Stop stress before it stops youPosted: May 17, 2013
First published by York One&Other
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and, with The Apprentice back on the telly, now seems a good time to talk about stress.
No doubt the candidates vying for the dubious honour of a most-likely temporary and thankless job with Lord Sugar will be telling the business tycoon how they ‘go the extra mile’ and are ‘passionate’ about something or other.
For however long they stay in the competition, they will put themselves through all kinds of stress, trying to prove themselves.
These candidates, along with conscientious or ambitious people up and down the land, will be constantly battling to meet and exceed expectations and targets, to make money, or to impress and please people. If it works, I’m pleased for them. But for many of us, one extra mile leads to another, and another, and those extra miles amount to a steaming mound of stress.
I’m cynical about these extra miles for a good reason. I’m one of those people who has always ‘gone the extra mile’, and it made me successful – perhaps seemingly invincible – for a while, but the extra miles became some kind of marathon effort to prove myself to… well, to myself. I felt that if I didn’t excel in every situation and please everyone then I was failing to meet my own punishing, perfectionist standards.
Yes, some stress is necessary in most jobs and helps to get the job done, but if it goes on and on unchecked and unbroken, that stress will get you. It will stop being your catalyst and become your nemesis. It can turn into anxiety and depression.
And once you’re in the mire of depression, there are no extra miles, because everything is too much effort. Goodbye energy. Farewell motivation.
Depression is not like most natural hunters, which prey on the weak. It targets the strong and brings them down. People who have coped with everything suddenly can’t cope with anything.
So here is my warning for Mental Health Awareness Week. Don’t let stress take over you. Don’t give depression a chance. Trust me – you don’t want it in your life. And you are not invincible. Nobody is.
Keep an eye on your stress levels. Be kind to yourself. Pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you’re feeling run down, frequently getting ill, getting regular headaches or interrupted sleep, give yourself a break.
Those who always go the extra mile often win medals, but they can also end up with a booby prize that hangs around their necks for years to come. By all means go that extra mile when it’s really necessary, but remember that it isn’t ALWAYS necessary. Sometimes ‘good enough’ is perfectly adequate.