Stress is a person’s response to any situation or event that requires adjustment or change. The stress reaction prepares the mind and body to react to any situation that is new, threatening or exciting. We often think of stress only in terms of negative events, but stressors can be positive as well. The result has more to do with how we interpret an event than it does with the stressor itself.
We experience the effects of stress physically, emotionally, behaviorally and cognitively. When the stressor is acute, or when it is interpreted as being too threatening or overwhelming, the person may feel flooded.
For some, stress can revolve around time management, procrastination, over scheduling and/or struggling balancing your daily schedule with relaxation time. Stress can also be exacerbated by troubles in family or romantic relationships. Additionally, a person can magnify the negative impacts of stress by consuming too much caffeine, alcohol, sugar, and by not getting enough sleep.
A person under continued high stress may experience a wide range of emotional reactions, which may include anxiety, irritability, sadness and depression.
A person may experience reduced physical energy, sleeplessness, and problems with coordination and/or psychosomatic symptoms such as headaches, backaches or gastrointestinal problems.
A person may have a severe reduction in his/her ability to concentrate, store information in memory and solve problems.
Stress is a necessary and unavoidable part of life. We cannot and would not want to eliminate all sources of stress. We can, however, learn to cope more effectively with stressors by employing effective physical, behavioral and cognitive coping strategies. People tend to use different ways of coping at different times. The ways people cope with stress can be divided into three areas: Solution-Focused, Emotion-Focused and Avoidance.
Involves a person’s efforts to resolve the problem or situation that causes him/her to feel stressed.
- Learning more about a situation
- Making time to relax or slow down
- Using time management and organizational skills
- Accept what can and cannot be changed
- Eating and sleeping well
Refers to a person’s efforts to decrease the emotional impact of a stressful situation and/or to increase a sense of emotional well-being.
- Talking to a friend or relative
- Seeking support or professional help
- Looking for ways to relax
- Rethinking the meaning of a situation or event
- Identifying distorted thinking or beliefs
Avoidance Coping (NOT recommended)
Occurs when an individual ignores or minimizes a stressful situation, and looks to escape its impact.
- Using alcohol or other drugs
- Experiencing suicidal thoughts
- Postponing dealing with the issue
If you are engaging in avoidance coping please seek professional help
Become Aware of Your Stressors and Your Reactions
- Notice your distress
- Determine how your body lets you know you are experiencing too much stress. Do you become nervous or physically upset?
- Determine what events distress you and what you are telling yourself about the meaning of these events?
Use this information to remind yourself to engage in stress reduction activities.
Recognize What You Can Change
- Can you change your stressors by avoiding or eliminating them completely?
- Can you reduce the intensity of stressors by managing them over a period of time instead of on a daily or weekly basis?
- Can you shorten your exposure to stress (take a break or leave the physical premises)?
- Can you devote the time and energy necessary to making a change (goal setting, time management techniques, and delayed gratification strategies)?
- Consider what you cannot change; we often add significantly to our stress level by trying to change things/situations that we have no control over.
Reduce the Intensity of Your Emotional Reactions to Stress
Ask yourself the questions below to gain a better perspective of what you are managing and where you may be able to change:
- Are you viewing your stressors in exaggerated terms and/or taking a difficult situation and making it a worse?
- Are you expecting to please everyone?
- Are you overreacting and viewing things as absolutely critical and urgent?
- Do you feel you must always prevail in every situation?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, work at adopting more moderate views; try to see the stress as something you can cope with rather than something that overpowers you.
Learn to Moderate Your Physical Reactions to Stress
- Slow, deep breathing will bring your heart rate and respiration back to normal.
- Relaxation techniques can reduce muscle tension
- Eat well-balanced and nutritious meals
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid nicotine, excessive caffeine, and other stimulants
- Mix leisure with work; take breaks and get away when you can
- Get enough sleep; be as consistent with your sleep schedule as possible
Seek Emotional Support
- Always be kind and gentle with yourself -- be a friend to yourself.
- Develop some mutually supportive friendships/relationships.
- Pursue realistic goals that are meaningful to you, rather than goals others have for you that you do not share.
- Expect some frustrations, failures, and sorrows.