What is Stress?
Stress is the way that we respond to change in our lives. It is the way our bodies react physically, emotionally, cognitively, and/or behaviorally to any change in the status quo. These changes do not have to be only negative things; positive change can also be stressful. Even imagined change can cause stress.
Stress is highly individual. A situation that one person may find stressful may not bother another person. Stress occurs when something happens that we feel imposes a demand on us. When we perceive that we cannot cope or feel inadequate to meet the demand we begin to feel stress.
Stress is not all bad. We need a certain amount of stress in our lives because it is stimulating and motivating. It gives us the energy to try harder and keeps us alert. When we find ourselves in situations that challenge us too much we react with the “fight or flight” stress response. Stress actually begins in our brains and it is expressed in our body. Once we perceive a stress our body sends chemical messengers in the form of stress hormones to help our bodies handle the stress.
Being able to manage stress is important in order to live healthy, happy and productive lives.
What are the symptoms of stress?
Stress hormones are important to help us meet the demands of stress everyday, but if they are repeatedly triggered then disease will occur. Our body signals us when we are experiencing the effects of chronic stress.
These symptoms include: lashing out at others, decreased sex drive, lack of intimacy, isolation, intolerance, loneliness, avoiding social situations, drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco products, and/or using drugs.
Tension, fatigue, insomnia, muscle aches, digestive upset, appetite change, headaches, restlessness.
Apathy, loss of direction, emptiness, loss of life’s meaning, unforgiving, no sense of purpose
Forgetfulness, low productivity, confusion, poor concentration, lethargy, negativity, busy mind.
Become aware of your reactions, maintain a healthy balanced diet, exercise regularly, balance work and play, practice relaxation techniques, meditate, develop a support system, pace yourself, simplify your life.
Anxiety, mood swings, irritability, depression, resentment, anger, impatience, worrying, feeling pressured.
Stress care techniques
Each of these techniques should be incorporated into everyday life for maximal stress reduction.
- Finish what you start
- Use positive affirmations
- Deep slow diaphragmatic breathing
- Do something you love
- Listen to relaxation tapes
- Allow extra time for projects
- Avoid caffeine
- Leave work at the office
- Do not ruminate over the past
- Try to live in the present
- Take brisk walks
- Listen to your body’s signals
- Daily choices to care for oneself helps one’s feelings of worth, and increases a sense of well-being.
Your take home message: do less, enjoy more!