MANAGING STRESS – A LIFE-CHANGING JOURNEY
What is stress?
Stress is our body’s way of reacting emotionally and physically to any kind of external pressures or demands. Although this kind of response may be beneficial at times, like when it provides the needed strength and energy in times of danger, too much stress or a prolonged state of stress is harmful to our body.
What causes stress?
Stress is caused by a variety of factors for different people. For most people and for most of the time, it is usually caused by unexpected and unpleasant changes which we are not physically and emotionally prepared to handle.
Some of the factors that have been found to contribute greatly to stress include the following:
Overwork – Working too hard with little time for rest and relaxation has been a constant source of stress for many people.
Home stressors – This is particularly true for those who live with an extended family or relatives. Another classic example of a home stressor is when a stay-at-home mother chooses to do everything for the family thereby tiring herself out everyday and lacking the time for a much needed rest.
Survival Stress – This is the body’s natural reaction when faced with physical danger. Our body responds with a burst of strength and energy which enable us to either “fight” or “flee” from the situation. We can therefore consider this as an acceptable kind of stress.
Internal Stress – This one is caused by none other than our own selves. When we think negatively and worry too much about things we can’t control and put ourselves in situations which may cause too much pressure or demands in our emotional state, we become stressed.
Environmental factors – These are the things around us that disrupt our normal lives and can put a strain on our emotional well-being. Some of these factors may include irritating people, noise, crowded areas, and emergency situations.
Who gets stressed?
Stress is a classic feature of human life and has become part of almost everyone else’s system. I’m pretty sure that we have all experienced stress at one time or another, whether working on a highly demanding task, trying to get along with difficult people whom we have to spend most of out time with either at home or at work, or taking care of our family and having to work at the same time.
People of any gender and from all age groups can suffer from stress and anxiety when exposed to any of the different stressors mentioned above.
How does stress affect us?
Stress has been known to cause negative changes to our physical, physiological, and psychological well-being, either directly or indirectly, leading to health problems, low work productivity, poor judgment, and broken relationships among many other things. Some studies even suggest that stress can literally kill us in the long run, as it contributes to the risk of having a heart attack or other fatal diseases.
Some of the changes that can happen to us when we are stressed may include the following:
Physical changes – headaches, weight loss, abnormal fatigue levels, difficulty sleeping, body aches, increased susceptibility to colds and infections
Psychological / emotional changes – short temper, depression, lack of confidence, poor concentration, helplessness, anxiety attacks, loss of direction, inability to relax, crying spells
Behavioral – turning to drugs or alcohol, becoming destructive, forgetfulness, inability to commit to something or to make decisions
Relationships – intolerance of certain people, not wanting to socialize, decreased sex drive, nagging, resentment, problems with spouse and/or children
How to reduce stress
One of the most important things to remember when handling stress is that everything has to start within us. We can never control what happens in our lives but we can always choose how to face the stressful situations. Here are some ideas that may help prevent or reduce stress.
Think positively. Negative thoughts have never solved any problem!
Accept changes as part of life and learn to deal with them.
Do something enjoyable at least once a day. This may take as little as 5 minutes of your time!
Strengthen family ties and develop healthy relationships with friends and co-workers.
Eat well and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Join weekly yoga or dance classes, attend group exercises, or indulge in recreational activities that interest you. Having a healthy body is one sure way of protecting oneself against stressful situations.
Be aware of the different factors that cause stress in your life and make every possible way to avoid them.
Develop skills in money and time management.
Reach out to other people and try to help others in your own little ways. The feeling of fulfillment that comes from being able to help people can boost your self-confidence and strengthen relationships.
Strengthen spiritual resources and develop a strong faith.
These are only among the tried and tested ways to reduce the stress in our lives. Some may be effective for other people while some of these may not cause any positive change at all. What is therefore important is for us to know ourselves better and to figure out which solution can help us overcome the different challenges that life throws at us each and every day. Remember, managing stress is not a one-time deal but rather a life-long journey to a happy and healthy life!