Keep Calm and Carry On

Keep Calm and Carry On

If you’re not familiar with this propoganda poster, it was produced by the English government’s Ministry of Information during the second world war should the Germans begin to invade England. However, as the tide of the war turned, the poster was withdrawn. However a few copies were found and in recent years here in the UK, it’s had a bit of a revival. Have a look at some of the interesting variations below:

Keep Calm and Eat Cupcakes

Keep Calm and Eat Cupcakes

Keep Calm and Destroy the Brain

Keep Calm and Destroy the Brain

Keep Calm and Call Batman

Keep Calm and Call Batman

But how do we deal with stress when things aren’t working out, when we have massive deadlines to reach, when we’re trying to do so much in our personal, interpersonal, business and work lives? If there’s one eternal in our lives, besides death and taxes, some days it seems like stress. So if it’s a universal constant, or something akin to that, how do we deal with it effectively so that it doesn’t cause us to be ineffective?

Top Causes of Stress

According to, some of the top causes of stress are:

Not Having Enough Time

Whether we’re running around after kids, friends, family, have crushing deadlines to meet at work, too many projects on the go that we have to juggle, or just can’t or won’t say no to things and people, in a busy modern life, not having enough time is nearly an expected and normal part of life.

Unhealthy Lifestyle

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO):

  • Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980
  • In 2008, 1.5 billion adults, 20 and older, were overweight. Of these over 200 million men and nearly 300 million women were obese
  • 65% of the world’s population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight
  • Nearly 43 million children under the age of five were overweight in 2010
  • 44% of the diabetes burden, 23% of the ischaemic heart disease burden and between 7% and 41% of certain cancer burdens are attributable to overweight and obesity
  • Overweight and obesity are the fifth leading risk for global deaths

What does this say about us? Seriously? Especially when “the fundamental cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended” Said another way, we’re killing ourselves with the lifestyles that we choose to lead. These aren’t lifestyles that are forced upon us, like starvation, a great many of us choose to do this – whether consciously or not.

Taking on Too Much

How much work do you do? Now, don’t just think about the work you do in your day job, but include the extra-curricular activities: the clubs, organisations, charities, assistance you give to your kids, grandkids, family and friends and so on. Now I’m not begrudging you the things that you do, but do you need to do them all, or can some of them be delegated?

Conflicts in the Workplace or at Home

We don’t need to be in a domestic violence situation to encounter conflicts whether at work or at home. What about the small conflicts that we have with each other, especially the ones that get left unresolved.

Do you work in a stressful environment? Maybe you thrive on it, but most forms of stress take a toll on us physically, if left and not addressed. Do you bottle up your stress and not vent it in a healthy way whether through exercise or conversation or more?

Inability to Accept Things as They Are

Do you fight the world as it is? Do you, as Don Quixote did, tilt at windmills? An inability to accept things as they are comes from a variety of sources. One that I’m all to familiar with is culture shock. We can become too used to a certain way that things are, then when we move country (or town, or suburb, or job) we expect that the new place will be just like the old one, when likely, it won’t.

Failure to Take Time Out and Relax

Do you take time out to smell the roses; to catch up with old and good friends; to see a good movie; to take a walk? Do you take time out to just do something that isn’t a part of your normal list of routines? Do you do random things that are unexpected and even a bit off the wall?

Non-Work-Related Issues

This is a big one. Whether it’s bad habits like smoking or excessive drinking, not getting enough sleep, an unhappy home life,  or a combination of the other things on this list, non-work can be as toxic as work related issues if the mix isn’t right.

Failure to See the Humour in Situations

One of the best solutions for any situation is just to laugh at it, or even to laugh at yourself. There’s the wonderful story of Dr Norman Cousins, the American journalist, author and professor who, despite being told he had little chance of surviving, long, from reactive arthritis, developed a healing program that involved, amongst other things, a positive attitude and laughter.

He said: “I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep”. Though he ultimately died of heart failure in 1990, he lived years longer than doctors thought he would. What about a bit more positive optimism, but particularly laughter in your life?

Major Life Changes

This is likely one that we’ve all encountered and if we haven’t, we’re going to at some point. Whether that’s getting married, moving town (or country), taking on a new job, being made redundant from one, going in to a war zone (literal or figurative) or more – at times, we’re not always ready to deal with major changes.

So What Do We Do?

Given the wide variation of that list, it’s fair to say that all of us are likely to encounter stress then at some time in our lives. Here’s a few handy tips to help you better cope with stresses in your life, whether they’re the kids, deadlines or anything else.

Step 1 – Learn to Recognise Your Stress Indicators

According to “If you don’t feel calm, alert, productive, and focused most of the time in your daily life, then too much stress may be a problem for you.” They suggest two key approaches to identifying when you’re stressed (even at the early stages). These are:

Observe Your Muscles and Insides

Are your muscles tight/sore? Is your stomach tight or sore? Are your hands clenched?

Observe Your Breath

Is your breath shallow? Place one hand on your belly, the other on your chest. Watch your hands rise and fall with each breath. Notice when you breathe fully or when you “forget” to breathe.

Step 2 – Deal With Your Stresses

Now that you’ve started to identify the causes of your stress, here are some top tips for dealing with it (whether coping, reducing or eliminating)

Get Active

According to the British NHS: “To deal with stress effectively, you need to feel robust and you need to feel strong mentally. Exercise does thatExercise won’t make your stress disappear, but it will reduce some of the emotional intensity that you’re feeling, clearing your thoughts and enabling you to deal with your problems more calmly.

Given that how about getting more active, or if you can, when you feel stress coming on, get out there and do some exercise. Personally, a good 30 – 60 minute walk once a day does wonders for my stress levels. But there’s also swimming, hiking, bike riding and a whole variety of other activities to choose from.

Be Artistic

The BBC Health site suggest that you “divert your energies into something creative, such as acting, playing an instrument, writing poetry or singing”. That way, you can feel a sense of achievement, relaxation and passion at something that you’ve done that has a positive impact and rather quickly at that.

Daily Relaxation

According to the American Heart Association, we all need some daily relaxation. To attain this, they give suggestions such as Yoga, Tai Chi and Meditation (I personally vouch for the last two). As well as these, take some “me time” where maybe you just sit and read a good book somewhere you know you’re not going to be disturbed. Why not watch an old film or catch up with a friend – or group of friends.

In Summary

So how do you deal with stress in your life? Do you know when it’s coming on and what’s your favourite approaches to dealing with it?

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