Managing stress is not about avoiding stress it’s about structuring a plan to be able to cope effectively with daily pressures.
Stress can be a reaction to a number of events or situations. People may be asking too much of you, you may have too much on your mind or too much to do, you may be faced with a situation you cannot control or change, you may be making a life-changing decision or life may have simply become too overwhelming.
Long periods of stress can be both difficult to manage and bad for our health and wellbeing. If you have had continuous low levels of stress in your life it may be manifesting itself in different ways. You could be suffering emotionally from depression, anxiety or other mental health issues or physically stomach problems like IBS, headaches or migraines, chronic fatigue or other physical issues.
The ultimate goal is to strike a balance between life, work, relationships, relaxation and fun. By doing this you are more resilient to deal with the normal stresses that day to day life throws at us and prepares you to meet any future challenges head-on.
How to avoid the effects of stress
Know your triggers – There are two main triggers, external and internal. These Internal triggers are usually based on thoughts, feelings, memories of past events, or worrying about future events and external are based on events such as relationship conflict, a new job or moving house. An individual can cope better with both internal and external triggers with appropriate stress management techniques
Recognise the signs – Your body reacts when you’re feeling stressed. These stress reactions can manifest themselves differently in different people and may include headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, chest pain/palpitations, stomach upset, IBS, dizziness, skin irritation, and/or hypersensitivity.
Manage your time – Plan your day in a diary or a calendar. It doesn’t have to be set in stone but if you have a loose plan you are more likely to use your time more effectively and not procrastinate. Give yourself small rewards at the end of the day if you have finished your tasks.
SMART goals – Small, Manageable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely.
Set goals and aims that you know you can reach. Take each day and as it comes and manages your time effectively. Decide on a few clear objectives for the short-term and work at achieving these.
Be realistic with stress management – Solve problems that can be solved and accept things you can’t change. Certain events are unavoidable, (death of a loved one, a serious illness, or a national disaster) when these life events happen, we can only manage the stress. However, some problems that are causing us stress are solvable, (relationship breakdown, house move and work-related issues). In such cases, we should look for possible solutions and solve the problems by facing them head on to relieve the effects of stress.
Reframe your thinking – When a situation is stressful try and actively reframe your thinking to make the experience a more positive one. For example, rather than becoming frustrated about being stuck in a traffic jam take the opportunity to listen to the radio, have some thinking time or breathing space or just enjoy the sights around you.
Don’t worry – Try not to worry. Worrying is pointless as it doesn’t stop problems from happening and nor does it change the outcome. Focus your attention and efforts on the aspects of a situation that you can control.
Enjoy your life – Make the effort to do things you enjoy. Learn a new skill or pick up an old hobby that you used to do. Make time to do activities that bring you pleasure and aid relaxation
Be healthy – Make the effort to live a healthy lifestyle. Physical activity such as walking, swimming or dancing can help relieve the tension in your muscles and relax your mind. Eating a healthy balanced diet helps to nourish our bodies to better able us to cope with stress. Sleeping well fuels your mind, as well as your body. Feeling tired will increase your stress because it may cause you to think irrationally. Drink lots of water to keep well hydrated.
Written by Pippa Crouch – Global OHS
The Worry Box
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The Stress Cure by Patrick Holford
The Curse of the Strong by Dr Tim Cantopher