Stress articles

Stress can be a motivator essential to survival. However, if it’s triggered too easily, or when there are too many stressors at one time, it can undermine a person's mental and physical health and become harmful.

The ongoing Covid 19 crisis has plunged all Education organisations into embracing online learning and teaching. Educators have worked hard to adapt quickly and ensure students are supported and that teaching, and learning continues.  We have all learnt new skills and embraced technology which has enabled us stay connected with family and friends. However, online learning does not suit everyone as it requires a lot of self-discipline and can prove very challenging for some students. If you are a student who likes to attend class and is motivated by face-to-face interaction with your peers and the lecturer, making the transition to an online classroom could be daunting. Try not to think of the change to online learning as an obstacle but in terms of an opportunity to develop new skills and improve your self-discipline. Just by simply changing your mindset, it will expand your options, making you feel more positive and motivated. We have outlined some tips and guidance to help you transition and become a successful, effective online learner. Set up an appropriate workspace, with no distractions. To fully engage with the online content this is essential. Think about your living arrangements and find a space that works for you and those you share with. Be online ready. Be familiar with the software being used. If you have never participated in an online class/webinar, set it up on your device well in advance and make sure it works. Most applications have a quick tutorial with tips and set up guides and these are very useful. Set time limits. If you are studying online for a long period, eye fatigue can be a real issue so take regular breaks. It is easier if you build these into your schedule. Adapt your study plan. Timetables have been adjusted therefore you need to adapt your study plan to ensure you cover all the content and still have time to review and revise. Allocate time. While face to face lectures were cancelled, this does not mean you have time off.Studying for a professional qualification is demanding and will require dedication to ensure success. Stay engaged and use the online tools. If attending a live online session or webinar, use the chat forum to post questions, or if permitted you will be unmuted, and you can ask your question. This will assist the lecturer and your peers by making it more interactive and improve engagement. Draw on all supporting resources. Most online learning is not stand alone and only works effectively by using all the resources available to you. Share the experience. Peer to peer support is very important, as some online learners can become isolated. Set up a zoom or chat with your peers and discuss the topics and learn from each other, stay connected. Ask for help.The education team is there to assist and support you.If you are attending webinars, viewing online recordings and utilising all the resources available but still struggling, please let them know. The education team are available to help. Stick to the plan. Working remotely and online is hard, but by sticking to your study plan and taking regular breaks, you will remain focused and keep the end goal in sight. The education teams have worked hard to adapt and ensure you are equipped for your exams. There are extensive resources available to you. However, we know that life can throw curveballs when we least expect it, so CA Support is there to offer emotional and practical assistance.  Contact us through the website or email or call us on (353) 86 024 3294 we will be happy to assist.   Terri Gray on behalf of CA Support

May 01, 2020

You may think that, as a Chartered Accountant, you should be strong, resilient, and able to solve problems. This is not necessarily true.  You are just as vulnerable as anyone else to the tsunami of apprehension that may be coming at you from all points of your personal compass – from clients, employer, business partners, spouse, elderly family members, children, friends and colleagues.  There are now so many uncertainties about health, finance, fitness, home, diet, sleep and relationships to cope with. You may be strong and grounded and able to cope and you may be able to offer support to others at this moment in time.  Or you may be struggling. You may have a friend, a client, a relative or a colleague who tells you that s/he is considering suicide.   Or you may be so unable to cope yourself that you are considering self-harm, suicide.  Let us consider first who might consider suicide. Who might consider suicide?   Any of us, including you, might think of suicide as a means of dealing with an overwhelming situation.  Generally, suicide is considered when there is a significant imbalance between our risk factors and our protective factors. We all vary, and the list of risk factors is extensive, but your risk factors might include any combination of: A recent bereavement Bullying Serious financial problems A history of depression, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, depression, or drug abuse A family history of suicidal behaviour or mental disorders A traumatic event Diagnosis with a possibly terminal illness or condition Relationship breakdown Isolation A personality disorder  Your protective factors might include: Your Relationships Social integration Good network Religious beliefs and practices Access to support agencies Your Personal resilience If you are thinking of suicide?   Take such thoughts very seriously. Do not dismiss them or think that you will come through it. Consider and confront your personal risk factors and notice, name and nourish your protective factors. Focus on your feelings and talk to someone about your feelings. You may be feeling overwhelmed, traumatised, fearful, guilty, unable to cope or powerless. You should name these feelings and the fact that you are thinking of suicide. Notice the impact on your life and name it to yourself and talk to someone about that impact. This might include loss of sleep, drinking, feeling depressed, loss of energy, loss of libido, short temper. Think about who you would like to talk to. It might be a family member, a colleague, CA Support, a counsellor, your GP, a clergyperson, The Samaritans. You should not attempt to deal with these feelings alone.   CA Support has a confidential listening service. Feel free to get in touch if you need support during this time. We can be contacted by email at or call us on (353) 86 024 3294. Article written for CA Support by Prof. Patricia Barker, Dip. Couns., MPhil, PhD, FCA

