STRESS stress facts

Dealing with stress

How Can I Eliminate Stress ?
Positive stress adds anticipation and excitement to life, and we all thrive under a certain amount of stress. Deadlines, competitions, confrontations, and even our frustrations and sorrows add depth and enrichment to our lives. Our goal is not to eliminate stress but to learn how to control it and how to use it to help us. Insufficient stress acts as a depressant and may leave us feeling bored or dejected, on the other hand, excessive stress may leave us feeling all tensed up. What is needed is to find the optimal level of stress which will individually motivate but not overwhelm an individual.

How Do I Tell What is Optimal Stress for Me ?
There is no single level of stress that is optimal for all people. We are all individual people with unique requirements. As such, what is distressing to one may be joy to another. And even when we agree that a particular event is distressing, we are likely to differ in our physiological and psychological responses to it.

A person who loves to arbitrate disputes and moves from job site to job site would be stressed in a job which was stable and routine, whereas a person who thrives under stable conditions would very likely be stressed on a job where duties were highly varied. Also, our personal stress requirements and the amount which we can tolerate before we become distressed changes with age.

It has been found that most illness are related to unrelieved stress. If you are experiencing stress symptoms, you have gone beyond your optimal stress level, you need to reduce the stress in your life and / or improve your ability to manage it.

How Do I Manage Stress Better ?
Identifying unrelieved stress and being aware of it's effect on our lives is not sufficient for reducing its harmful effects. Just as there are many sources of stress, there are many possibilities for controlling it. However, all require work toward change, changing the source of stress and / or changing your reaction to it. So how do you proceed ?

1. Become aware of your stressors and your emotional and physical reactions.
Notice your distress. Don't ignore it. Don't gloss over your problems.
Determine what events distress you. What are you telling yourself about meaning of these events?
Determine how your body responds to the stress.
Do you become nervous or physically upset ? If so, in what specific ways ?

2. Recognise what you can change.
Can you change your stressors by avoiding or eliminating them completely ?
Can you reduce their intensity (manage them over a period of time instead of on a daily or weekly basis) ?
Can you shorten your exposure to stress (take a break, 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 may be helpful here).

3. Reduce the intensity of your emotional reactions to stress.
The stress reaction is triggered by your perception of danger both physical and / or emotional danger. Are you viewing your stressors in exaggerated terms and / or taking a difficult situation and making it a disaster ?
Do you expect to please everyone ?
Do you overreact and view things as absolutely critical and urgent ? Do you feel you must always prevail in every situation ?
Work at adopting more moderate views, try to see stress as something you can cope with rather than something that overpowers you.
Try to temper your excess emotions. Put the situation in perspective. Do not concentrate on the negative aspects and on the but what if....

4. Learn to moderate your physical reactions towards stress.
Slow, deep breathing will bring your heart rate and respiration back to normal.
Relaxation techniques can reduce muscle tension. Electronic biofeedback can help you gain voluntary control over such things as muscle tension, heart rate, and blood pressure.
Medications, when prescribed by a physician, can help in the short term in moderating your physical reactions. However, they alone are not the answer. Learning to moderate these reactions on your own is a preferable long-term solution.

5. Build up your physical reserves.
Exercise for cardiovascular fitness three to four times a week (moderate, prolonged rhythmic exercise is best, such as walking, swimming, cycling, or jogging).
Eat well-balanced, nutritious meals.
Maintain your ideal 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.

6. Maintain your emotional reserves.
Develop some mutually supportive friendships / relationships.
Pursue realistic goals which are meaningful to you, rather than goals others have for you that you really do not share.
Expect some frustrations, failures, and sorrows.
Always be kind and gentle with yourself - be a friend to yourself.

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