness.
However because of a combination of the modern world, our belief systems and our thinking, too many people experience far too much stress – sometimes relentless stress. This can be extremely damaging to mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.
Our bodies are created to cope with small bursts of stress on a few occasions every so often. But we are not made to deal with long-term stress. So it’s no wonder it causes so many problems.
Stress as a word gives a clue as to why this might be. It is from Middle English stresse meaning “distress”, and partly this derives from Old French estresse meaning “narrowness, oppression”, based on Latin strictus “drawn tight”.
This is why when we are stressed it can feel difficult to breathe or swallow and our muscles and everything about us feels tense. We are uptight.
What are the major signs of stress?
Stress affects everyone in different ways. It also depends on how stressed someone is at any particular moment and for how long they have been stressed.
Stress can cause the following emotional and physical symptoms:
Gastrointestinal problems, including gastritis, GERD and irritable colon
Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes, often leading to or worsening addiction issues
What are the best ways to reduce stress?
As stress affects people differently, so too there are different methods to reduce stress. These can all be tried and if you discover some work better than others they are the ones for you to use next time you’re stressed.
Or they can be done when you can sense you might be moving towards a stressed state. Before then too, if you know you might be heading into a situation that might be stressful – such as a work deadline or family gathering – try the ones that work so that you start in the right place.
Some of these methods work as a quick way to stop or reduce stress; others can be put into your daily living as overall ways to a calmer life. Consider lifestyle choices too, such as if you are drinking too much alcohol or coffee, or taking too much on at work or doing too much for other people and not leaving yourself enough time to do things or relax.
Methods to beat stress
Take slow deep breaths.
Meditation. Find calm and stillness as an antidote to stress.
Have a massage, including giving yourself a hand massage as sometimes the tension stops in our hands.
Listen to relaxing music. Or play some on an instrument. Singing can help too.
Stretch your body to stretch out tension.
Have a swim. This is relaxing as well as allowing you to stretch out.