Has the past year taken its toll on you? Do you feel like you’ve reached your stress threshold and all you want to do is crawl into bed and hibernate for a bit? Carmel Murugen shares her thoughts…
Here’s a fun fact! Stress is a natural reaction to the demands of life. There’s no hiding from it. In fact you can make it work for you. It’s that surge of adrenaline that pushes you to study into the wee hours of the morning. It’s that force that propels you out of bed at an unearthly hour to clock 10 miles in preparation for a Marathon. It can all go south though, if instead of managing stress, you allow stress to master you.
To manage stress effectively you must understand the difference between when it is necessary to change the situation and when is it necessary to change your response to the situation.
Types of Stress:
- Stress that emanates from the pressures of daily living, like juggling multiple roles, high crime rates or the failing economy.
- Stress brought on by a sudden negative change such as the death of a loved one, change of job or divorce.
- Stress caused by a major traumatic experience like an accident or hijacking.
Learning to recognise the source of stress in your life is the first step to managing it. A great New Year’s resolution would be to start a stress journal to record details of your stress experience:
- What lead to feeling stressed?
- How did your body feel – did you break out a sweat, develop a severe headache?
- What did you do (if anything) to make yourself feel better.
The journal will help you identify common themes. Armed with this information you can draw from the following strategies to create your personalised Stress Busting Plan.
Strategies to Manage Stress
- Physical activity is key! Exercise releases endorphins that boost your mood, making you feel happier. Even basic activities like using the stairs instead of the elevator or putting on your favourite music and dancing your troubles away, will help.
- Social contact with friends or loved ones will help to relax you. The human connection sends signals to your nervous system that tends to calm you and lower defensiveness. Loneliness can make you vulnerable to stress.
- Assertiveness – if something or someone is causing you distress, express your concerns politely. Say No when you know that saying Yes is going to increase your stress. Taking on too much is guaranteed to elevate your stress levels.
Resentment will build up which can either explode into a fall out with the person, or implode, resulting in psychosomatic illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes and headaches.
- Self –care – Be deliberate about scheduling time for nurturing yourself. This is your “me time” to recharge your batteries. Do something that elevates your mood. Break out those scented candles and bubble bath, spoil yourself with a massage, or watch a comedy.
- Cultivate a Healthy Lifestyle – It’s widely acknowledged that stress can wreak havoc on your body and mind, so:
- Stay positive! Accept that you can’t control every situation but you can control your reaction to it.
- Eat well balanced meals that include fruit, vegetables and lean meat. Avoid sugar.
- Get sufficient rest. A good night’s sleep is fuel for your brain.
- Practice relaxation techniques like yoga and deep breathing.
If after trying all of these tips you are still struggling, seek help from a friend, family member or mental health professional.
Do whatever it takes to take back your power and live the kind of life YOU want!
- Stress – National Institute of Mental Health – NIH https://www.nimh.nih.gov › health › publications › stress
- 10 Tips to Manage Stress – WebMD
- Managing Stress – Centre for Disease Control and Prevention