Stress is a natural part of life. Every day there are responsibilities, obligations and pressures that change and challenge you. In response to these daily strains your body automatically increases blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, metabolism, and blood flow to muscles.
However, when this natural response is prolonged or triggered too often without sufficient adjustments to counter its effects, it can threaten your health and well being. Therefore, it is essential that you learn to cope with these natural responses in order to avoid physical and/or emotional problems.
Am I Suffering From Stress And Tension?
Each person handles stress differently. Some people actually seek out situations , which may appear stressful to others. A major life decision, such as changing careers or buying a house, might be overwhelming for some people while others may welcome the change. Some find sitting in traffic too much to take, while others take it in stride. The key is determining your personal tolerance levels for stressful situations.
Stress can cause physical, emotional, and behavioral changes which can compromise health, vitality, and peace-of-mind, all of which may affect personal and professional relationships. Too much stress can cause relatively minor illnesses like insomnia, backaches, or headaches as well as potentially life-threatening diseases like high blood pressure and heart disease.
Here are questions to identify negative reactions to stress and tension:
1. Do minor problems and disappointments upset you excessively?
2. Do the small pleasures of life fail to satisfy you?
3. Are you unable to stop thinking of your worries?
4. Do you feel inadequate or suffer from self-doubt?
5. Are you constantly tired?
6. Do you experience flashes of anger over situations which used to not bother you?
7. Have you noticed a change in sleeping or eating patterns?
8. Do you suffer from chronic pain, headaches, or back aches?
If you answered yes to some of these questions, it is likely that you have identified negative reactions to stress and tension and need to make some changes.
Helpful Ways to Reduce and Control Stress and Tension
As you read the following suggestions, remember that success will not come from a halfhearted effort, nor will it come overnight. To manage stress successfully, you must take control of your situation and make the needed chages to both your responses to stress and your lifestyle. It will take determination, persistence and time. Some suggestions may help immediately, but if your stress is chronic it may require more attention and/or lifestyle changes. Determine your tolerance level for stress and try to live within these limits. Learn to accept or change stressful and tense situations whenever possible.
Be realistic -- If you feel overwhelmed by some activities (yours and/or your family's) learn to say no! Eliminate an activity that is not absolutely necessary or ask someone else to help. You may be taking on more responsibility than you can or should handle. If you meet resistance, give reasons why you are making the changes. Be willing to listen to other's suggestions and be ready to negotiate.
Shed the "superman/woman" urge -- No one is perfect, so don't expect perfection from yourself or others. Perfectionism is one of the leading causes of internally induced stress. Ask yourself: What really needs to be done? How much can I really do? Is the deadline realistic? What adjustments can I make? Don't hesitate to ask for help if you need it.
Relax -- Just 10 to 20 minutes of quiet reflection may bring relief from chronic stress as well as increase your tolerance to it. Use the time to listen to music, relax and try to think of pleasant things or nothing at all.
Visualize -- Use your imagination and picture how you can manage a stressful situation more successfully. Whether it's a business presentation or moving to a new place, many people feel visual rehearsals boost self-confidence and enable them to take a more positive approach to a difficult task.
Take one thing at a time -- For people under tension or stress, an ordinary workload can sometimes seem unbearable. The best way to cope with this feeling of being overwhelmed is to take one task at a time. Pick one urgent task and work on it. Once you accomplish that task, choose the next one. The positive feeling of "checking off" work is very satisfying. It will motivate you to keep going.
Exercise -- Regular exercise is a popular way to relieve stress. Twenty to 30 minutes of physical activity each day benefits both the body and the mind.
Hobbies -- Take a break from your worries by doing something you enjoy. Whether your interests include gardening, painting, fishing, etc schedule time to indulge yourself.
Healthy lifestyle -- Get regular checkups. Know the general condition of your vital signs (blood pressure, etc) even if you have no symptoms. Good nutrition also makes a difference. Limit intake of caffeine and alcohol (alcohol actually disturbs, not helps, regular sleep patterns), get adequate rest, exercise, and balance work and play.
Share your feelings -- A phone call to a friend lets you know that you are not the only one having a bad day, dealing with a sick child, or working in a busy office. Stay in touch with friends and family. Let them provide love, support, and guidance. Don't try to cope alone. Perhaps it's time to consider hiring a Stress Management Coach!
Give in occasionally -- Be flexible! If you find you are meeting constant opposition in either your personal or professional life, rethink your position or strategy. Arguing only intensifies stressful feelings. If you know you are right, stand your ground, but do so calmly and rationally. Make allowances for other's opinions and be prepared to compromise. If you are willing to give in, others may meet you halfway. Not only will you reduce your stress, you may find better solutions to your problems.
Go easy with criticism -- You may expect too much of yourself and others. Try not to feel frustrated, let down, disappointed, even "trapped" when another person does not measure up. The "other person" may be a wife, a husband, or child whom you are trying to change to suit yourself. Remember, everyone is unique, and has his or her own virtues, shortcomings, and right to develop as an individual.
Deal with problems promptly -- Don't let things build up until they become a crisis. Whenever possible, resolve family, financial and legal issues before you go off to work. Having too much on your mind will affect your ability to concentrate on your job and make you more accident /mistake prone.
Compiled and edited by Sherry Cardinal, LCSW.