Are You Taking Notice? What Are Your Warning Signs Stress Is Building Up?
Many people recognise the warning signs that stress may be
just around the corner. The trouble is that most of us
rarely listen to them. Instead most of us choose to ignore
them, until we become overwhelmed.
Peter, 40, a very good friend of mine, called me a few weeks
ago and said that he really needed to talk to me. When
walked into the restaurant to meet me for lunch, his face
told a thousand stories. Although he looked very suntanned
and healthy, his eyes had lost their sparkle. I had known
Peter for many years, seen him promoted several times in the
busy City law firm where he had worked for 20 years. Even
though he often worked more than 60 hours a week, he had
been happy, in his own words, to spend the long and usually
rewarding hours because it had paid off for him.
When I commented that he didn't seem his usual light-hearted
self, he began to tell me how disillusioned he was with his
whole life and that he had hardly slept for the last four
weeks. He said that for several years something inside him
kept saying, I've had enough of all these long hours; I
just want to have a life outside of work. When he mentioned
these inner thoughts to friends, they told him to pull
himself together, and that he would probably feel better
when he'd taken a holiday.
One of his friends said he'd give anything to have a job
like Peter's and, as a result, Peter began to question his
own self-wisdom. He stopped speaking to anyone about how he
was feeling, which caused him to doubt his own intuition
Although it took some time to get Peter to open up, he
seemed relieved to at last be able to speak truthfully about
what was spinning round in his head. He started to tell me
about his inner conflicts, what was really tugging at him,
half expecting me to say, You'll feel better in a few
He said, I can't believe I'm talking to you about this, but
I can't ignore it anymore. I'm beginning to hate every
single minute of the day at work. I spend every weekend
trying to work out how I can escape from my life. By Sunday
night I feel so stressed, I just want to run away or lock my
front door and never come out. The trouble is, all my
friends think I have everything, but inside I feel as though
I'm missing something. Work used to give me so much
pleasure, yet nowadays I get no enjoyment at all. I went on
holiday a few weeks ago, but I was kidding myself that
everything would be better after that break. As soon as I
got back to the office, I felt like I was back on the same
old treadmill within hours.
I know the job has taken over my life. All the material
possessions I once thought measured my success - my house,
holidays whenever I wanted them - no longer matter as much.
But I'm afraid to try something different. I know deep down
I need to make some changes, but I'm afraid of making a
mistake. Although I'm still putting in long hours, I know
that the quality of my work has suffered and my boss has
commented about that several times recently.
As Peter stared at his now cold plate of food, he said, "I
keep telling myself I should be grateful for my work, yet
the thought keeps popping into my head that enough is
enough. If I am honest with myself I have probably been in
the wrong job for a long time.
Spot your own warning signs
I know that when I start to become short tempered about the
most trivial things at home, it is time to take a look at
what may be causing stress in my life. I do now usually
recognise my early warning signals!
Over the last few years, I have identified a number of
warnings signs from the hundreds of people I have coached,
which signal that it is time for them to be honest and have
that Courageous Conversation. You may recognise at least one
of these warning signs, but feel that things are not too
at the moment. However, it is important to understand that
if you ignore these early warnings they will come again -
and they will get worse, often when you least expect it or
Warning signs that it is time to have a CC include:
Extreme tiredness, inability to relax, difficulty in
sleeping, working most weekends, overactive mind, feeling
very disconnected from yourself and others.
Snapping at others, losing your temper, waking up in the
morning and wanting to go straight back to sleep.
Frequent infections, headaches, an aching neck, heart
No time for family, friends or social activities.
Easily distracted and difficulty concentrating.
Drinking excess coffee or alcohol, shopping, watching
increasing amounts of TV or playing computer games to switch
Leaving everything until the last minute, forgetting to do
If you buy a chicken from the supermarket and keep it in the
fridge for too long, it will go past its sell-by date. You
may be able to pretend the smell doesn't exist for a few
days. However, after a few weeks you will no longer be able
to avoid the rancid smell leaping out of the fridge every
time you open the door. In fact, that smell will contaminate
everything else in the fridge. Life is more complicated
a rotting chicken but face it, our lives, too, start to
stink if we don't pay attention to them in a timely way.
The warning signs may already be there, trying to alert you
that stress may be building up in your life, but you may not
see them if you are so caught up with the busyness of day-
Give yourself the chance to say Yes to Less Stress. Start
to become clear about what is important to you. Peter made a
start when they became clear about what was
important in their lives.
Long hours may not be a problem for you but the stress of
competing priorities or overloaded in-trays may be.
To figure out what is important to you, you must set aside
some thinking time.
Where do you find it best to think? How are you going to
build thinking time into your week? Remember, Courageous
Conversations won't happen unless you create the time.
What are your warning signs that stress may be building
If you are suffering with the effects of stress, I
recommend that you seek the advice of your doctor. Although
the suggestions I have made may be really helpful,
additional medical help may be needed.
Carolyn Matheson is a nationally recognized Coach,
Speaker and Author of "Yes to Less Stress."
Carolyn is a Master Certified Coach, and works with executives and their teams across the
world. She has pioneered an innovative approach to coaching,
combining many years of high performance coaching with a
holistic approach to work/life balance and has coached
hundreds of leaders and their teams. Her experience as a
presenter, both nationally and internationally, spans 20
years, with clients currently in Europe, Australia, the
Middle and Far East, and the USA.
Her new book, Yes to Less Stress is
available online at from www.areustressed.com">http://www.areustressed.com