A little bit of stress isn’t a bad thing: it mobilises our bodies and energises us during the coping process. But being overstressed can result in a range of health problems, including headaches, upset stomach, high blood pressure and even strokes or heart disease…
One of the first steps to cope with stress is learning to recognise your personal signs and symptoms. The way you function on a daily basis may change, or you may notice a difference in your body (such as tense shoulders), thinking, or general sense of wellbeing. Is the cause for your stress a real threat? Or is something causing needless worry in your life?
Stress is part of life but we don’t need to compound our problems by putting ourselves down and thinking irrational thoughts such as “nobody gets stressed out like I do”. We’re not weak or neurotic because we’re stressed – we’re stressed because we’re human. Blaming ourselves or doling out negative thoughts as self-imposed punishment is a waste of energy..
It can be tempting to hide from the people, places and tasks which make life difficult. By removing yourself from the situation, it’s possible to find immediate relief – but the sources of stress will never go away unless we confront them.
If avoiding stress triggers isn’t a good technique for dealing with stress, what is? Life experience teaches us that whenever we need to master a new skill – learning to swim, giving a public presentation, taking risks in front of others – it pays to take a deep breath, perhaps grit our teeth and get on with things. Most of the time, it all works out.
Positive confrontation is a good coping skill when faced with stress. Instead of avoiding a difficult boss, why not take every opportunity to work in his or her presence? Throwing ourselves in at the deep end until we master it is one way to desensitise ourselves to the people, places and work we find stressful. Taking action is good for our basic wellbeing too.
Another approach to tackling stress head-on is to keep tabs on our stress while we’re working. Logging the time of day, situation, how strong feelings of stress were, how you coped and how stressed you felt afterwards can be a useful tool for some people. This can give us an accurate idea of when and where we get anxious, and what coping skills work for us in certain situations.
Another way to take action on stress is to control the body and mind. Self-relaxation leading up to stressful times (as well as afterwards) and positive self-talk (“I have the skills to do this job well”, “I’ve done this a dozen times before”) are excellent skills to have. Sometimes our perceptions of a situation may be inaccurate – interpretations of an event or situation may be more negative when we’re down or dissatisfied.
It’s possible to test our perceptions. Keeping a record (as recommended above) can be one way to get a fresh view of a situation. Also, we can label the strong, stressful emotions we’re feeling as either positive or negative. So, before the next bout of stage fright, try calling it “excitement” and see what happens.
Enduring, mastering (and surviving) what life throws at us, and converting stress into a positive force, is a lifelong challenge. Everyone needs a certain amount of stress – it’s what gets us out of bed in the morning – but remember to be gentle with yourself!
Source; BBC Health.