Apr 09, 2020

A problem shared is a problem halved. It might be a cliché, but it's true. When you're not feeling yourself, talking things through with someone you trust can help lighten the load. It's the first step towards taking back control of your mental wellbeing. Why does talking help? Talking about something with another person allows you to see things from a different perspective. There could be another way of looking at your situation Talking aloud can help you make sense of a problem and clarify your thoughts and feelings. When we're just turning things over and over in our own heads it can be difficult to see what's really going on Another person may offer practical advice and solutions that you hadn't considered before The simple act of being listened to often has a big impact in itself. You'll feel less alone knowing that someone is there for you. You might even discover that you're not the only one who feels the way you do Sometimes just saying something aloud is immensely relieving. You may have been carrying something around in your head for a long time and talking about it can be like setting down a heavy load. You might notice your whole body relaxing as you start to talk Opening up to friends and family might encourage and empower others to do the same Talking openly about how you feel might seem awkward at first. Especially if you're not used to it. But it will get easier and become more natural the more you do it Who can you talk to? Friends and family are a great place to start. They may have already noticed that you're not quite yourself and asked if everything is ok. This can make starting a conversation a bit easier. Having said this, it's common for people to find it difficult to talk openly with friends and family, for lots of reasons. Often they're worried about upsetting people they care about, how their relationships might be affected or that they might be treated differently. And this can affect how honest and open you are about the reality of your situation. Sometimes it's easier to be more honest with someone you don't know. That's where counselling can help. Counselling, or talking therapy, is a chance for you to talk to someone who will listen without judgement. It offers you a safe space and dedicated time to talk openly about you. Your thoughts. Your feelings. And the real impact they have. A counsellor can offer an impartial perspective on what might be a very complex and intense situation. As someone who's not involved and with no personal agenda, they may be able to help you work through and understand things in ways that your friends and family can't. Ask us about counselling CA Support can arrange for you to work with a professional counsellor face-to-face, over the phone or online.  Take the first step You might have avoided opening up in the past, simply because you don't know where to start. How can you possibly articulate all the thoughts and feelings going round and round in your head? But there's no set script you have to follow, and no rush to get it all out at once. When you contact CA Support, our trained advisors will help you find the right words. And after that first step, you'll have the support of a professional counsellor to help you through the rest of the process. You won't be on your own. You can talk to an advisor in complete confidence, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call us on 01 637 7342 to talk to one of the team. We are here for you. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Aug 08, 2019

Now that winter has finally loosened its grip, it's time for many people to give their homes a top-to-bottom spring clean. And as anyone who has ever had a major clear-out at home knows, it can give you a huge sense of satisfaction. But what about spring cleaning your mind? One good reason to do just that is to improve your memory. According to researchers at Concordia University in Montreal, as you get older you have so much more information to remember. So having the odd memory lapse may have nothing to do with the first signs of dementia, it could be that your mind is simply bursting at the seams. The researchers carried out tests with adults of all ages, and discovered the older volunteers had less working memory than the younger ones. But reducing 'clutter' in the mind by practising relaxation exercises could help, they concluded. Other experts believe that holding on to negative thoughts from past experiences can cause unnecessary stress. But how exactly do you declutter – or detox – your mind? Here are a few ideas... Learn how to meditate This doesn't have to mean sitting cross-legged on the floor and burning incense. Meditation can just mean closing your eyes for a minute or two and relaxing. Make yourself comfortable (sit, stand or lie down, if you feel like it), close your eyes and listen to the sound of your breathing. Don't worry if your mind starts to wander off – if it does, just keep breathing slowly and deeply, and bring your attention back to your breath. Get some fresh air Now that the weather is improving, there's no better way to revitalise your body and your mind by taking a walk outdoors, especially if you can walk in a natural setting. Go for a hike in the country, walk along the beach, or visit a local park or green space. Keep a notebook Write down all the thoughts that are swirling around your head – such as details you need to remember or things that are worrying you. Your mind may find it easier to let go of worries if they have been written down. And the things you really do need to remember – such as when bills need to be paid and other important dates – will be there in your notebook when you need them. Turn off your phone Spend an hour each day clearing your mind. Switch off your phone and other gadgets that distract you, such as the TV, radio and computers. Try not to fill your head with more information that isn't essential, and you'll feel better for it. Get rid of negativity Try to release all those thoughts in your mind that lead to blaming and complaining, and remember you can choose to be more positive if you want to. You'll be surprised at how much more free your mind will feel if you do. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jul 23, 2019

