Stress - Coping With Everyday
Stress is a natural part of life. The
expressions are familiar to us, “I’m stressed out,” “I’m under too much
stress,” or “Work is one big stress.”
Stress is hard to define because it
means different things to different people; however, it’s clear that most
stress is a negative feeling rather than a positive feeling.
Stress can be both physical and
You may feel
physical stress which is the result of too much to do, not enough sleep, a
poor diet or the effects of an illness. Stress can also be mental: when you
worry about money, a loved one’s illness, retirement, or experience an
emotionally devastating event, such as the death of a spouse or being fired
However, much of our stress comes from
less dramatic everyday responsibilities. Obligations and pressures which are
both physical and mental are not always obvious to us. In response to these
daily strains your body automatically increases blood pressure, heart rate,
respiration, metabolism, and blood flow to you muscles. This response, is
intended to help your body react quickly and effectively to a high-pressure
However, when you are constantly
reacting to stressful situations without making adjustments to counter the
effects, you will feel stress which can threaten your health and well-being.
It is essential to understand that
external events, no matter how you perceive those events which may cause
stress. Stress often accompanies the feeling of “being out of control.”
How do I know if I am suffering
person handles stress differently. Some people actually seek out situations
which may appear stressful to others. A major life decision, such as
changing careers or buying a house, might be overwhelming for some people,
while others may welcome the change. Some find sitting in traffic too much
to tolerate, while others take it in stride. The key is determining your
personal tolerance levels for stressful situations.
Stress can cause physical, emotional
and behavioral disorders which can affect your health, vitality,
peace-of-mind, as well as personal and professional relationships. Too much
stress can cause relatively minor illnesses like insomnia, backaches, or
headaches, and can contribute to potentially life-threatening diseases like
high blood pressure and heart disease.
Tips for reducing or controlling
As you read the
following suggestions, remember that success will not come from a half
hearted effort, nor will it come overnight. It will take determination,
persistence and time. Some suggestions may help immediately, but if your
stress is chronic, it may require more attention and/or lifestyle changes.
Determine YOUR tolerance level for stress and try to live within these
limits. Learn to accept or change stressful and tense situations whenever
- Be realistic. If you feel
overwhelmed by some activities (yours and/or your family’s), learn to say
NO! Eliminate an activity that is not absolutely necessary. You may be
taking on more responsibility than you can or should handle. If you meet
resistance, give reasons why you’re making the changes. Be willing to
listen to other’s suggestions and be ready to compromise.
- Shed the “superman/superwoman”
urge. No one is perfect, so don’t expect perfection from yourself or
others. Ask yourself, “What really needs to be done?” How much can I do?
Is the deadline realistic? What adjustments can I make?” Don’t hesitate to
ask for help if you need it.
- Meditate. Just ten to
twenty minutes of quiet reflection may bring relief from chronic stress as
well as increase your tolerance to it. Use the time to listen to music,
relax and try to think of pleasant things or nothing.
- Visualize. Use your
imagination and picture how you can manage a stressful situation more
successfully. Whether it’s a business presentation or moving to a new
place, many people feel visual rehearsals boost self-confidence and enable
them to take a more positive approach to a difficult task.
- Take one thing at a time.
For people under tension or stress, an ordinary workload can sometimes
seem unbearable. The best way to cope with this feeling of being
overwhelmed is to take one task at a time. Pick one urgent task and work
on it. Once you accomplish that task, choose the next one. The positive
feeling of “checking off” tasks is very satisfying. It will motivate you
to keep going.
- Exercise. Regular exercise
is a popular way to relieve stress. Twenty to thirty minutes of physical
activity benefits both the body and the mind.
- Hobbies. Take a break from
your worries by doing something you enjoy. Whether it’s gardening or
painting, schedule time to indulge your interest.
- Healthy life style. Good
nutrition makes a difference. Limit intake of caffeine and alcohol
(alcohol actually disturbs regular sleep patterns), get adequate rest,
exercise, and balance work and play.
- Share your feelings. A
conversation with a friend lets you know that you are not the only one
having a bad day, caring for a sick child or working in a busy office.
Stay in touch with friends and family. Let them provide love, support and
guidance. Don’t try to cope alone.
- Give in occasionally. Be
flexible! If you find you’re meeting constant opposition in either
your personal or professional life, rethink your position or strategy.
Arguing only intensifies stressful feelings. If you know you are right,
stand your ground, but do so calmly and rationally. Make allowances for
other’s opinions and be prepared to compromise. If you are willing to give
in, others may meet you halfway. Not only will you reduce your stress, you
may find better solutions to your problems.
- Go easy with criticism. You
may expect too much of yourself and others. Try not to feel frustrated,
let down, disappointed or even “trapped” when another person does not
measure up. The “other person” may be a wife, a husband, or child whom you
are trying to change to suit yourself. Remember, everyone is unique, and
has his or her own virtues, shortcomings, and right to develop as an
Where to Get Help
Help may be as
close as a friend or spouse. But if you think that you or someone you know
may be under more stress than just dealing with a passing difficulty, it may
be helpful to talk with your doctor, spiritual advisor, or employee
assistance professional. They may suggest you visit with a psychiatrist,
psychologist, social worker, or other qualified counselor.
Ideas to consider when talking with
- List the things which cause stress
and tension in your life.
- How does this stress and tension
affect you, your family and your job?
- Can you identify the stress and
tensions in your life as short or long term?
- Do you have a support system of
friends/family that will help you make positive changes?
- What are your biggest obstacles to
- What are you willing to change or
give up for a less stressful and tension-filled life?
- What have you tried already that
didn’t work for you?
- If you do not have control of a
situation, can you accept it and get on with your life?
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National Mental Health Association, no part of this document may be
reproduced without written consent".