Stress: Understand and Manage
You've overslept, the kids aren't ready for school, and you can't find your documents for your 9 AM presentation. Life is stressful. Learning the different types of stress as well as the sources can help you better manage your hectic schedules.
KEY TYPES OF STRESS
What exactly is stress? Stress is defined as a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension. Stressors, which cause stress, are situations that are perceived as a threat to one's life. Two factors that determine how you respond to stressors are whether the stressors are acute (new/short-term) or chronic (long-term).
More commonly known as the fight-or-flight response, acute stress is how your body reacts to perceived danger. Examples of acute stress include being pulled over by a police officer, giving a presentation, or having a job interview. Your body responds to acute stress immediately. People tend to think negatively about stress, but in small doses, stress could be thrilling. An example of acute stress that may be exciting would be a speed skier about to ski down a mountain. Having too many episodes of acute stress could lead to psychological distress. This could also lead to physical issues such as stomach problems, headaches, or serious health issues- like a heart attack.
Acute stress every now and then won't likely have any harmful effects on healthy individuals. Mild acute stress can actually motivate and energize people. The big problems arise when these acute stresses become more common, start to build up, and don't go away. Even though the response to chronic stress is less obvious than the acute stress response, the consequences may last longer and be more severe. Identifying and managing both types of stress is crucial for effective stress management.
LEARN YOUR STRESSORS
In order to develop new strategies to manage your stress, you must first find the sources. One way to identify your stressors is to create a list of situations or challenges that make you stressed. Write down the key problems that you are dealing with at the moment. You'll come to find that some of your stressors are events that happen to you (external) while others come from within (internal).
The events that happen to you are known as external stressors.
- Significant life changes: marriage, divorce, pregnancy, or promotion
- Environment: reaction to sound, light, or the weather
- Unpredictable events: being laid off or finding out that your rent is increasing
- Workplace: deadlines, high workload, or difficult boss
- Social: tough relationships with friends and family or meeting new people
There are changes that you can make to help reduce your external stressors. Lifestyle changes that you could make include getting more sleep, working out, and eating more wholesome meals. People close to you, such as friends or family, may be able to help you as well. Ask if they have any tips for managing time and solving problems. It's also important to learn to tell people "no". If you can't handle another commitment, it's okay to let them know that. You could lower your stress by reducing the number of activities and commitments that you have. Use your energy and time to focus on the activities that you truly enjoy.
Something doesn't have to happen to you to cause you stress. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Stress that is self-induced is known as an internal stressor.
- Fears: fear of disappointment, public speaking, or traveling
- Uncertainty: fear of not knowing, waiting for a response from someone, or waiting on medical results
- Beliefs: expectations to throw the perfect party or advance your career
Although we are able to completely change our thoughts, it can be difficult sometimes since we have had these fears, attitudes, and expectations for quite some time. There have been many studies conducted to discover new ways of managing internal stressors. Try to combat these stressors by reevaluating the way you think and choosing a positive mindset, and questioning negative thoughts. You could also try
using relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga. Talking to family and friends or even a counselor could help make a big difference too.
TAKE THE FIRST STEP
Stress will always be a part of your life. There's no way to eliminate stress but you can learn to manage it. The first step is to identify and better understand the causes of your stress and then learn different ways to help manage it. If you take time to work at it, you will learn to handle it.