Manage Your Stress
Stress is something that is simply part of being alive. Being born is stressful!! What matters in the actual amount of stress we encounter which determines whether we stay well or become ill.
Stress occurs when we experience mental or emotional strain and tension. Stress can also manifest in physical symptoms such as neck or back pain, headaches, stomach upset, poor digestion, elevated blood pressure, poor sleep and ongoing fatigue leading to a compromised immune system.
We need a certain level of stress to leave the comfort of bed in the morning and prepare for our day. So whether we are preparing for a long commute, a long day in the office, a long day with small children or whatever our day may involve, an optimal level of stress is needed to function well.
We stop functioning well when stress crosses our threshold level and we start making mistakes, being constantly fatigued, sleeping poorly, eating poorly and neglecting our healthy routines such as exercise.
The threshold for stress tolerance varies between individuals. Some people suffer from boredom when there is a lack of activity in their life and this too can be a form of stress. Some people can actually thrive on high levels of stress without negative consequences.
Before being able to manage your stress, you need to be aware that it is present. Stress is experienced in the body when the hormone cortisol is released as part of the fight or flight response. Stress for most people is caused by a hectic lifestyle with too many demands placed on the mind and body. Each person has a different threshold for reaching the point of stress and this can vary from time to time depending on the quality of sleep, rest, recreation, diet and exercise.
Most disease occurs in the mind and body as a result of stress. It is most important then to learn how to manage your stress in a way that is most effective for you. This will mean that some habits you have developed will probably need examination to assess the impact on your stress levels and introduce new habits that are more supportive of your wellbeing. Change itself can be a stressful process depending on how invested your subconsious mind is in holding on to self-defeating patterns of behaviour.
Top 10 Stressful situations
This list may differ according to which Life Events Inventory is being referenced.
- Death of a spouse
- Jail sentence
- Death of immediate family member
- Immediate family member commits suicide
- Getting into debt beyond means of repayment
- Period of homelessness
- Immediate family member seriously ill
- Unemployment (of head of household)
- Break up of family
Source and further information: The Life Events Inventory, Re-Scaling based on an Occupational Sample. A. Spurgeon, C.A. Jackson and J.R. Beach.
It is interesting to note that on this list of 54 life events, moving house is listed as 32, marriage 41, retirement 53 and going on holiday as 54. These could be viewed as happy life events (I imagine in most cases) and yet they are listed in the research by Spurgeon, Jackson and Beach as stressful life events.
Some Warning Signs That You May Need To Manage Your Stress
- Headaches, muscle tension, neck or back pain
- Upset stomach
- Dry mouth
- Chest pains, rapid heartbeat
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Loss of appetite or overeating “comfort foods”
- Increased frequency of colds
- Lack of concentration or focus
- Memory problems or forgetfulness
- Short temper
Source and more information: American Psychological Association
Some Stress Management Techniques You May Find Useful:
- Walking or other enjoyable physical activity
- Going fishing
- Tai Chi
- Sharing conversation with friends
- Playing a musical instrument that you enjoy
- Watching a favourite movie
- Sitting by the fire and gazing at flames
- Sitting or walking on the beach watching and listening to the waves rolling in
- Spending time in nature
- Loving sex and affection with partner
- Cuddling a pet
- Reading an engrossing book
- Listening to relaxing music
- Learning to manage your time more effectively
- More tips to manage your stress
Breathing Technique To Manage Your Stress
When you are stressed breathing tends to be shallow in the upper chest area. To reduce the stress response breathing needs to move into the abdominal area.
Find a quiet and restful place to sit and close your eyes. Place your hands over your abdomen and take a breath in through your nose. Then slowly exhale through your lips with a "whoooo" sound, completely emptying your lungs. Imagine your breath leaving your lungs and travelling all the way down through your body and beyond.
You may also find it helps to stop mind chatter by repeating the words, "rising....falling" as your hands move up and down over your abdomen with each breath sequence.