Learning To Cope With Stress
What Is Stress?
Although it is difficult to define – because it is a highly subjective phenomenon that differs for each of us – stress is essentially the body’s reaction to an event that requires an adjustment or response. This reaction might be physical, mental, emotional, or any combination of the three.
Stress is also unavoidable. It is part of our everyday lives. The majority of events that we experience each day – that happen around us, that happen to us, and which we visit upon ourselves – place stress on our body. We can be subject to stress as a result of what is taking place in our environment, in our body, or in our thoughts.
How Does Stress Affect Our Well-Being?
Stress will impact upon each of us differently. If we can keep control of our lives and find a degree of balance in what we do, then stress can be a positive, keeping us alert and ready to handle the challenge that presents itself to us.
Too much stress, however, is a different story. For the vast majority of us, unrelenting pressure or challenge with little relief will inevitably have negative consequences. In these circumstances we become overworked and begin to experience stress-related tension. In simple terms, we become distressed.
Unfortunately, there is a growing body of research which makes it clear how damaging distress can be. Shockingly, nearly half of us are likely to suffer adverse health effects as a result of stress at some point in our lives, whilst more than three quarters of all visits to a doctor are for stress-related ailments.
Invariably, stress has a negative impact on the body, leading to symptoms as diverse as headaches, elevated blood pressure and diarrhoea. It can also impact on our body and our spirit, leaving us to suffer the consequences of insomnia, anxiety and wild mood swings.
The table below outlines just how prevalent stress is and the myriad ways in which it can impact upon us:
THE EFFECTS OF STRESS
|Insomnia, nightmares, disturbing dreams||Frequent headaches, jaw clenching or pain||Feeling overloaded or overwhelmed.|
|Difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts||Chest pain, palpitations, heart attacks, strokes and hypertension||Frequent crying spells or suicidal thoughts|
|Trouble learning new information||Tremors, trembling of lips, hands||Feelings of loneliness or worthlessness|
|Difficulty in making decisions.||Neck ache, back pain, muscle spasms.||Increased frustration, irritability, edginess|
|Forgetfulness, disorganization, confusion||Light headedness, faintness, dizziness||Overreaction to petty annoyances|
|Little interest in appearance, punctuality||Ringing, buzzing or “popping sounds||Excessive defensiveness or suspiciousness|
|Obsessive or compulsive behavior||Frequent blushing, sweating||Problems in communication, sharing|
|Lies or excuses to cover up poor work||Skin damage and/or skin disorders, including atopic dermatitis||Increased anger, frustration, hostility|
|Overreaction to petty annoyances||Cold or sweaty hands, feet||Frequent or wild mood swings|
|Excess anxiety, worry, guilt, nervousness||Dry mouth, problems swallowing||Social withdrawal and isolation|
|Depression||Frequent colds, infections, herpes sores|
|Excessive gambling or impulse buying||Rashes, itching, hives, “goose bumps”|
|Increased smoking, alcohol or drug use||Constant tiredness, weakness, fatigue|
|Sudden attacks of panic||Weight gain or loss without diet|
|Poor sexual desire or performance|
|Constipation, diarrhea, excess flatulence, belching|
How To Manage Stress
It is important to remember that stress need not affect us in a negative way. It is created by our reaction to situations and not by the situation itself. If we can temper our reactions, if we can manage life’s roller-coaster with a degree of equanimity and perspective, then we can minimize the adverse consequences of stress.
Listed below are a number of stress management tips that can help you:
• First and foremost, know what your stressor is! Too often, people accept that they are stressed without taking the time to properly think through exactly what it is that is making them stressed. Anything can cause you stress – your work, your relationships, your body image, even the poor performance of your favorite sports team. Learn to identify what is making you stressed. It’s a necessary first step in dealing with the problem.
• Try meditation. The benefits of meditation are vast. If you’ve got the time, have a look at our blog on meditation in the ‘Soul’ section of our website. The simple action of breathing in a meditative state will add oxygen to your system and will bring you a measure of focus and control.
• Moderate your consumption of alcohol and/or cigarettes. They’re crutches. They might dull the feeling of stress in the short term, but they do nothing to help the problem and have their own health-related costs.
• Live well. Get a good night’s rest (seven hours minimum), eat healthily, exercise, pamper yourself occasionally, make time for family and friends, get a pet (if you like animals!). All of these things have been shown to help mitigate against stress.
• Know your limits and be prepared to either say no or get help. It’s when we take on too much that we’re most likely to experience stress.
• Try hypnotism. Like meditation, hypnotism can be particularly useful in helping you manage the causes and symptoms of stress. Have a look at our ‘Mind’ blog to discover the many benefits it can offer.
• Look after your skin. When you become stressed, the amount of blood and oxygen which is supplied to your skin lessens dramatically. As a result, your skin will often take on a grey pallor and become dry, flaky and prone to irritation. When this happens, it is as important to care for your skin as it is for your general physical and emotional self. Take the time to cleanse and moisturize, and even visit a masseur if you can. Hopefully, we don’t need to tell you that your skin will repair itself much more quickly if you use natural, organic products rather than synthetic ones!
So, there you have it. It’s highly unlikely, unless you live in a cocoon, that you can avoid stress. However, if you opt for a thoughtful, balanced approach to life you can manage it and you can master it. In the end, that’s a much more desirable option than having it master you.