Rise above it

Our society is in turmoil as we see many of our hard earned achievements under threat – job, status, home, holidays, education, pensions, health care, and so on. Looking wider, the world is in turmoil with people wanting to free themselves from corruption and oppression and some are giving their lives to achieve this freedom.
A step change of significance is happing right now throughout the world.
Here in the UK we have encouraged, even demanded, our government to overspend on health, education, services, equality, diversity and much more and this may now be the time to review personal values, needs and expectations.


When an individual feels under pressure for a significant period of time the result is ill health – this is the definition of stress. The problem here is that what is pressure to one person is challenge and excitement to another. This suggests that personality and attitude to life also play an important part in coping with the pressures/challenges that life throws at us.  
We are constantly bombarded with negative headlines and doom-mongering in both the papers and broadcast media, and this has an insidious effect on our psyche. Some of us start to believe it and tell it to others as truth rather than someone’s opinion. It becomes a national rumour.
So much disinformation is spread for political point scoring that sometimes it is difficult to find the reality unless you are prepared to wade through long speeches or informed expert presentations. Statistics are used as proof, yet the same statistics can be interpreted differently by someone else.

This level of confusion I believe is creating an anxious nation. Even people with a ‘can do’ positive attitude can find the constant drip feed of negativity demoralising.


When the human body experiences a challenge (be it fear or excitement) it responds immediately, activating the response to fight or run away. This is the stone age fight or flight response and it affects every part of the mind and body. We share this behaviour with all mammals, birds and reptiles. It is a primal survival mechanism and is to keep us safe from a perceived danger.
However ‘danger’ today in the 21st Century is not only about life and death, it is about our fear over our pension pot, our fear that we will not be cared for in old age, our fear that we may not have a job soon, our fear that our children will be harmed by unknown strangers, vehicles or foodstuffs, fear of unknown, threatened work changes, and so on. Many people are weighed down by all these fears over which they have little control.  

This means that over a period of time much of the population begins to feel stressed. They come to work experiencing some of the following sign and symptoms of stress:

frequent colds
skin problems
increased/ lost   weight
over eating
panic attacks
irritable bowel
high blood  pressure
heart problems

can’t make decisions
memory lapses
easily distracted
less intuitive
poor concentration
negative thinking
feeling a victim

Increased drinking
increased / renewed     smoking
legal/ illegal drug  taking
accident prone

sensitive to criticism
lack of motivation
Staff dealing with these symptoms are not as effective and this state is known as ‘presenteeism’. The outcome is that every day challenges in work and at home can be seen in a very different light.
In the health service visitors and colleagues can be difficult, sometimes aggressive. New procedures are a pain, even unworkable; staff shortages increase pressure; management expectations seem unreasonable; communication fails. In the state of anxious nation, patients, visitors, situations and every day procedures seem more complex and irritating.
Not only does this cost money in a hidden, insidious way (reputation, sabotage, mediation, tribunals, managers’ time), it also costs staff self respect at all levels of the organisation.

What is the answer?
To reduce anxiety in a nation requires individuals to take responsibility for the quality and standards they want upheld. This is a larger, strategic topic than this article so I will focus on how individuals can turn their back on national anxiety and regain composure, confidence and creativity to support them through change, challenges and conflict.
Firstly understand what is important to you and value it – make a list and plan your life to honour your values.
Secondly, understand your thinking style – are you a positive or negative thinker?
Positive thinkers are solution focused, ‘can do’ people, negative thinkers always expect the worst and usually get it. If you want to explore this more, start at the ISMA’s top ten stress busting tips at
Also, know your energy drains – spend as little time as possible with people and situations that drain your energy and make you feel low.
Likewise know your energy gains – spend time with people and in situations that energise you and make you feel good.
In addition, eat healthy, fresh balanced meals, stop smoking and exercise regularly. Get the right amount of sleep so when you awaken you feel rested and ready for the day. Lastly, relax a little each day – take five to twenty minutes to meditate, visualise, do yoga, tai chi and deep breathing.
Starting with our own anxieties will help individuals to feel stronger, healthier and more able to cope with life’s challenges at this time of insecurity and change, as well as reduce this phenomenon of national anxiety.  

Web: www.isma.org.uk