Working With & Managing Stress

Stress, as ‘everyone’ should realise, is a collective term, incorporating physical, psychological and physiological effects in response to an undesirable situation.

Mild stress can result from missing the bus to standing in a long line at the shop or even getting a parking ticket.  But stress can also be severe.

Did you know the most stressful human pastimes are (1) moving house, (2) retiring from work (3) changing / losing jobs, or (4) moving to a new country?

Stress is a reaction to an existing condition or an immediate threat ~ either real or perceived.

Stress involves situations such as relationship problems, health issues, employment or workplace pressures, financial pressures, or health worries.

When a person is unable to cope with circumstances, a physical stress response occurs to meet the energy demands of the situation.  First, the stress hormone adrenaline is released; then heart rates increase, breathing generally becomes shallower and quickens, blood pressure raises, the liver increases its output of blood sugar, and blood flow is diverted to your brain and large muscles.  After the threat or anger has passed or eased, or the situation resolved, the body starts to relax again.  We may be able to handle an occasional stressful event, but when it happens repeatedly, as with chronic stress, the effects multiply and compound over time.

Response to stress is highly individual.  It’s like a boxer who has repetitive trauma in a boxing match.  One hit and he’ll survive.  But add up the week after week of hits and he’ll be hurting and he may not be able to handle it anymore.

As a rough guide we are too stressed when the five telltale signs below appear;

  1. Feeing irritable (much of the time)
  2. Troubles sleeping ~ too sleepy all of the time or can’t sleep at all.
  3. Not much joy in life ~ little or lost interest in anything, focus and attention spans small
  4. Loss of appetite or can’t stop eating
  5. Relationship problems ~ can no longer get along with friends, family members or work colleagues.

Too much stress in our lives may also manifest in the form of illness, infertility or fatigue.

Stress can and does damage our overall health.  Our immune systems are affected because stress suppresses our immune systems, making us more susceptible to viral infections, such as influenza, and bacterial infections, such as tuberculosis.  Our cardiovascular systems suffer causing more rapid heart-rates and may bring on chest pains (angina) and/or irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmia).  Stress can even lead to heart attacks or strokes.  If there are already some existing health concerns, such as asthma or gastrointestinal problems, stress can make symptoms very much worse.  Lastly, chronic stress can cause acute stress and no one needs or wants this.  Stress is a spiralling merry-go-round where one leads to another and everything is downhill and negative.

If you want to alleviate [or avoid as much as possible] stresses in your life, try some of these suggestions.

  • Go easy on yourself ~ simplify your life.
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation
  • Practice breathing techniques, mind clearing, relaxing your muscles
  • Learn and practice EQ emotional intelligence to enable self-assessment, self-monitoring and self-regulation
  • Focus on one thing at a time.
  • Attend focussed and targeted Workshops for stress relief and emotional awareness, such as Art Workshops or any specific interest groups
  • Keep stress journals ~ track what triggers emotions and emotional responses and learn to prioritise ~ become emotionally intelligent and sensitive
  • Do what is most important to YOU first and foremost.  Start regarding yourself as ‘the most important person in the world’.
  • Focus on the positives in life.
  • Use humour to reduce or relieve your tension.
  • Exercise.  It relieves tension and provides a timeout from stressful situations
  • Go to bed earlier.  More sleep makes you stronger and better able to handle day-to-day responsibilities
  • Eat a good breakfast and lunch.  Keep energy levels high throughout your workday
  • Reduce or eliminate caffeine consumption. Caffeine is a stimulant.
  • Drink water and hydrate your body.
  • Take time off to rejuvenate ~ even if it’s just one day, midweek or a long weekend.
  • Set aside personal time and avoid negative people
  • Do volunteer work or start a hobby
  • Stop for several mini-breaks during your workday to revitalise your mind and body
  • Get a massage to relieve tension
  • Indulge in a long hot bath with music and soft lights (even men can do this)
  • Enjoy yourself.  Read a good book or see an uplifting movie.
  • Write meaningful letters with a positive mind.
  • Hug family and friends often, ask for a hug when you need it and don’t be embarrassed
  • Call friends to say ‘Hi, how are you?” often
  • Establish or strengthen a support network.
  • Consider the value of pets ~ their love is unconditional.

Stress-induced conditions can be managed and treated.

Be mindful.

Be aware.

Have a wonderful stress free [as much as is humanly possible] life.

Michael Boase

Consultant EQ Emotional Intelligence

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