It’s useful to understand how stress affects the body. When your system perceives a threat it responds with the release of stress hormones which include adrenalin and cortisol.
You’ll notice physical changes like shallow, rapid breath, a galloping heartbeat, sweating and sharpened senses. This is all very helpful when you have to run from something dangerous, but the problem is that these ancient and primal stress responses can still overwhelm us when it comes to very modern lifestyle stresses.
Physical symptoms can include:
- Chest pains
- Digestive issues
- Muscle cramps
- Dizziness or fainting
- Excess sweating
- Sexual difficulties
- Trouble sleeping
- Nervous twitches, nail biting or hair pulling
Emotional signs of stress include:
- changes in behaviour
- food cravings or under/overeating
- frequent crying
- difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness
- feeling tired and exhausted
Do you know people who always look on the bright side and see the positive in most things?
Those are the same people who are likely to bounce back quite quickly from stressful situations and not feel any lasting negative impacts. Emotional resilience is a very useful skillset to possess. To develop or strengthen your own emotional resilience, focus on close and rewarding relationships with supportive friends, colleagues or family members. Be optimistic, work on developing your self-confidence and move towards realistic goals. Take good care of yourself physically and by taking regular rest and seek support when you feel stressed. It’s not something you should carry by yourself.
Mental health: coping techniques
More resilient people recognise the warning signs of too much pressure and are able therefore to effectively employ mental coping strategies to deal with the circumstances when the pressure gets too high. They can do this because they are able to recognise the signals their bodies give them that they’re under stress and not reacting well:
- Their feelings and emotions
- Changes in their behaviour and attitude• Changes in their appearance
And they are then very good at responding appropriately. This is because they have already developed the ability to:
- Live a more balanced life
- Talk and seek help from others when it’s needed
- Employ positive and proactive coping strategies
Accepting support from others
One of the most effective things we can do when we are stressed is to talk to a friendly listener who remains calm and listens in a way that makes us feel understood. To help reduce stress, develop a network of friends and family members to turn to when stress threatens to overwhelm you.
Developing proactive and positive coping skills
Your attitude has a lot to do with whether events and occurrences produce a feeling of stress. Once you admit that you are not able to control everything, you will be better equipped to handle unexpected situations. Stress management comes down to finding ways to change your thinking and manage your expectations. Other important ways to adjust your attitude include:
- Being realistic; shed the Superman/woman image
- Don’t expect too much of yourself or of others
- Being flexible; give in sometimes
- Rehearsing for work and life situations
- Thinking positively
- Don’t take work problems home or home problems to work
Stress at exam time
Exam time can often be a worrying and stressful period for both parents and children alike. A little bit of pressure can be productive – it can motivate and boost performance. However, too much or prolonged pressure can lead to stress, which is unhealthy for the mind and body.
Normally, all children want or need to know is that they are accepted and valued for how much effort they put in, as much as for what they achieve. That way they can start to accept themselves, feel good, gain confidence and stress levels or worries will start to reduce.
Be aware of the signs:
- Body pains
- Lack of appetite
How you can help them?
- Offer practical support, making sure they eat well, sleep enough, and get some exercise, it will make a difference.
- Offer emotional support, if your child is upset or angry, listen to them.
- Allowing them to talk about their worries and fears, rather than rushing to calm them down, will help them understand that they are normal to feel the way they do.
- Don’t feel you have to offer advice or guidance, just simply offering them time and space will help.
- Don’t add stress and pressure, often parents feel that they can do nothing to reduce exam stress but a parent’s attitude could have a significant influence on their child’s emotions. If you panic, blame or put pressure on them, then their stress will inevitably be greater.