Do you feel as though the little things in life are starting to bug you? Do you let situations get on top of you? Do you feel overwhelmed by your work? In this article, you will learn how to identify your symptoms of stress and develop new skills to deal with stressful situations. You will be able to develop your attitude so that you are better placed to deal with stress.
What is stress?
We often can’t change the causes of stress – stress is part of everyday life. However, it is possible to change the way stress affects you. Approximately 30% of the stress we experience comes from external factors. The remaining 70% comes from our own attitude and the way we deal with our stress. So by learning to manage the stress we have in our lives, we can effectively learn to minimize its symptoms and effects.Stress is an internal response to a difficult situation, or a situation we find hard to handle. Stress is often attributed to our external environment; deadlines, pressures, trains being late. Some people seem to deal with these situations better and are much calmer and more productive as a result.
It is important to note that some stress is a normal part of everyday life – it can often help us to rise to new challenges or improve ourselves. It is when you are constantly experiencing stress and you are unable to cope with it that problems start. When you are under too much stress, the following warning signs can be evident:
Behavior You may see changes in your general behavior, appetite, or sleep pattern. It may even affect your appetite. Stress can be difficult to diagnose. Specific changes in your normal behavior, especially those that are beginning to increase, can help you identify if you are under stress.
External factors Feelings You may experience anxiety, depression, and restlessness. You may also be irritable and bad tempered towards other people.
Stress can be very evident in cases of death/illness in loved ones, divorce, problems with your relationship, money worries etc. High levels of stress can also be felt when moving house or starting a new job. Stress is an individual thing. A task that one person might find stressful may be challenging and enjoyable to another.
When under stress, the body effectively prepares itself for action by releasing adrenaline. Blood pressure increases and sugar is sent to the muscles to give us energy. This is known as the ‘Fight or Flight’ response mechanism. This is a natural alarm response to help you get out of danger and indeed, if you needed to escape a fire in a building or if you were being chased by a ferocious animal, this is exactly the state that would help your body get out of danger.
When you are subject to constant stress, your body begins to feel run down. You may feel tired and listless and unable to sleep. You may experience headaches and heartburn. In more extreme cases, you could experience stomach ulcers, hypertension, and heart disease
If you work in an environment where a lot is expected of you, and there is little you can do to influence this, this is a typical situation that could cause stress.
It is not enough to recognize the symptoms of stress, it is also important to know how to cope with stress in order to minimize the effects.
Coping with Stress
Change your attitudes and perceptions You can’t change the external factors that cause stress but it is possible to change your attitudes and perceptions towards these situations. Keep your sense of humour, have friends and family that you can rely on help you through stressful situations. Provide a distraction for yourself such as a hobby or a sport.
Change the way you interact with your environment Stress can be reduced if you improve the way you operate. Rather than working harder, try the following to help you to become more productive:
- Improve your time management skills
- Listen to feedback from your colleagues to help you improve
- Take assertiveness training.
- Slow down and take a step back
Start exercising – pick something you enjoy and look forward to and it will soon become a habit.
Change the way your body reacts to stress By keeping your body fit and healthy, you will have much better resources to help your body overcome stress.
- Reduce your caffeine intake. Caffeine is a stimulant that you certainly don’t need when you are already stressed. Drink plenty of water. Replace caffeine drinks with juices and fruit teas. Try to avoid fizzy drinks; many of these contain caffeine too!
- Cut down on nicotine – or preferably give up smoking.
- Avoid sugary snacks. Although they will give you a quick fix and a burst of energy, it is much better to eat foods that slowly release energy: wholegrain products, fresh fruit and vegetables – low GI. For more information on low GI foods, visit http://www.glycemicindex.com. Try to eat a balanced diet and also make sure you eat regularly.
- Make sure you get enough sleep. Sleep helps the body to repair itself and makes you ready for the next day. Most people need around 8 hours. Make sure you allow at least an hour to unwind before you go to bed. This will help you relax and improve the quality of your sleep.
Change your environment If your environment is making you stressed, it may beneficial to change it. It may be that your desk is cluttered with piles of paper work. Making time to sort through and file/throw away these will free up time for you in the long run. You may think “but I don’t have time right now to sort through my paperwork”. The question you really need to ask yourself is “Do I have time to go through all the piles of paper on my desk every single time I want to file a document?” You will save time in the long run and be more organized and efficient as a result
You could also give yourself some breathing space by perhaps taking advantage of flexi-hours to enable you to take an afternoon off a week. Scheduling some time off work may help. You may even want to consider changing your job or even going back to college to study for another vocation, especially if your current job is a continued source of stress.
Be realistic Don’t over commit. If you take too much on, you will only get stressed when you realize that you can’t complete everything, especially where deadlines are involved. Be realistic in terms of how long tasks take in terms of your time and the resources available to you.
Your expectations Stress can often be as a direct result of our expectations of ourselves and others. A significant amount of stress can be experienced as a result of our relationships with other people.
Take control of your stress
Stress management is a process where you can start to improve your understanding of yourself and also your attitude towards stressful situations. This will help you to deal with them in a more positive way. Reducing stress at work will enable you to be more productive. It will also improve the quality of your home life
In order to manage stress you need to be able to view yourself honestly and be aware of your strengths and your weaknesses. For example, if you can look inside yourself and identify what things specifically make you angry, when something happens to trigger your anger and cause stress, you will be better placed to manage your response, simply because you have anticipated it.
Awareness Try to identify your needs and communicate these with others. Stress influences what you feel, what you think and how your body reacts to any given situation. If you can become aware of the effects of stress on your body both psychologically and physically, you can become better equipped to deal with it.
When developing a better awareness of yourself, you need to really focus on how you are feeling and try to figure out why you reacted to a certain situation in a stressful way. When a stressful situation occurs, it may help to try to visualize how you might deal with the same situation more productively in the future. Visualize what you might say to the other person that would communicate your needs and your point of view. If you have difficulty doing this, resolve to learn about how to become more assertive.
Communication Communication is a key part of stress management. If your boss asks you to work late one evening, you may sit there begrudgingly and simmer away to yourself, feeling put upon. Alternatively, you could learn to develop your self-confidence and self esteem and explain to your boss assertively (not aggressively) that you are unable to work late tonight at such short notice because you already have a prior commitment.
Attitude Your attitude greatly influences how you react to a stressful situation. Try to turn your attitude into a more positive one. For example, if a colleague asks for your help, rather than being hostile towards them and resentful that they are taking up your time, take the opportunity to help them. This will help you build relationships with your colleagues and help you understand them better. This also works two ways; if you have helped your colleague, they will be more likely to give you help when you need it.
Try to improve your attitude. You may want to assess your own self-esteem and address any issues you may have. Try to nip negative thoughts in the bud before they get out of hand. Try to be more optimistic. If you plan to fail, the chances are you probably will. However, if you set yourself a goal and action plan to help you achieve this, you are more likely to succeed. Successes will also provide a boost for your self-esteem.
Action Learn to take a step back when you are in a stressful situation. Take a break, preferably away from your work area. Think in terms of “What is the worst that could happen if I don’t get this finished today?” This will help you think more clearly and prioritize, especially if you have too much work.
Be willing to ask others for advice. If you can acknowledge that you need support or help during a stressful period, it is a lot healthier than keeping it all bottled up. Also, talking to other people will provide you with a wider perspective and may also provide you with some good advice for your situation.
Set yourself some goals and work hard to achieve them.
Being more constructive about the way you deal with stress will enable you to become a better communicator, become more confident and efficient. Minimising your stress at work will improve your attitude to your job and will also improve your home life.