and Laying the Ground Work to Take Control!
Taking Control of Stress
In a nutshell Stress is the body’s response to the incessant changes of life. It a necessary part of life and in some cases is useful in activating the body to create eustress. Eustress is the healthy stress you activate in flight or fight situations which allows you to respond more effectively.
The goal therefore is not to eliminate stress totally but rather identify the triggers that cause it so you can take control of stress rather than it taking control of you. In other words good Stress Management in times of stress overload and to avert potentially stressful situations.
But before moving into the area of Stress Management techniques I wanted to start at the bottom and work up.
In this section we will look at what stress looks like in every day situations.
Some people respond angrily or act out their stress, or may take it out on other people. Others internalise stress which later develops into eating disorders or substance mis-use. Those with chronic illness such as diabetes, myalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, asthma or chronic respiratory disease may find their symptoms flare up when facing stressful situations.
What does Stress look like in your life?
How does it present on a physical or emotional level?
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Over or under eating
- A feeling of being constantly pressed, hassled or hurried
- Feeling overwhelmed by everyday events
- Irritability and moodiness
- Obsessing over trivial things
- Over-reacting to situations and snapping at work colleagues, family or friends
- Adverse skin reaction such as eczema or an asthma attack
- Problems sleeping
- Feeling lethargic and prone to sporadic bouts of crying
- Too much drinking, smoking or drugs
- A feeling of sadness, loneliness, helplessness, isolation or depression
- Episodes of hypochondria (sometimes referred to as health phobia or health anxiety) and is the obsessing over a ghost illness.
- Telling lies or over exaggerating events
- Being pre-occupied with racing thoughts
- Always in a rush and not being able to sit down and relax
- Dis-interest in your usual sexual activity
- Dis-interest in socialising or seeing friends or family members
- Non-stop chatter
- Being self-absorbed
If you have experienced any of the above symptoms you could well be suffering from stress. You may have experienced it at varying levels ranging from mild to severe and may also identify with more than one symptom from the above list. If so, well done, you have just taken the first steps to managing your stress.
Now let’s look at some precursors that will put you in the best frame of mind before you begin your stress busting regime.
This is what sets the scene for good stress management. Having a positive attitude and a determined resolve will put you in the driver’s seat of stress. It is important you have a no-nonsense approach to it and make a mental decision to take charge and overcome the stress in your life. Begin practising thought observation and become more aware of the thoughts flowing in an out of your mind. Start developing an optimistic outlook instead of viewing the world from a half empty glass perspective. Decide to to take control.
A good healthy diet is fundamental to managing stress. Eating well and drinking lots of water provides your body with the right fuel to sustain it throughout the day And having a strong body will assist in the process of stress management. Before we even get into what constitutes a healthy diet, start by taking an inventory of all the unhealthy foods that are weighing you down and clogging you up. Start developing a new relationship with food by educating yourself on the benefits of a healthy diet.
- Be realistic in your goals and expectations
Stop trying to juggle everything at the same time! Step back and list your activities along side the time you actually have available. Make a timetable that you can stick to. Unrealistic expectations of others and yourself just creates undue pressure and you know what happens to a build up of undue pressure? It eventually pops!
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Enlist the help of family members, friends or even work colleagues. If there is not a car-sharing scheme at your place of work, why not be the first to get one started? But before you even get that far, stop trying to be super-mum, employee of the century, or student of the year! and if you need help, just ask.
- Sleep is the best meditation-Dalai Lama
The words of a wise man! Sleep is such an important factor in managing stress. When your body and mind is well rested, it puts you in a much better position to deal with negative stressors. Lack of sleep affects your mood, you perception and response to situations and energy levels.
- Learn to relax
Living in a modern society conditions you to rush around all the time. Even when you are not rushing around, your body has gotten so used to being in that state, of ‘busy’ you may find it difficult to bring it down to a more relaxed place. You may even have guilty thoughts about taking time out for yourself to relax which means your have to change your entire mind-set and approach to life. Relaxation is the gift of kindness you give your body and mind.
I saved the best for last! Well almost last 🙂
Physical exercise is the best way to wave goodbye to stress! I cannot emphasize enough, the importance of incorporating a cardiovascular routine to your day. Personally I have found the perfect stress buster in the form of my bike! Riding to and from work, for example, sets you up nicely for the stressful day ahead then burns it all off on the journey home! Also physical activity helps to bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters called endorphins. It is the most natural and effective way to get yourself high!
- Start dealing with little problems one at a time
When you cannot see the trees for the forest you automatically start to feel overwhelmed. When you are overwhelmed, you put things off because it is way too much for you to deal with. When you put things off they have a nasty habit of coming back and biting you in the you know what! Now the problem is three times the size with six times the consequences! One step (or problem) at a time wins the race (said the tortoise to the hare!)
Okay, now that you have your list of precursors, you are ready, set, go, to taking control of the stress in your life.