Chronic stress activates the fight-or-flight response, which is known to reduce immune-system functioning and contributes to a majority of illnesses. Learning to increase the relaxation response balances the mind and body, resulting in a healthier, happier person.
Some good ways to manage stress and cope with daily hassles include:
Learn to be aware of your current stress levels
- Tune into your body, and be aware of tight muscles.
- Know yourself: strengths, weaknesses, wants, needs – specific, set objectives
- Be proactive: not sitting back and waiting for things to happen.
Ask for help when you feel stressed
- “I’m feeling really pushed just now, can you give me a hand”
- “I’m feeling fragile today, could I do this task tomorrow”
- Have others to rely on for help – friend making and keeping is a process.
Express your pent-up, or built-up feelings
- “I need to talk with someone, because I’m feeling churned-up inside. Will you have lunch with me?”
- Allow yourself to cry, or to be angry. These feelings are normal. NOT expressing these feelings is abnormal and will add to your stress! “
Has anything like this happened before? Look for links with previous experience – what happened then? Learn from the past.
Learn to say “No”; and learn to say “Yes”
- You may need to learn assertion skills to stop taking on too much. Trying to reduce your stress levels, when in reality you have “too much on your plate”, is like putting a band-aid on a dirty wound!
- Conversely, saying ‘yes’ to opportunities you may not usually take up can lead to new relationships, opportunities to grow and new directions.
Do nice things for yourself
- Much of the information that has been written about Stress and Burn-Out shows the relationship between poor self-esteem, feeling stressed and poor productivity.
- When we feel good about ourselves, we are able to use our energy creatively and confidently. We are then likely to achieve great things, and feel positively rewarded by our achievements. This in turn, prepares us for the next problem that we are more likely to face enthusiastically and positively.
- When we feel under-confident and stressed, we approach problems and work in a defensive way. When we feel this way, we are unlikely to take risks. As a result, we are more likely to be unsuccessful as our energies are being used for self protection rather than problem-solving. Yet to solve many problems, we need to be creative and open to new ideas! But by approaching defensively, we are less likely to get the positive pay-back we so need, and this will negatively affect the way we approach the task next time.
Look after yourself
- Exercise, diet for physical fitness. Identify low points, learn to predict them
- If one of your symptoms of stress is muscle tenseness, explore relaxation techniques, i.e. yoga, regular massages, aromatherapy.
- Cultivate hobbies and other non-work related pursuits. Interests provide balance in your life, whether its gardening, antiquing, building things or reading.
- One way to prevent some illnesses and chronic conditions is to engage in regular medical check-ups. Make sure you understand what the potential physical symptoms of your genetic make up and responses to stress are for your body so you can introduce strategies to reduce your risk of ill health.
Learn to accept positive feedback.
- For all the reasons stated above!
Learn to give yourself positive feedback.
- Again, for all the reasons stated previously.
- When preparing for a situation that you feel stressed about, do the following: List all your achievements, including the crises you have survived. This can be invaluable in reassuring yourself, and putting the situation into its rightful perspective. For example, “I may be feeling nervous about giving this presentation, but I have given many similar ones before and they’ve been well received, so this one will go well too.”
Learn relaxation exercises.
- Progressive muscle relaxation exercises are frequently outlined in books.
- Learn to identify which muscles are tense, and learn to relax. This is important for your health. Many symptoms and sicknesses, eg. headaches, insomnia, bad backs, heart conditions etc. have been shown to be directly related to the amount of stress that we are experiencing. The pain we experience is also worsened by stress.
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