Ways to manage stress in an hectic world

Although stress is often viewed as a negative, it is actually a natural and normal physical response. A stress response is simply the body’s ability to defend and protect itself.

This “fight-or-flight” reaction can help a person stay energetic, alert, and focused. These behaviors can be beneficial. A winning touchdown, successful board room presentation, or an A on a test can all be partially due to a healthy stress response. However, too much stress can become harmful and can cause extreme damage to a person – physically, mentally, and relationally.

Chronic stress is caused when the body is subjected to an overwhelming amount of physical and psychological threats. Since the body cannot differentiate between extreme or moderate stress triggers, it reacts with the same intensity, regardless of how major or minor the cause.

This means that a bounced check or a long commute can be the catalyst for intense stress related symptoms (that may feel as intense as a real life-or-death crisis). Symptoms may include muscle tension, headache, fatigue, anxiety, changes in eating habits, mood swings, lack of enthusiasm, and/or an upset stomach.

Each person has a different tolerance level when it comes to calculating stress. It is important for each individual to understand his or her stress level threshold.

Factors that influence stress tolerance include: one’s ability to deal with emotions, one’s preparedness for stress-inducing circumstances, one’s sense of control, one’s attitude, one’s support network, one’s physical health and nutritional status, one’s fitness level, and one’s sleep habits.

These variables are what enable one person to maintain a sense of calm while another person feels completely overwhelmed.

Just as each person must evaluate the factors that cause stress, it is essential for individuals to consider the ways in which they react to stress, and whether or not their responses need to be altered. Some individuals react by freezing up and becoming extremely internally agitated.

Some become very outwardly agitated and may become volatile. Others become withdrawn and show little to no emotion. Understanding personal stress triggers and individual reactions are key in moving forward and coping with stress.

Although stress can affect any individual, those with fast-paced and challenging work environments (such as medical professionals) are more likely to experience the symptoms and signs of stress.

Strategies for managing stress (whether it’s work related or personal) include: avoiding unnecessary stress, changing one’s situation or environment, adapting to and accepting one’s environment, upping one’s fitness level, and scheduling time for personal leisure and relaxation. Taking control of one’s life and prioritizing what’s truly important (and worth stressing over) are integral methods of managing stress.

When it comes to stress we have to realize that it exists because we often have obligations that cannot be set aside easily. In order to fix this we have to have a plan of action to strategically ease the burden. Since much of our stress comes from balancing work and schedules you need to analyze the areas of your life that stresses you the most. Here are a few ways to alleviate your stress levels.

GET HELP: there is a saying that “many hands makes burden light”. Ask others for help when you are able to from friends and family members.

DELAGATE: there is a tendency for people with high stress levels to have a “no one else can do this” view of life. If you are a parent, train your children to help you with chores and other responsibilities. It may feel tedious at first but once they learn to chip in, it will leave you with more free time and less work. It will also teach them valuable lessons in being responsible.

DIVIDE AND CONQUER: if you have a big task, think about breaking it up into smaller tasks and tackle them that way.

ASK FOR ADVICE: out of pride or some other reason, we often try to fix problems by ourselves. If you are faced with a problem that you find hard to solve, ask others who are more experienced than you for advice. You will be surprised how another person can give you valuable insight.

LOVE ME MOMENTS: have a set time each week when you pamper yourself. Get your favorite ice-cream, put on your favorite show or album, kick back and relax.

CONCLUSION: At the end of the day it is valuable to realize that stress is a fact of life. You cannot escape it and as such we must develop the mindset of managing it. Stress that is managed is beneficial for our growth as human beings. It drives us to be better and to reach for solutions in a world that often full of problems.  

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