Stress is a common feature in all our lives and affects different people in many different ways. Everyone has a different method of dealing with it which determines whether or not it becomes a negative force in your life. Often seen as a negative emotion, stress can play an important role in our survival. It helps us get motivated and can even make us perform better; it also helps us to face threats and dangerous situations.
Stress tends to be reported as one of the top three of self-reported work related illnesses in the world. In the UK, Europe and USA the median number of days away from work as a result of anxiety, stress and related disorders was 25. The cost to the world economy runs into billions.
What is stress?
In essence stress is an imbalance between the demands put on you and your ability to cope with them. Pressure can come from all sorts of places - from moving house to money worries to relationship problems but in most cases the biggest perpetrator is work.
'If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn't ask me, I'd still have to say it'
by George Burns
So what's going on in your body when you get stressed? Recognising a threat, your brain starts to release hormones. Your body responds by increasing the amount of oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, heart and brain. This ensures that you are primed to think and act quickly. It's called the "fight or flight" response; your body is ready to fight off the threat or run away from it. Once the emergency is over, your body returns to a state of calm.
Short bursts of stress every now and again will not do you any real harm. However, if it's prolonged or you have frequent bouts, your body will find it harder and harder to recover. This can lead to chronic stress.
Mentally, you may:
• Feel anxious
• Depressed or apathetic
• Have mood swings
• Feel tired
• Find it difficult to concentrate
• Lose interest in sex
Physically, you may:
• Get aches and pains in your muscles
• Get headaches
• Feel sick
• Have heart palpitations (feeling your heart thumping in your chest)
Any medical conditions you already have (such as eczema or asthma), may get worse as well. However be careful and aware as chronic stress can lead to serious health problems like high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and reduced immunity. The best way to deal with stress is to get back in control of your life.
Steps to help reduce stress
So the most important thing you can do on a daily basis is to take steps to address the stress in your life but don't forget to think about your partner, your children, your friends and the extended family. Help recognise the signs, help yourself and help them. Below I have list some key steps to deal with stress.
• Limit distractions
• Eating a well-balanced diet will make you feel good about yourself
• Regular exercise is a great stress buster
• Don't take on more than you can cope with - remember to say no!
• Delegate or share responsibilities - especially at work and home
• Be more organised
• Pen and pad and get it out of your head
• Eliminate interruptions
• Allow yourself quiet time and space
• Go for a walk
• Listen to music
• Talk to a good friend about how they deal with it
• Learn to relax
• Take up yoga
If need be consult your GP and they will give you valuable support and advice.
'We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are'
by Anais Nin
Remember short bursts of stress every now and again will not do you any real harm but pay attention to over-doing it. The body will always present itself with what is going on in our inner world so listen to what it is telling you and act. Use the positive aspects of stress to help motivate your life!