Imagine your surprise when, after believing you were ‘fine’, you realized you had forgotten something huge. Leaving the groceries in the hot car, totally not remembering what you and your client spoke about last, forgetting a critical call to return. You’re most certainly not alone although it may well feel that way in the moment! Our memories are fickle to start with, get more so as we get older or our schedules get to be more jam packed with fun thing and can totally blink out when we find ourselves under stress. Finding yourself more likely to have accident, losing concentration and when working, finding that you’re fairly inefficient can be a real wake up call that something is just not right.
As we have discussed before there is a difference between acute stress and long term, ongoing stress; this difference will also impact how our brain’s process information. How’s this for an interesting bit of information about stress – an acute stress, such as a car accident, is actually helpful to your brain in that you’ll ‘lay down’ those memories in clear, crisp details where low grade, ongoing stress tends to wear your brain down and recall of events, placement of objects, bringing to mind memories becomes more difficult.
The University of Maryland Medical Center refers to 4 ongoing stressors: ongoing work pressure, long term relationship problems, loneliness and persistent financial worries. Without much thought one could think that Independent Practitioners have at least 3 of 4 of these and perhaps even the 4th. Working for yourself isn’t easy, it’s highly possible you’ve experienced loneliness and unless you’re raking in money hand over fist, you’re stressed at some point in the course of a month about finances. You’ll have to decide if long-term relationship problems are something you also juggle.
We could discuss the physiological reasons about what and how stress impacts our brains but I’d rather focus on who is at most risk and what we can do about it. Older adults, women and particularly working mothers, those who are unemployed, people with limited support systems, those who are less educated, individuals with fewer social supports, the long term unemployed, those who live in cities and who are targets of racial or sexual discrimination are most at risk for ongoing stress. (University of Maryland Medical Center) We also know caretakers are at greater risk for low-level stress if they lack adequate supports and single fathers who lack support. Is this a longer list than perhaps you were expecting?
What to do about it? Well, you already know some of the most basic recommendations! Exercise, eating well, meditating, and sleep are all helpful to the Thriver. Other suggestions include building a support system both within your work setting and at home, make sure your basic work practices are helpful to you, eliminate tasks that bring too much stress for their worth (you can hire other folks to do those tasks!), either keep yourself focused on the positive or shift your perspective so that you can find something positive within the setting you’re in and finally book yourself fun and relaxing activities outside of work. We will be looking at the how do’s of some of these pieces in the months ahead but its nice to get started sooner rather than later!