Yes, You Can Reduce Your Stress

  Have you ever wondered why you can handle stress so much better than one of your friends? Or maybe you are in awe of a friend who seems to roll so easily with punches that would knock you out.   There is an explanation. Stressors (challenging events) aren’t experienced the same way by everyone. Stress is caused by a convergence of two factors: The nature and degree of the stressor and the temperament and skills of the individual.   A tornado would certainly qualify as a “stressor”. But a person with an easy-going personality, good coping skills and a loving and supportive group of friends and family will manage it pretty well. A person who is easily stressed, who has never developed methods for coping or who is a loner is going to have a much, much harder time.   Similarly, the break-up of a relationship can cause a person who is insecure or isolated to collapse while a similar break-up, though sad, doesn’t keep a more secure and social person from moving on. This doesn’t necessarily mean that their relationships were any more or less meaningful or that the break-ups were any more or less heart-breaking. The quality of the two people’s internal strengths and external supports are what made the difference.   On the other hand, it’s just true that a pile up of stressors can make even the most well-adjusted and social person feel like hiding under the covers. Sometimes life hands out too many difficult things at once to deal with. Sometimes, in either a burst of optimism or an inability to say no, an individual takes on more than he or she can handle.   The answer to having a less stressful life, then, is to either decrease the number or intensity of stressors or to increase your own ability to cope. Ideally, you’ll work on both. You’ll never be stress-free. In fact, life would be pretty dull without some stress in it. A reasonable amount of stress is what motivates us to make changes in our lives and to figure out how to address or adapt to challenges. But you can take charge of how stress impacts your life.   Excerpt from Psych Central, read the full article here.   “Everyone reacts differently to stress – it’s a very personal thing.”   Stress can occur when the demands put upon someone by certain situations or thoughts, can make them feel angry, frustrated or anxious. However, the things that cause stress can vary from person to person, and what is stressful to one person isn’t always stressful to another.   Stress in itself is not an illness. However, it can contribute to and trigger illness and ill health. Everyone reacts differently to stress and some people have a higher threshold than others. Too much stress can lead to physical, mental and emotional problems. Anxiety and depression are amongst the most common health problems, and the majority of cases are caused by stress. Research by mental health charities also suggests that a quarter of the population will have a mental health problem at some point in their lives.   Stress chemicals When faced with a situation that makes you stressed, your body releases certain chemicals which invoke the fight or flight feelings that help us to deal with the situation. Often the situation does not require this extreme flight or fight response and as a result these chemicals are not used. When the chemicals that are released during stressful situations build up from not being used, their effects are felt by the body. These can increase blood pressure, heart rate and the amount that you sweat. Some can prevent your immune system from functioning properly, as well as releasing fat and sugar into your blood stream   Causes Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, and a situation that one person finds stressful may not be stressful to someone else. Therefore, almost anything can cause stress and it has different triggers. Sometimes, just the thought of something, or several small things that build up, can trigger stress. Some common causes of stress include:
  • Money matters
  • Job issues
  • Relationships
  • Bereavement
  • Family problems
  • Moving house.
  However, sometimes there are no clear causes of stress. Some people naturally feel more frustrated, anxious or depressed than others, which can lead to them feeling stressed more often.   Pressure Pressure is a part of all our lives – without it we could not achieve our full potential. Pressure is inevitable. It comes from a variety of sources including work, home, personal life, holidays and travel, Christmas, exams, business change and balancing work and home life.   Pressure is a neutral force. How we react to pressure can make the difference between good and bad outcomes. Too much pressure without effective coping skills can lead to stress which often leads to physical, mental and emotional problems.   Identifying the triggers and recognising signs and symptoms of stress will enable you to recognise when you are becoming stressed and look at the causes or your coping skills. Picture2 The chart details the pressure performance curve. Everyday pressures influence how well we feel and how we perform. Ideally our days need to be in comfort and stretch. Strain and panic reduce performance and increase our risk of ill health.  
  • Boredom – without stimulation and challenge we become bored and under-achieve.
  • Comfort zone – with a little more pressure we enter a zone where we feel comfortable – not too little and not too much pressure – but when we are in the left hand side of this zone we are not being nearly as productive as we might be.
  • Stretch zone – this is where we perform at our best. However, we need to keep ‘jumping back’ into the comfort zone to refresh and regroup, because we can’t stay in the stretch zone for too long without a release from the pressure, otherwise we slip into the strain zone.
  • Strain zone – the line between the stretch zone and the strain zone is a thin one, and once we enter the strain zone our performance starts to fall off. If we stretch ourselves for too long without a break eventually the pressure gets too high and we slip into the strain zone. When we’re in this zone we feel tired and fatigued, pressure turns into stress and we begin to experience difficulty concentrating, we become less creative and have lower intellectual performance.
  • Panic zone – (or overwhelmed zone) where we feel severely stressed and are at risk of serious health problems. The effects of pressure are quite considerable and we feel burnt out, exhausted and may even break down
  Top tips
  • Try to deal with situations objectively in an unemotional way
  • Make a list at the end of each day
  • Make a list and tackle daily pressures
  • Schedule my time to include breaks and focused work
  • Don’t let things get to me
  • Keep home and work separate (enjoy life outside of work)
  • Share my concerns with other people (friend, manager, colleagues, counsellor/GP/health professional)
  • Smile more often – be more positive
  • Breathe deeply when tense and anxious
   

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