Have you experienced one or more of these symptoms recently?
Clenching of your fist, quickened heart beats, a dry mouth, pain in the jaw, headache, tightness in the chest, irritation, angry outbursts, excessive sweating, insomnia, back ache, anxiousness, unexplained fear…
If so, it’s likely that you are under some form of stress.
Stress affects all of us at some time or the other and shows up in different ways. Identifying situations that cause you stress and then consciously working to handle them better are two important steps in stress management.
What is Stress
Stress is your body’s response to change, it’s a process wherein hormones are generated to speed up your heart rate thereby making you breathe faster. It’s also referred to as the fight or flight response.
According to the American Psychological Association Stress is any uncomfortable “emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological and behavioral changes”.
Stress is usually caused by unanticipated, unexpected situations in your life. You crave for comfort and predictability, however, when something happens in a manner you did not hope for, it upsets your equilibrium and gets you to worry thereby putting you in a state of stress.
The Silent Enemy
Stress can come to you from anywhere. It could be due to internal issues like low self esteem, fears, limiting beliefs, procrastination, poor planning, lack of awareness, badly managed schedules, some continuing health challenges, poor attitude, negative outlook in life or external factors like lack of work life balance, a highly cluttered workplace, short deadlines, high pressure job, complex lifestyle, constant conflicts, non cooperative colleagues, a highly demanding and unreasonable boss…
Common symptoms of stress are absent mindedness, distraction, fuzzy thinking, boredom, disinterest, low energy, listlessness, irritation, impatience, victim mentality, angry outbursts etc.
Stress can also make you moody, tense and anxious. If unaddressed for long periods of time It can lead to serious health issues like persistent headaches, back pain, ulcers, heart ailments, weaker immune system and such.
At the workplace, stress can lead to lowered personal effectiveness, efficiency and productivity. It could affect your relationships with your coworkers and superiors, reduce your ability to focus, get things done and over a period of time also slow down, hamper your career, business growth.
Stress is a reality and cannot be eliminated completely from your life as some situations will be beyond your control. However, you can become aware and learn to manage it better.
Here are three approaches that you might find helpful :
1. Avoid – Can you avoid the situation that is likely to cause you stress?
2. Alter – Can you alter something about the situation that is causing you stress?
3. Accept – If you can neither avoid nor alter the situation, would it help if you just accepted the situation?
Think about this, resisting or fighting it only sucks away more of your valuable energy. The faster you realize, accept it and change your attitude the lesser will be your stress levels.
The next time you feel stressed, try these five simple actions to relax
1.Do some slow, deep breathing
This will fill your brain with much needed oxygen and help you relax, think more clearly.
Hydration helps you get energy which in turn makes you feel and think better.
3.Talk about it
Talk about whatever is troubling you. It could be with your co-worker, a friend, your coach, a family member, just talk about it. You will feel lighter and unburdened. The very process of talking will also help you process the problem better and come up with solutions faster.
As a life coach I spend a great deal of my time listening to clients talk about their challenges and during these coaching sessions the shift in their thinking, energy levels are clearly noticeable.
4.Write it down
Write down the problem in as much detail as possible, most times, your mind will tend to exaggerate the implications. Writing forces you to identify the challenge for what it really is and not what you imagine it to be.
5.Ask the right questions
Ask yourself powerful questions like ‘How can I address this situation, what else could I do, what one action if taken now could make me feel better’ etc. These will move you from worrying about the problem to finding solutions for it.
Lastly, I leave you with three powerful practices that will help you manage stress better in the long term.
Daily meditation can reduce stress. Increasing scientific research indicates that meditation keeps you calm, helps you relax and enables proper working of the bodily functions. Meditation can also help you leverage your mind’s immense capabilities to come up with ideas and solutions when necessary.
Exercise is another great stress buster. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins which trigger a positive and good feeling. Secondly, regular exercise builds physical, mental strength and fills you with energy thereby preparing you well to deal with the numerous workday challenges.
Gratitude is the simple act of being thankful. It makes you mindful of what you already have in your life. The more you practice it, the less will be your attention on worries, anxieties, stress associated with unpredictable and unexpected situations of the future. The act of practicing gratitude is powerful and will fill you with a deep sense of inner peace.
Its important that you focus on stress management in a holistic manner in order to live a healthier, happier, energetic and fulfilling life. Start today, identify whats troubling you and put a stress management plan in place.
Your life is valuable, live it well.
Points to ponder
1. What is causing you stress, are you aware?
2. How is stress showing up in your life?
3. Which of the stress management approaches discussed above would serve you best?
4. What actions must you take to make the stress management plan a reality?
5. How would that benefit you?
6. When will you begin?