When something happens to us, we automatically evaluate the situation mentally. We decide if it is threatening to us, how we need to deal with the situation, and what skills we can use. If we decide that the demands of the situation outweigh the skills we have, then we label the situation as "stressful" and react with the classic "stress response". If we decide that our coping skills outweigh the demands of the situation, then we don't see it as "stressful".
Everyone sees situations differently and has different coping skills. For this reason, no two people will respond exactly the same way to a given situation.
Additionally, not all situations that are labelled "stressful" are negative. The birth of a child, being promoted or moving to a new home may not be perceived as threatening. However, we may feel that these situations are "stressful" because we don't feel fully prepared to deal with them.
Some situations in life are stress-provoking, but it is our thoughts about the situation that determine whether they are a problem to us.
How we perceive a stress-provoking event and how we react to it determines its impact on our health. We may be motivated and invigorated by the events in our lives, or we may see some as "stressful" and respond in a manner that may have a negative effect on our physical, mental and social well-being. If we always respond in a negative way our health and happiness may suffer.
Unusual levels of stress can negatively impact your ability to accomplish personal goals and maintain good health. Challenges such as resolving a family crisis or losing weight become more difficult when stressors mount.
By understanding ourselves and our reactions to stress-provoking situations, we can learn to handle stress more effectively. Consider the following tips to help you reduce your stress.Identify the Causes
Some causes of stress are obvious - you lose your job or someone close to you dies. But don't overlook the daily hassles and demands that also contribute to your stress level - your daily commute or having too much work to do.
Over time such persistent little things can accumulate and wreak more havoc on your health than sudden big things do. The first step in reducing stress is to identify and recognise the main causes:Keep a stress journal.
For one week, note which events and situations cause a negative physical, mental or emotional response in you. Record the day and time. Give a brief description of the situation. Where were you? Who was involved? What seemed to cause the stress? Also, describe your reaction. What were your physical symptoms? How did you feel? What did you say or do? Finally, on a scale of 1 (not very intense) to 5 (very intense), rate the intensity of your stress.Make a list of all the demands on your time and energy for one week.
Some examples may include your job, volunteer work, driving kids to after-school activities or caring for an elderly parent. Then, on a scale of 1 (not very intense) to 5 (very intense), rate the intensity of stress that each demand causes. Sit down and look at your stress recordings. Look closely at the events that you ranked as very stressful. Select one of them to work on using the following problem-solving techniques.Tips for Coping with Stress
The following are suggestions to get you started on managing the stress in your life:
- Recognise your symptoms of stress by using the techniques outlined above.
- Look at your lifestyle and see what can be changed to reduce your stress - in your work situation, your family situation, or your schedule.
- Make a conscious decision to eliminate as much unnecessary stress as you can, for example, rather than stressing over long traffic delays, turn on some music and relax – if you can’t change it, then try not to let it stress you.
- Use relaxation techniques - yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or massage.
- Exercise - Physical activity is one of the most effective stress remedies around!
- Time management - Do essential tasks and prioritise the others. Consider those who may be affected by your decisions, such as family and friends. Use a check list so you will receive satisfaction as you check off each job as it is done.
- Watch your diet - Alcohol, caffeine, sugar, fats and tobacco all put a strain on your body's ability to cope with stress. A diet with a balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and foods high in protein but low in fat will help create optimum health.
- Get enough rest and sleep.
- Talk with others - Talk with friends, professional counsellors, support groups or relatives about what is bothering you.
- Help others - Volunteer work can be an effective and satisfying stress reducer.
- Get away for awhile - Read a book, watch a movie, play a game, listen to music or go on holiday. Leave yourself some time that's just for you.
- Work off your anger - Get physically active, dig in the garden, start a project, get your spring cleaning done.
- Choose battles wisely. Don't rush to argue every time someone disagrees with you - give in occasionally and avoid quarrels whenever possible.
- Tackle one thing at a time - Don't try to do too much at once.
- Don't try to be perfect.
- Ease up on criticism of others.
- Don't be too competitive.
- Make the first move to be friendly to someone new in your life, or to reconcile with someone after an argument.
- Have some fun!! Laugh and be with people you enjoy!
- Seek help - If none of these things relieves your feelings of stress or burnout, ask a health care professional for advice.