This next blog post in our coaching series about stress is a full blown guest blog post by an experienced rowing coach- Tom Copeland of Cantabrigian Rowing Club, UK. He explains that stress can be a blessing and a curse, while talking about how to identify and THEN deal with an over abundance of stress.
“I’d say that the most effective way of dealing with stress is learning to recognise it and understand how it affects you.
A lot of people work better under pressure – they are more energetic, focused and alert. When you’ve got a deadline looming, or a target to hit, your body responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol etc.) which rouse the body, ready for action.
Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. These physical changes increase your strength and stamina, speed your reaction time, and enhance your focus.
Stress is a natural response to mental and/or emotional pressure.
All good news so far, but beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing damage to your health, mood, productivity, relationships and quality of life. Common symptoms include:
- Lack of sleep
- Low energy
- Chest pain
- Frequent colds/infections
- Loss of libido
Most people recognise stressful situations, and many enjoy the feeling of responding to pressure, but too many people fail to see when things have gone too far and simply try to struggle on. When the stress gets too much for me I become tense, irritable and snappy. I find myself avoiding the problems that are making me stressed while just hoping that they’ll go away. Eventually, this leads to me eating and drinking more than I should.
Mike and Jim’s articles in this series discuss strategies for coping with stress (learning how to relax, exercising, establishing support networks, strategies for tackling the issues you’re avoiding etc.), while Jimmy’s deals with a strategy for stopping situations from becoming stressful in the first place (i.e. planning them carefully so that you can avoid being overwhelmed before it is too late). But when should you take action? What are the triggers that move a situation from the ‘high pressure’ that excites you to the stress that damages your health?
Recognising the signs and symptoms as well as the things that trigger you will help you to figure out ways of coping and save you from adopting unhealthy coping methods, like drinking and eating.
Modern life is full of worries and pressures – money, relationships, rowing/life balance etc. – and while people may be able to cope with some of these, other issues can trigger strong reactions. Knowing what triggers stress in your life, be it caring for relatives, financial worries, job security, or having to deal with really difficult people, and knowing how it affects you is the first step to dealing with the situation.
If it’s not clear, then try keeping a diary of stressful events and see if you can notice a pattern emerging.
Before you can take appropriate action, you’ve got to understand what it is that is causing the problem. Too often we are told to Keep Calm And Carry On, which just prompts us to keep our heads down and carry on doing the things which harm our health. Understanding when to take a step back and take action is often the hardest thing to do.
Be honest with yourself. Understand what triggers stress in your life and take a step back in order to work out how to deal with it. Don’t be afraid to delegate or ask for help.”
Article by Tom Copeland: With a background in rowing and now coaching at Cantabrigian Rowing Club, UK, Tom has dealt with pressure and anxiety from both athletic and coaching perspectives. Throughout it all he’s managed to hone in on what stresses him, how to identify that stress, and how to deal with it in ways that work for him.