Compiled by our Masters trained Physiotherapist Kirsten Rose. To book an appointment with Kirsten, or read her Meet the Team profile CLICK HERE. 

Stress - Part 2

Where are you on the stress curve? 
The Yerkes-Dodson concept is a model of the relationship between stress and performance. It’s a theory that has been around since the early 1900’s. 

It shows us that stress can be seen as a continuum. Too little stress or challenge and we’re likely to become unmotivated. At this level, there’s often little incentive to perform well so we go about our routine but boredom sets in.  

As the challenge increases, so does our motivation. A moderate amount of stress goes a long way in boosting our performance. We’re alert, thinking clearly and our brain and body are fired up to get the job done. This is called eustress. But this only works up to an ‘optimal point’. 

After this point there’s too much pressure. Stress and anxiety ramp up and we are unable to perform to our full potential, despite the fact we may still actually want to perform well. Our stress response is now working against us and we are negatively affected both mentally and physically. 

The Yerkes-Dodson law is particularly relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic. At times we may not be challenged enough - restricted social activities, boredom or lack of routine can easily rob us of motivation. Or at the other end, we may be feeling overly stress and anxious about work, family, finances and the general uncertainty. The combination of these can easily push us down the other side of the curve. 

Where do you think you are sitting right now? Auckland Physiotherapy Director and Masters Physiotherapist, Mark Quinn, shares his experience with stress. If you read the previous blog about the different components of stress, can you pick these out from Mark’s description? (Thoughts, feelings, behaviours, physical reactions). What could you do to move yourself back into the optimal zone? 

Mark, when does stress make you perform better?
Stress makes me perform better when I manage to keep my discipline while managing my workload, family life, and ensuring I continue to work on the things that help to mitigate the negative effects. I do love a good challenge and getting through a list of jobs but if this becomes too much it can lead to overwhelm so I am learning how to manage that.

'Healthy stress' gets me up in the morning (not too early), encourages me to do all my jobs that I need to before I start the day and at the end of the day leaves me feeling satisfied with enough in the tank to have fun with my son and partner in the evenings. 

How do you know when your stress is becoming too much/negatively impacting you? 
I start to wake up in the middle of the night and have difficulty getting back to sleep. Anxiety creeps in. I also start to work too much and drop off my exercise and meditation which I know really helps me. My partner would probably say that I become less positive (a nice way of saying I get grumpy).

What's your go to for managing stress for yourself? 
I have to work hard on limiting my work hours (I tend to over do it) so have a reminder on my phone - no screen time from 7pm onwards... this basically means get off your phone and stop doing work but I do allow myself to watch tv as this helps me to wind down. Exercise, meditation, and ensuring I have some down-time that is not screen time. For me that is getting out in nature, going for a swim, or hanging out with friends and family. 

Stress Part 1

It’s Men’s Health month in September so we’re bringing you a series of blogs on Stress and how best you can mitigate the negatives (and also harness the benefits) to improve both your physical and mental health. Plus we’ll be bringing you some insights from the men in the Auckland Physiotherapy team as to how they deal with stress. 

So what does stress look like for you? We can probably all relate to the fact that how we experience stress is individual to each of us. Some people appear to thrive under pressure, others not so much. Sometimes we don’t even attribute our thoughts, feelings or physical symptoms to stress and put them down to something else. 

Potentially the most essential ingredient in learning to manage stress and overwhelm is to know yourself. We can call it self-knowledge or self-awareness or just plain old knowing me. But this is really our first step because if we can’t recognise the warning signs that things aren’t going so well, then it's that much more difficult to access those great coping tools that help you get back on track.

Take some time to recall the last time you felt overwhelmed or stressed. Perhaps it was within your family, your job (or lack of one), paying bills, on the road…How did you know you were stressed?

Once we can identify some of the signs or symptoms of stress and overwhelm we can take this one step further. The diagram below shows that these things are all interlinked. They feed off one another.

For example, a negative thought about yourself (“what if I can’t cope with this…”) can quickly lead to a surge in anxiety (mood/emotion) which can increase your heart rate and breathing (physical symptoms/biology) and cause you to avoid the situation (behaviour) you were worried about, resulting in you never getting the opportunity to realise that you can in fact manage it.

Very often, stress and overwhelm can feel like a profound mess or intense phenomenon. In fact, sometimes, we don’t even identify the phenomenon we’re experiencing as part of the stress family. Do we ever stop and contemplate how we respond to stress or do we just keep ploughing through?

The skill of being able to ‘step outside of yourself’, to observe your reactions and actions, enables you to take steps to promote good health.

Over the next few days, see if you can reflect on your experiences of stress in these terms – thoughts, emotions, behaviours, and physical symptoms. 

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