Stress is often described as a feeling of being overloaded, tensed and worried. Stress can be experienced during various times and at different occasions. It can be beneficial, when stress motivates us to perform better, but backfires when it interferes with our ability to get on with our normal life.
When facing a stressful event, our bodies respond by activating the nervous systems and releasing hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones cause physical changes in the body to help us react quickly and effectively get through the stressful situation. This is commonly referred to as the ‘fight or flight’ response. They tend to cause our heart rate, breathing and blood pressure to increase and our muscles to become tense.
While these physical changes help us try to meet the challenges of the stressful situation, it can cause other physical and psychological symptoms, which can become problematic if not managed properly. These symptoms include headaches, anxiety and insomnia.
There are three types of stress, including acute stress, episodic acute stress and chronic stress. Acute stress refers to situations where stress is brief and specific to the demands and pressures of a particular situation, such as a deadline or when facing up to a difficult challenge or traumatic event. Episodic acute stress refers to the reoccurrence of acute stress. These kind of repetitive stress episodes can be due to a series of very real stressful challenges. Worrying endlessly about bad things that could happen, are frequently in a rush and impatient with too many demands on their time can contribute to episodic acute stress. Chronic stress involves ongoing demands, pressures and worries that seem to go on forever, with little hope of letting up. This type of stress is very harmful to a person’s health and happiness.
Learning to handle stress in healthy ways is very important. Identifying warning signs and triggers, establishing routines, spending time with people who care, looking after your health, noticing your ‘self-talk’ and practicing relaxation are simple techniques to manage everyday stress.
Identify warning signs
It is helpful to be able to identify early warning signs in your body that tell you when you are getting stressed. While this varies between individuals, some noticeable signs include tensing your jaw, grinding your teeth, getting headaches, or feeling irritable and short tempered.
There are often known triggers that raise our stress levels and make it more difficult for us to manage. Once you know what the likely triggers are, you can aim to anticipate them and practise calming yourself beforehand or find ways to remove the trigger.
Having predictable rhythms and routines in your day or over a week, can be very calming and reassuring, and can help you manage your stress.
Spend time with people who care
Spend time with people you care about and who care about it, is an important part of managing ongoing stress in your life. Spend time with family and friends who you find uplifting rather than those who place demands on you. And don’t bottle up your feelings.
Notice your ‘self-talk’
Try more helpful ‘self-talk’ like ‘Calm down’ or ‘Breathe easy’. It is also important to keep things in perspective, instead of seeing things as worse than they really are.
Make time to practise relaxation as this will help your body and nervous system settle and readjust. Pick up a formal technique such as yoga, or make time to engage in a relaxing activity such as listening to music.
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