Stress is a reaction to the abnormal demands of everyday life. It is a healthy, natural, hormonal reaction that helps us tackle challenging situations. In response to a demand, the body reacts first by releasing the catecholamine hormones, adrenaline and norepinephrine, giving the body extra energy and alertness and then the glucocorticoid hormones, cortisol and cortisone which allow fight, flight or freeze response. These are reactions which have helped the human race to survive since pre-historic times
Life today is very different to how it was only a few years ago. We are now very competitive and time pressured. It is almost a badge of honour to be busy. Technology is constantly changing, offering more distractions, more comparison and a fear of missing out. Unfortunately, marriage/partnership breakdowns are common and long-term job security seems to be something of the past. It is hardly surprising that at times we feel we cannot cope. In order to enjoy life, we need healthy challenges that we feel we can handle, it is all about balance. But there are sadly, times when we face challenges that we feel we unable to manage and it is then that we experience stress.
Effects of stress – A certain amount of stress is good for us. It gives us the motivation to achieve our tasks or goals. At these times adrenalin and other chemicals released into our system help us to focus. Stress is the wear and tear we experience as we adjust to our continually changing environment, it can create both positive and negative physical or emotional effects. When it has a positive influence it can compel us into action, it can result in a new awareness and an exciting fresh outlook. However, the negative influence can bring feelings of anger, rejection and depression which can lead to health problems, such as headaches, upset stomachs, insomnia, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
What causes stress? –The ability to tolerate stress is linked our individual personality, our relationships, our resilience and energy levels, together with our emotional maturity. Consequently, introverted people are generally more comfortable with fewer stimuli than more extroverted individuals. Stress creates an imbalance in some of our bodily functions. Both positive and negative events in our lives can be stressful. However, major life changes are the greatest contributor of stress for most of us because they place the greatest demand on our resources for coping.
Major life changes – Often stress can arise through change. Moving house, starting college, transferring to a new school, getting married, becoming pregnant, starting a new job, losing a job, getting divorced or the death of a loved one are all well-known stress factors. Unhappy relationships tend to be draining and lower our resistance to stress.
Environmental Events – Other stressors can occur through environmental events such as fear of missing out, the pressure from social media, our tendency to engage with competition and comparison, disappointments, time pressure, money problems, noise pollution, illness and caring for dependants.
Work Related Stress –Many people suffer from stress at work which can range from, excessive workload, having unrealistic deadlines to hit, insufficient workload, lack of control, poor support, insufficient training, promotion, bullying or harassment, a blame culture, ineffective management, having multiple line managers to report to, an uncertain future and a poor physical working environment.
Exercise to try – Identifying your sources of stress
When energy levels are reduced, our mechanisms for dealing with the world around us are less robust. Therefore, it’s important that we learn how to identify and deal with our sources of stress and take positive action whenever we encounter a stressful situation in order to reduce the risk of it seriously impairing our long-term mental and physical health.
- Have you had any major life changes in the last twelve months?
- Have you had any environmental changes in the last twelve months?
- Are you experiencing any stress at work or home?
- Are you issues long or short term?
Techniques to manage stress – Recognise what you can change
- Can you shorten your exposure to stress?
- Is there anyone I can talk to about what is troubling me?
- Can you reduce the intensity of the stress?
- Can you devote the time and energy to making a change?
- Are you viewing your stressors in exaggerated terms and/or taking a difficult situation and catastrophizing it?
- Are you expecting to please everyone?
- Are you overthinking situations?
Actions to Alleviate and Manage Stress
- Use deep breathing techniques to moderate your physical reaction to stress
- Build your physical reserves through cardiovascular exercise (walking, jogging, cycling or swimming)
- Eat well-balanced, nutritious meals
- Avoid nicotine, excessive caffeine and other stimulants
- Take breaks
- Put an automatic reply on your emails
- Get enough sleep
- Connect with friends
- Read up on energy medicine to improve your resilience
- Try a meditation to relax gaildonnan.com/meditiations (5 minutes)
Excerpt from The Gateway – A journey to re-claim your power from stress and anxiety.
Excerpt from The Gateway – A journey to re-claim your power from stress and anxiety ISBN 978-1-9164610-1-7