Monday, December 11

21St Century Stress Management

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Stress…What is it? Stress is what you feel when you have to handle more than you are able.  Stress is the mental, emotional or physical strain caused by anxiety or overwork.  Excessive stress may cause symptoms such as high blood pressure, headaches, upset stomach, rashes, insomnia, ulcers, depression and weight gain.  Excessive stress can lead to life threatening health problems if not managed properly.

Stress Contributes to 4 out of 5 Deaths from Heart Disease

Since 1958, some amazing medical advances have taken place; in spite of this heart disease still accounts for 30% of deaths worldwide according to the World Health Organization (WHO).  Stress is a contributing risk factor in 4 out of 5 heart disease related deaths in patients over the age of 65 and Vietnam veterans who experienced posttraumatic stress disorder have a higher risk of death from a cardio vascular related condition.  So what can you do to protect yourself from becoming a victim of excessive stress and the associated health problems?

Some Stress Is Good

Some stress is good for us, though.  Moderate stressors can help to motivate you to action resulting in new awareness and perceptions.  Moderate stressors can be such things as realizing your exams are next week, motivating you to study which helps you to achieve a good result and leads you to find work in a job you enjoy.

Another moderate stressor could be a family gathering to celebrate a special event such as a wedding or special birthday.  You always want to look your best when you see family members for the first time in months or years so that could be motivation for a weight loss program or haircut, or even buying some new clothing to help you feel good about yourself.

The Bad Side of Stress

The bad side of stress is when you fall victim to excessive stress.  You will probably experience things like high blood pressure, headaches, rashes, ulcers and possibly an upset stomach and insomnia and in severe cases even depression.  Some people seem to thrive on stress, but research has determined that a high percentage of illnesses and related medical conditions are the result of excessive stress.

Managing Stress in Your Life

We all react differently to stress, depending on our age and life experience.  Thus, not everyone will choose the same technique for managing his or her stress.

There are several ways you can manage stress in your life.  As mentioned previously some stress can be good for you; in fact insufficient stress can be as bad for you as excessive stress, leading to boredom, dejection and depression.

Learn from others.

Try to keep your distance from stressed out people.  Just being around stressed people can actually cause you to stress out.  Protect yourself by recognizing stress in others and limit your contact with them.  Keep an eye out for people who remain calm in a crisis and learn from them.  What do they do differently to the rest?  What is their body language?  Are they trained, or just experienced in what they do?  Sit them down for a chat if you can or just copy what they do.

Breathe to stay calm.

You can teach yourself some breathing techniques to stay calm.  In the fight or flight response, adrenaline is released, your heart rate and breathing increases and your body diverts blood to the main muscle groups in case flight is necessary.  For some people (including the author) a quickening of the heart and lung function spooks them and they may hold their breath.  That is the worst thing you can do!

Know your trigger points.

If you are aware of what is likely to set you off you can manage things much better. Write a list of the things you know for sure cause you to stress too much. Now write down some of the things that may cause you to stress.  You might have listed things such as deadlines, formal meetings with the boss, presentations and interviews.  For me personally it is crowds, loud noisy places, bright lights, fatigue and being in an unfamiliar place or situation.  Make your own list and think of ways you might be able to decrease the stress in your life.

When you know what causes you stress you can do something to lessen the impact it will have on you.  You might need to avoid certain people, places or situations or you may be able to learn some coping mechanisms.

Rest, Relax and Restore.

Lack of sleep, poor diet and no exercise leaves you poorly protected in body and mind when it comes to coping with stress.  Ensure you get enough sleep every night and learn some relaxation techniques to aid you in dealing with stress.  Yoga helps you stay calm and teaches (indirectly) coping strategies for dealing with upsetting situations.  Physical exercise such as walking, running or jogging helps to release tension from your body and puts you in a good frame of mind.  

If you catch yourself thinking stressful thoughts such as, “If this happens, then that might happen and I will die/my children will get sick/I will lose my job, etc.,” and so on and so forth, stop these stressful thoughts in their tracks by focusing on the good things that have happened in your life.  Most of the things you are thinking never happen anyway so your worrying is pointless.  Some people seem to thrive on stress, but research has determined that a high percentage of illnesses and related medical conditions are the result of excessive stress.  Focus on the good things in life and live longer and worry less.

© 2010 Fiona Allen All rights reserved

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