Your body is hard-wired to react to stress in ways meant to protect you against threats from predators and other aggressors. Stress that persists or that isn’t managed well is called chronic stress. Chronic stress is stress that is overwhelming and ongoing and puts great pressure on a person for an extended period. When stressors are always present and you constantly feel under attack, your fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on which affects both the mind and body.
Causes of chronic stress can include injury or illness, toxic bosses, high-pressure jobs, financial challenges, unemployment, difficult relationships, and injustice.
A person in a nearly constant state of heightened alertness may not feel safe nor feel like they have any refuge. Chronic stress produces both physical and psychological symptoms that can take a toll on a person’s ability to function normally in their daily life. Chronic stress increases the risk of many health problems, including:
- Muscle tension and pain
- Heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure and stroke
- Sleep problems
- Weight gain
- Digestive problems
- Changes in appetite
- Memory and concentration impairment
Chronic stress kills – relationships, careers, quality of life, hope, and humans.
How can we save ourselves from chronic stress?
Stress management strategies include:
- A healthy diet
- Setting realistic expectations and goals
- Regularly getting a good night’s sleep
- Having strong boundaries
- Making time for hobbies and leisure activities
- Managing time effectively
- Spending quality time with loved ones
- Practicing mindfulness
- Creating a morning and bedtime routine
If implementing some of these strategies doesn’t bring relief, it is crucial to seek the advice and support of a mental health or healthcare professional.
Stress in general is inevitable. Not all stress is bad – wedding, graduation, buying a house – which is why it is important to know your triggers and control the controllable.
If the cause of your chronic stress is your job, it’s time to prioritize yourself, your health, and your career. Suffering is not required to obtain a successful career in social work leadership. Let’s develop and implement your exit strategy. Your next level is available to you.
Nicki Sanders, MSW, CEO, is a Career and Empowerment Strategist who helps high-performing women of color in management go from overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated to energized, well paid, and appreciated. Through Nicki Sanders Leadership Consulting, she also helps businesses recruit, hire, train, and retain great employees. Nicki has an extensive background in developing and managing successful programs and leading high-functioning multi-disciplinary teams. She is an accomplished professor, coach, trainer, and group facilitator who has combined her gift for authentic relationships, Master of Social Work degree, and over 20 years of diverse work experience to create a life she loves. Nicki is a lover of cupcakes, travel, and 80’s hip hop and R&B music.
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