We all get stressed from time to time. A certain amount of stress can be useful but if you feel constantly overwhelmed this can lead to health problems. This article will look at the causes of stress and provide some tips on how to increase your resilience. You probably know the feeling of being stressed out all too well. Your breathing quickens, your heart starts to pound, your mouth feels dry, your muscles feel tense, your hands feel cold yet sweaty. Situations we find stressful can vary widely from person to person as some of us are more susceptible to the effects of stress than others. These situations trigger the release of stress hormones that are responsible for the way you feel when stressed. This is called the stress response, or the fight or-flight response. Survival mechanism The term fight or flight was first used by American physiologist Walter Bradford Cannon back in the early 1900s. It describes the body's automatic response to danger which is thought to have evolved as a way of helping humans react quickly to life-threatening situations. This response is triggered so fast you won't have time to think about it. Here's how it works: Step 1 In the presence of danger, the eyes and/or ears send information to the area of the brain involved in emotional processing, called the amygdala. The amygdala sends a distress signal to a tiny area at the base of the brain called the hypothalamus, which communicates with the body via the nervous system. Step 2 The hypothalamus activates the part of the nervous system called the sympathetic nervous system. This then sends signals to the adrenal glands, which respond by producing hormones including adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol into the bloodstream. As these hormones circulate through the body they bring about a range of physiological changes, such as: Faster heart rate Increase in blood pressure Faster breathing rate Increase in mental alertness Decreased saliva production Increased sweating Sharpening of senses such as sight and hearing Increased energy (caused by the release of sugars and fats into the muscles) Reduced urination Step 3 If the brain perceives the threat as ongoing the hypothalamus releases more hormones. These act on the adrenal glands, making them release more cortisol and leaving the body in a continued high state of alertness. Step 4 When the brain perceives the threat as having passed, cortisol levels fall and the hypothalamus activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which dampens the stress response.  Long-term effects Though the threats we encounter these days are usually very different from those faced by our prehistoric ancestors, the stress response is still useful as it boosts our awareness in stressful situations and helps us cope with emergencies. If your fight-or-flight response is triggered too often and for too long, the constant release of stress hormones in your body can lead to one or more of the health problems associated with chronic stress. These include digestive issues, impaired resistance to colds and other infections, heart disease, sleep difficulties, weight gain, anxiety and depression. While it's unlikely you'll be able to remove stress from your life entirely, there are steps you can take care of your physical and emotional wellbeing. Try to make your lifestyle as healthy as possible by: Eating well Eat a healthy balanced diet. Have at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day and try to limit how much sugar you eat. Sleeping well Getting a good night's sleep (read our Good sleep guide for pointers). Learning how to relax Try yoga, meditation, deep breathing or whatever helps you feel calm. Move more Taking regular exercise can help reduce the build-up of stress hormones in the body. Improve your resilience Increasing your resilience can help you to cope with stressful situations. Learn how to be more resilient by reading our article 5 ways to boost your resilience Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 24, 2019

Could a nerve you’ve probably never heard of be the key to boosting your mood and reducing anxiety? Say ‘hello’ to your vagus nerve. What is it? Vagus means ‘wandering’. The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in the body, starting at your brain and connecting to a host of organs including your gut, heart, liver, pancreas, gallbladders, kidneys, spleen and tongue. What does it do? Your vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you ‘rest and digest’. It helps to control body functions like your heart rate, digestion, breathing along with regulating your mood and emotions. How fit is your vagus nerve? Just like a muscle, when the vagus nerve is working well, it’s said to have good ‘tone’. Your heart speeds up a little when you inhale, slowing down a little when you exhale. The difference between those speeds is your HRV. A larger HRV indicates that your vagus nerve has good tone. Tone your vagus nerve: Singing Laughing Yoga Tai chi Humming Deep breathing Meditation Listening to music you enjoy Gentle to moderate exercise Getting a massage Eating probiotics Gargling Splashing your face with cold water Practice: deep breathing Set aside 5 minutes where you can be quiet without being disturbed. Lie down on your back with your hands on your abdomen. Bend your knees with your feet on the floor. Relax your elbows on to the floor. Close your eyes and notice your breathing without changing it on purpose. Focus on your navel and imagine your breath is moving your hands. Don’t push your breath to make your hands move. Just stay relaxed and focused on your breathing as it is. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 24, 2019