‘Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.’
Hans Selye

Overview

Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or pressure. It can be caused by both positive and negative experiences. When faced with a situation that makes you stressed, your body releases chemicals including cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenalin.

These chemicals give you more energy and strength, which can be a good thing if your stress is caused by physical danger. This, however, can also be a bad thing if your stress is in response to something emotional and there is no outlet for this extra energy and strength.

Many different factors can cause stress. Identifying what may be causing them is the first step in learning how to cope. Some of the most common sources of stress are:

Survival Stress: You may have heard the phrase ‘fight or flight’; this is a common response to danger in both people and animals. When you are afraid that someone or something may be trying to hurt you, your body naturally responds with a burst of energy so that you will be better able to survive the dangerous situation (fight) or escape it altogether (flight).

Internal stress: Have you ever worried about things that you can do nothing about and that you have absolutely no control over? We all do from time to time. This is internal stress and it is one of the most important kinds of stress to understand and manage. Internal stress is when people make themselves stressed and anxious. The chemicals that stress releases into your system can be highly addictive and some people become ‘stress junkies’ by getting off on a chemical high. They may even look for stressful situations and feel stressed about things that aren’t really stressful.

Environmental stress: This is a response to things around you that cause stress, such as noise, crowding and pressure from work or family. Identifying these environmental stresses and learning how to avoid them or deal with them will help lower your stress level. Certainly some people are more sensitive to this than others and find it more difficult to filter out environmental distractions.

Workplace stress: This kind of stress builds up over a long period of time and can take a hard toll on your body. It can be caused by working too much or too hard and not achieving a healthy life balance. It can also be caused by not knowing how to manage your time well or by not taking time out for rest and relaxation.

‘There is more to life than increasing its speed.’
Gandhi

Stress Management – Steps to Success

  • Control your thoughts to manage your stress levels
  • Learn to be more confident and assertive
  • Manage your time efficiently
  • Use exercise to alleviate stress
  • Reduce caffeine and alcohol
  • Learn to let go and go with the flow

Managing Stress

Managing stress can affect both your body and your mind. People under large amounts of stress can become tired, sick, and unable to concentrate or think clearly. Sometimes, stress can even trigger severe depression and mental breakdowns. These steps will help you to effectively cope with stress:

Control your thoughts
Be more assertive
Manage your time
Avoid caffeine
Exercise more
Learn to let go
Control your thoughts

One of the best ways to tackle stress is to address your thinking. When the subconscious mind is told something by the conscious mind it doesn’t distinguish between what is real and what is artificial. It will believe whatever you tell it. Therefore, if you tell yourself that you are stressed, then you will be. The danger is that sometimes stress can become a habit and you may attach a way of thinking to a certain set of circumstances. For example, if you were stressed in a certain situation last time it occurred, and you talk yourself into believing that you will be stressed again in the same situation, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Be more assertive

Assertiveness is a great communication skill to develop, especially when you simply do not have enough time on your hands and you have to say no to a request. Also, if you are a passive or aggressive communicator, poor communication skills can add to your stress levels.

Manage your time

A great deal of stress is associated with your perceived time restraints. The feeling that you simply don’t have enough time to do everything you need to do is common for many people.

Avoid caffeine

Research has indicated that caffeine increases the secretion of stress hormones in the same way as adrenaline, so if you are already secreting higher levels of stress hormones, caffeine will boost this even further and exacerbate stress, anxiety and depression. By cutting down your caffeine intake, you will lower your stress hormone levels and therefore reduce stress, anxiety and depression

Exercise more

The benefits of exercise are numerous. Not only does it release a chemical called serotonin which makes you feel happier and less stressed, it also improves circulation and helps prevent conditions such as stroke and heart attack. Exercise also allows you to take out your frustration and anger in a constructive way through a very positive channel.

Learn to let go

Learning to let go of the past or of things that you fear may happen in the future is a big help when managing stress. We cannot change the past and we cannot control the future. We can, however, deal with the here and now. So slow down and go with the flow.

Stress Management: Ten Tips

Ten Tips to Combat Stress

Use these quick tips to help you feel calmer in times of stress:

1. Control your internal chatter and avoid self-imposed stress.

2. Be positive about change and seek out the benefits.

3. Be more assertive in the way that you communicate and deal with things.

4. Manage your time and personal efficiency more effectively.

5. Learn how to manage your emotions and try to see the funny side of things.

6. Eat a healthy, balanced diet and avoid too much caffeine and alcohol.

7. Get out in the fresh air, go for a walk and get some exercise.

8. Make sure that you get good quality sleep – six to eight hours every night.

9. Take deep breaths and focus on controlling your breathing.

10. Explore relaxation techniques and take time out every day just for you.

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