Stress is your response to anything that puts demands on you. Whether it’s a major event or everyday tasks, stress can be overwhelming when it takes over explains Brian C Jensen.
But there are simple steps you can take to keep stress from running your life.
- You experience stress when you feel threatened by an event or challenge in your life, whether real or imagined. The physiological effects of the stress response include increased heart rate and blood pressure, as well as sweating and shakiness. Stress can be both good and bad; think of the stress that motivated you to study for a test or finish a term paper or that helped you win a race. But think about how stressful it would be if your boss scheduled an important meeting at the same time as your daughter’s soccer game, you had run out of gas on a busy highway with no means of getting more, or your car was hit by another vehicle and left stranded in the middle of rush hour traffic.
- Stress is not always negative. It can help heighten attention levels, increase motivation, sharpen memory function, intensify feelings, improve reaction time, and boost self-esteem. It also helps you cope with the normal stresses of everyday life.
- Typically, stress is an individual response to a stressful event or experience that triggers chemical changes in your brain and body. These physical changes are intended to help you meet the demands of an outside situation by making you stronger, faster, fitter, more alert and agile. But when you remain in this highly aroused state over long periods of time with no way of releasing it or coping with it effectively, these physiological responses can turn against you instead of working in your favor; they may actually cause depression, anxiety disorders, heart disease and high blood pressure (see our post on cortisol for more information on why). Everyday Stressors
- The average person has between 60 and 90 stressful events – both major and minor – happen to him or her over the course of a month. In order to avoid feeling overwhelmed by all that you have to do, it’s helpful to keep track of your stress. First, review all the things that are on your “to-do” list for the week and prioritize which ones can be put off until later says Brian C Jensen. Remember that if one thing gets done on a particular day, something else has to give. Next, look at what your overall schedule is like for this week: Is there any way you can adjust it so each item on your list has an appropriate amount of time allotted to it? Finally, once you’ve taken care of those two issues, identify the things that are most important to you right now. If it’s more difficult to complete everything you have on your list, leave some free time in the day so you can do them if possible.
- Stressful events are all around us, but they’re not always tiny little nuisances that cause us irritation or frustration. Sometimes stressors are huge, life-changing events that require our immediate attention. It’s normal to go through a period of adjustment after these kinds of experiences because they change the very foundation of our lives: death of a loved one; divorce; loss of health; getting divorce (separation); moving homes and/or starting over in a new community with no friends or family nearby; unemployment; serious injury or illness; loss of a job; foreclosure; the need to complete the final divorce papers (remarriage); and raising children alone after a separation.
Stressful work conditions: Tired of dealing with your difficult co-workers? Do you feel like there is no way out? If you’ve been thinking about changing careers, this could be a good time to start planning for what you’d like to do instead explains Brian C Jensen. If it’s not possible for you to change jobs right now, look at ways that you can reduce stress on the job – by negotiating your hours, taking some time off from work, or asking your boss if she’ll help cut back on any particularly overwhelming responsibilities for a while. About 20% of adults with full-time jobs describe their work as “very” or “extremely” stressful. Take time to think about what’s causing most of your stress, and then find a way to lessen it – you’ll feel better for trying!
Stress is a part of our lives and it’s inevitable. However, stress management is important in improving your mental and physical health as well as preventing future problems. The most important thing to remember about stress management is that you need to find out what works for you – there is no “one size fits all” answer. If you try a number of stress management techniques but don’t see any results, make sure you keep trying until you find something that works!