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Stress is a part of life. It cannot be avoided, but it can be managed. There are several healthy and beneficial ways of dealing with stress. By understanding it, you can find practical ways to manage stress in your life.
What is stress?
Stress is a physiological phenomenon that has psychological and emotional manifestations. Stress is a means for the body to protect itself when you sense a threat. When there is danger, the body activates the nervous system and produces hormones that prepare the body to meet a tough situation eg., increasing muscle tone, raising the heart rate, and, increasing blood-flow throughout the tissues. Even the speed of thoughts is increased to allow quicker thinking to find a way out of the current predicament.
The physical and psychological changes experienced allow for quicker reactions to handle the challenge of the moment more efficiently and effectively. When working properly, the body’s stress response improves the ability to function under pressure by increasing strength, stamina, focus, and alertness.
However, it is difficult for the body to remain in this state of alertness at all times. Being in a constant state of stress can lead to fatigue, anxiety and depression. When you find yourself overwhelmed by stress, then it is important to arm yourself with effective coping strategies.
Common Signs of Unhealthy Stress
- Increased heart-rate
- Difficulty sleeping
- Irregular appetite
- Stomach and digestion problems
- Feeling withdrawn and unsociable
- Irritability and frustration
- Irrational anger and hostility
Dealing with Stress
When stress becomes excessive, it can restrict your life. -. Prevention is often the best cure – Finding the time to relax physically, mentally and emotionally, especially after a challenging situation is a vital step. This will enable your body and mind to recover from previous hurdles and prepare for whatever new pressure may come your way. Allowing stress to persist with no recovery – also known as “cumulative stress” –can lead to burnout. It is therefore very important to take regular time-out to rejuvenate.
Be aware of getting too caught in a bad pattern or routine, where you are unable to relieve pressure. By taking a step back, you can examine the bigger picture and gain a better understanding of the things causing stress. Taking time out is key coping strategy, and this can be as simple as a short rest to do something you enjoy, or perhaps a longer break when needed.
If you feel the that your levels of stress are more extreme in terms of their frequency and intensity, then you may need to address things with a more structured and comprehensive approach. Keep the following formula in mind:
Level Stress = Level of Demand / Level of Coping
If your level of demand outweighs your capacity to cope your stress will increase
If you your coping outweighs your demands your stress decreases.
This means you have two targets for alleviating stress.
1. Reduce your demands – List all the factors that are adding pressure and see if you can make immediate practical changes that will diminish the presence or impact of your demands
2. Boost your coping mechanisms – List all the facors that typically help to support and replenish you – and make a priority of incorporating these into your life in structured and disciplined manner. (Find a list of useful coping mechanisms on this following link
If change feels too difficult to manage alone, then enlisting the help of others is an important consideration. Family, friends and local community resources can offer valuable practical and emotional support. Therapy can also assist in finding effective ways to manage stress. Discussing personal concerns helps to organize your own thoughts and shed light on underlying problems. Whatever approach you choose is ultimately beneficial so long as you keep aware of yourself and prioritise your personal resilience.
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