Nowadays, one mention of the word stress and people generally associate it with negative connotations and yet not all stress is bad.
Stress is something that we all experience as a normal part of our lives and can help to get things done. When we experience an adrenaline rush which can leave us to feeling energised or creative we will get a lot done.
However, the flip side of that is that stress can put too much pressure on our minds and bodies and cause burn out. All of us need to know how to cope with stress.
So what exactly is stress? Stress is the physical and mental response that our bodies make to the different demands that we put on ourselves., for example insomnia, panic attacks or depress. The stress that we experience is generally our reaction to specific events not the events themselves. It is our reactions that we need to understand in order to learn how to cope with stress.
What are the causes of stress?
This is almost like asking how long is a piece of string. The fact is that there are lots of different cause of stress including, deadlines, financial troubles, work, relationship, new environment, change of job, illness …. I’m sure that you can write your own very long list of stresses.
How stress can affect us.
Stress generally affects people on 3 different levels. Physically, mentally and emotionally.
The physical symptoms that people experience are completely individual. Some common symptoms include: the heart pumping faster, palpitations, headaches, shortness of breath, cramping in stomach , sweating and blushing, sleeplessness.
The mental affects of stress include finding it difficult to stay focussed, struggling to get words out, finding thoughts are very jumbled and indulging in lots of negative self-talk.
Emotional affects of stress can be shown in lots of different ways. People change their behaviour and get angry more quickly, they have feelings of inadequacy, anxiety fear, impatience or irritability.
How to cope with stress
I always say to people that they need to find what works for them. It’s wrong to say there are any hard or fast rules in learning how to cope with stress. If something doesn’t work, don’t beat yourself up. Try something else.
Think positively. Yes this is sometimes easier said than done, but only you can control what goes on inside your head. Filling your mind with negative thoughts and letting them go round and round is destructive. Learn mediation, take yoga classes, use some relaxation techniques (including breathing exercises). Do anything that rests your mind and allows you to think more positively.
Make time for yourself. Having me time is always important. With the frenetic pace that many of us try and lead our lives, it can be easy to ignore ‘me time’. Don’t. You need time to yourself every single day, even if it is only 30 mins reading a book and relaxing.
Look after yourself. Again you have the choice about how fit you are, what you eat, how much sleep you get. Stress levels rise when we are not physically fit to face the different demands put upon us.
Face your problems. We’ve all been there. It’s very easy to bury your head and ignore problems, but it’s never a good strategy to take. If you need help in tackling your problems find someone who can help. If it’s something you want to tackle alone, then break it down into small pieces and work out how you can deal with it. Your stress levels will lessen as you start facing it.
Find an outlet for your stress. Physical exercise is obviously one of the most commonly used outlets to tackle stress. Running, walking, aerobics, dancing, skiing, kick boxing – whatever suits you. The most important thing is that you find a suitable outlet for some of your stress
Avoid unnecessary stress. Avoid putting yourself in situations that cause unnecessary stress. For example, keep away from people who are over critical , cut down your to do list, learn to say no. In order to learn how to cope with stress you have to take responsibility for the way you lead your life.
Accept there are some things that you cannot change. One of the key factors in learning how to cope with stress is to stop trying to change things that you cannot change. It’s a waste of both physical and mental energy.
There are lots of different strategies that you can use to cope with the stresses of life. Find the ones that work for you and keep practising them.