We will all experience stress to a certain degree in our day-to-day lives. It could be as a result of a personal setback e.g. a relationship breakdown or a bereavement, a health issue, maybe losing a job or it may be due to other pressures at work. In fact, stress can manifest itself for any number of reasons and, in certain instances, a ‘healthy’ level of stress can actually have positive benefits for us. This often occurs at work where a manageable degree of pressure often spurs us on to be more productive.
It’s a myth to believe that even the most laid back person you know is completely immune to stress. Stress is a fundamental part of everyday life for everybody and it can never be completely eliminated. It’s managing it, controlling it and putting it in perspective within the context of your whole life that is the key to reducing its impacts.
Problems arise when seemingly everyday problems start to cause us to feel completely stressed out. And, whilst people do differ in the amount and type of stress they can cope with, it’s often the fact that those who tend to always be ‘stressed out’ have simply not learned how to control and manage their own individual stress levels and trigger points.
Identifying the Trigger Points
Keeping a daily diary can be one of the best ways to identify trigger points that cause you to feel stressful. Scoring these on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is ‘least stressful’ and 10 is ‘ultimate stress’ allows you to pinpoint those areas which are most in need of control and management. By focusing on those which cause you the most stress, you’ll often find that those on the lower end of the scale begin to recede until they no longer cause you any stress at all.
Some Techniques to Help and Things You Shouldn’t do
Stress and not managing it can cause many different physical and emotional problems. You can find that it’s difficult to sleep, your head can start whirring around with all the things you should be doing (or shouldn’t be doing) and this can soon lead to an overwhelming feeling of being unable to cope. This, in turn, can lead to a breakdown in communication with work colleagues and loved ones who will all be affected by your stress levels too.
Firstly, you need to be positive. Anxious worrying does not solve anything and only makes things worse so tackle your problems head on, no matter how difficult they may seem. By overcoming what you might have perceived as insurmountable obstacles, you’ll eliminate that specific stress trigger and feel better about yourself.
Be careful how you express yourself in words and how you relate to others. Try to remain positive as negative thoughts and words can often lead to resentment and depression. Don’t feel as though you have to please everybody all of the time. People who often feel stressed most of the time have a tendency to try to do too much in an effort to please everybody but learn how to be assertive and to say ‘No’ when you have to. There are only 24 hours in a day after all.
Manage your time efficiently. Instead of waking up with the thought of the mountain sized tasks you have to fulfil that day and looking at them all as one complete entity, break them down into much smaller manageable tasks and allocate a certain amount of time to each. Prioritise as you go, ensuring that the most important tasks are completed first and don’t put off doing those until the end of the day. Get them out of the way first, if they’re the most important. And, don’t feel that you need to complete the whole list. If there’s not sufficient time, simply tack on all the ones at the bottom of the list (the least important) and put them on to tomorrow’s list – they’ll keep.
Take some time out for relaxation and laughter. A stroll in the park or watching a funny DVD can have dramatic effects on reducing stress levels. Pamper yourself with a beauty treatment or a session at the gym with a sauna or swim to follow. Listen to your favourite CD but make time for that, don’t simply put it on whilst you’re trying to do 101 other things. Whatever it takes, it’s important to take some time out and relax and have a bit of fun. Life may have its problems but it’s important to still appreciate its lighter side along the way.
Always look to build bridges and not to put up barriers. Communication is vital in overcoming stress. Your family and friends may be all that you need but you should learn to recognise if you need more specialist help and advice and to seek it out if need be.
Don’t always be expecting the worst to happen – it rarely does but if you go looking for a negative outcome to your problems, that’s what you’ll probably end up with so ‘always look on the bright side of life’ as some well-known comedians once sang!
Don’t use drugs (unless prescribed), alcohol, tobacco or overeating as a comfort blanket. You need to confront your problems head on. If work’s the issue, don’t let it control your life and learn to balance work with your personal life, not at the expense of your life outside work. Don’t blame others for your feelings. Even if they’ve contributed to your stress, blame solves nothing. Simply, recognise the problem and do something about it. Don’t keep all your anger and frustration bottled in until it’s ready to explode. It will usually erupt and it will often be someone close to your heart who bears the brunt of your anger. Recognise your anger and frustration at an early stage and discuss things with those who care about you. Alternatively, seek help from a professional.
Stress will not simply disappear. Often it builds and builds because of the sufferer’s unwillingness to take their own responsibility for it and to do something about it.
If you feel that you can’t cope on your own, seek help from your GP initially. They will be able to refer you to stress and anger management counsellors or to hypnotherapists who specialise in this field.
Too much stress and our inability to cope with it can not only ruin our lives but the lives of those who are closest to us and, if we’re not careful, it can irreparably destroy relationships. If your own attempts at controlling it aren’t working for you, then it’s time for you to seek professional help as stress can actually lead to far worse medical conditions if left untreated.