Stress is a physiological reaction to an emotional state where the body is prepared to fight or fly. It is an evolutionary response to threat. Here are some of the physiological changes we may experience when we feel stressed, they include:
• An increased heart rate
• Feelings of tension
• A rise in blood pressure
• We become overly focused on the threat
This results in an often unpleasant experience which lasts until the perceived threat has passed, or until the body is no longer able to sustain this state and falls into exhaustion. The negative effects of stress are often discussed. These include:
• Lack of sleep
• Inability to focus
• Changes in eating habits – often over or under eating
• Suppressing our immune system so we may be more susceptible to illness
The impact of stress
Unfortunately, these, in turn, can spiral into further problems which may include problems in relationships, completion of tasks at work, and overall poor physical health.
But feelings of stress are not always a bad thing because it can mean you care about that particular event, person or situation – and learning to make the response work for you will not only assist wellbeing but can aid performance.
– AND, the good news is that stressors are often temporary, so if they are removed prior to exhaustion, recovery is often swift.
Spot the early stages of stress
A physical response such as the pumping of adrenaline, a focus on the threat and a feeling of tension may be exactly what you need to drive us to address whatever the situation is that has made us feel that way.
Therefore, even if you simply learn to listen to your body’s response and can identify stress triggers, you may be able to make small changes in order to live a happier life, preventing the feelings of stress before they even start.
Eight steps to combating stress, right here:
1. Listen to them!
No-one is more of an expert on your bodies than you. Becoming more aware of what triggers any of the stress responses mentioned can help you avoid them – or deal with them before they begin to get worrisome – in future situations.
However, knowing the signs is just the first part – once you are aware you need to listen to them and respond.
Try this: Start with some deep breathing (in for a count of 3, out for 5) and as you do focus on your body – your feet, legs, torso, shoulders, neck, arms, hands, head and jaw (the jaw is often tense when we are under stress).
Tense and relax each part as you think about it and familiarise yourself with the difference in sensation. This can help you recognise when tension (a symptom of stress) is present in your body and you can take a moment to establish what may be causing it and how it can be most effectively addressed.
2. Look after your body physically
Because stress is a physiological response, physical care can be just as important as emotional and mental support to build resilience to stress.
Try this: Plan your meals the day before – that way you know you will be eating healthily. Establishing a healthy routine which includes eating sensibly, sleeping well and simple things such as taking breaks can help our bodies function better. We often ask a lot of them so we would do well to look after them.
3. Make tiny changes to your routine
Being aware of what our body is saying comes first, doing something about it is an important next step.
Try this: If we can recognise that perhaps on a certain day a particular route on our commute is difficult we can choose to leave earlier, or perhaps find a different direction or means of travel. If certain people cause us to feel uncomfortable, perhaps reduce the amount of time we see them. If our jobs are causing these unpleasant feelings, then consider what the alternative options are.
4. Find healthy means of enjoying adrenaline
Rather than leaving things until the last minute, because you “work better under pressure”, consider doing the job early, and being able to improve on it nearer the deadline.
Try this: Find other ways of getting that “adrenaline rush” that you may crave. It is always down to personal choice and awareness of your own health, safety and finances but if you enjoy roller coasters then visit a theme park; try out sports such as skiing, or hobbies such as flying or bungee jumping – find a way of achieving that exhilaration where you add benefit to your life as well as satisfy your craving!
5. Remember what makes you happy and engage in it
Just because we have responsibilities and priorities doesn’t mean that we cannot also enjoy life at the same time.
Try this: Perhaps if you have not engaged in a hobby for a while, try it again and see if you can incorporate it into your life – maybe even inviting your family and friends to participate too. It is all too easy to become our “job role” – but we were always more holistic than that, so revisit you once in a while.
6. Learn to say no!
When we say “yes” to everything, if we have spread ourselves too thinly not only does the quality of our work suffer, but we may begin to resent the people we originally wanted to help. It is not your job to “rescue” others, and if you don’t do it, they will find a way to make whatever it is work if they want it enough!
Try this: If you cannot say “no” directly, then consider statements which can buy you time such as “I’ll tell you at x o’clock.”
7. Smiling can help!
Research has shown that sometimes smiling – even under periods of stress – can aid recovery. Not only that but forming your mouth into the shape of a smile can sometimes be just as good!
8. Practice gratitude
Too often we get caught up in what we “should” have done, or what we “could” be doing still. The practice of gratitude helps us focus on the here and now. Go on – think of one thing you’re grateful to have, and one person you are grateful to know. You now know you already have those!!
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