Category Archives: Health

You Need Stress Relief for Your Body and Mind!

Stress relief is available today!

When your muscles are tight as rocks, your heart is racing, you’re holding your breath, “ah”, you need to exhale. You need stress relief now! Most of the time, there is no monster chasing you. Take a breath, all the way down into your belly. Breathe a few times, in through your nose, out of your mouth. Make the sound “ah”, on the exhale. As you do, your body and mind will relax. Look around and notice, in this moment you are safe. Then breathe again.

When a scary event happens, in traffic, in life, in relationships, several systems kick into a state of being on guard, alert, ready to run or fight. One is a part of your brain called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) system, which releases a cascade of chemicals-such as adrenaline, steroid hormones, and cortisol-that speed up your heart rate, helps your brain make a quick decision to avoid pain, and increases glucose in the bloodstream to give you a burst of energy to react. You don’t even have to tell it what to do. This is your body’s natural reaction to stress.

That is great when danger is lurking. But what is not natural is continuously facing stressful situations and challenges day after day. This is known as chronic stress and can be detrimental to your health. Forty-three percent of adults say they suffer adverse health effects from stress, and three-quarters of all doctor’s visits are the result of stress-related ailments and complaints. Stress is also linked to several serious diseases and unhealthy situations, such as heart disease, cancer, lung disease, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.

It’s important to understand how stress can impact your day-to-day life, as well as your long-term health. Even more importantly, we need to learn how to relieve stress.

Ongoing mind stress can hamper your clear thinking. You may find making simple decisions like what to have for dinner or remembering directions to a restaurant are more difficult than in a non-stressed state. Getting your chores and responsibilities completed may turn into procrastination.

Chronic emotional stress causes people to be easily frustrated and quicker to lose their temper. They may cry more often and spend considerably more time worrying about things, and even feeling depressed.

Stress affects your teeth and gums too. Strange as it may seem, stress may cause you to clench or grind your teeth, often unconsciously or during sleep.

Your hair may fall victim to your stress. When a person is under a great deal of stress, his or her hair may enter the falling-out stage of the hair life cycle. It can occur up to three months after the stressful event, though hair frequently grows back within a year if the stressful situation is diminished.

Stress can increase pressure on your healthy heart function. Stress hormones speed up your heart rate, constrict blood vessels, and set up a pattern that makes the heart and blood vessels more likely to overreact when you encounter future stressful events. Stress is also linked to high blood pressure, blood clots, and in some cases, even stroke.

Your immune system, responsible for fighting disease, is diminished under stress. The thymus gland, one of the key players, gets small, restricted, and tight under stress, and so doesn’t function as well. If it seems you always get sick when you can least afford it, it may be because your stress is suppressing your immune system, making you more susceptible to infection.

Stress inhibits proper breathing, so people with asthma and chronic lung problems often have worsening symptoms during times of chronic stress.

In your stomach, stress takes its toll on digestion, so you may have increased incidence of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, acid reflux, colitis, or ulcer flare ups when you are under chronic stress.

Stress can make skin problems, rashes, eczema, rosacea and acne worse. It is also known to bring on cold sores and fever blisters.

Stress-related tension in your back, neck, and shoulder muscles can lead to pain and inflammation throughout your body.

So what can you do about stress relief?

First, identify the source. Sometimes finding your stressors is easier said than done. In most cases, it will be fairly obvious: a difficult relationship, tight money, needing friends, body pain, a poor work environment, or health concerns, for example.

In other cases, finding the root causes of your anxiety and stress may be more challenging. When you are tired, it’s slowing you down and making you feel down in the dumps, and you need more rest. When there is a lack of positive, healthy communication between you and a friend or you are experiencing conflict in a relationship, it is being able to talk through what each person is needing that will dissolve the stress. When we have financial burdens that are haunting our spending habits now, and when you are stressed over every bill and purchase, that worry, that conflict, that down feeling is stress in action. In that case, seeking acceptance of what is, and finding a balance between being frugal and enjoying small things in life, while your finances recover from previous errors will eventually reduce the sense of stress around your situation.

One thing to keep in mind is: often underneath not feeling well physically, there is unresolved anxiety, anger, tension or frustration that we have not been addressing in a healthy way.

It is useful to gently ask ourselves, is there something I am anxious about? What healthy action can I take to create some amount of resolution?

Is there something I am afraid of in my life right now? What action can I take to feel safer?

Is there something I am angry about in my life? What action can I take on my own behalf today, or this week?

Is there something I am frustrated about in my life? What action steps can I begin today to change that frustrating situation now, or over time?

What can I do to relieve stress in my life?

    • The answer is, each day focus a bit of time and attention on de-stressing your life. Taking small steps that make you smile, or make you feel a bit more relaxed, or help you get rid of burdens and clutter, all these contribute to your health and well-being.
    • Choosing what you take into your body, mind and life makes a difference: picking healthy food, water, people, commitments, activities all help support your health, calmness and happiness.
    • Set priorities each day and each week for your tasks. Delegate what you can. Many of us feel always behind, but we can be realistic about how quickly time flies in a day. We can just be glad we got a few tasks accomplished. Feeling glad for what we did do instead of critical for what we did not do, that is enough.
    • Enjoying and focusing your attention on small moments of loving our children, listening to birds, seeing flowers in bloom, feeling the shade of a tree, and thinking I am grateful for this moment, will bring more and more of those pleasing, relaxing experiences for you to enjoy.
    • Take a minute in your day to close your eyes, breathe deep into your belly, and think I am enough. Notice how you feel when you do that.
    • Ask for help. Talk to your spouse, children, parents, friends, and coworkers. Let them know you’re working to reduce the amount of stress you deal with. Be willing to ask for help when you need it. Be open to receiving help. It’s possible those around you have faced similar situations and have information than can be of benefit to you. Don’t be afraid to share your feelings. Sometimes talking through a problem or a conflict helps you better understand how you can avoid it in the future.
    • Set limits on your commitments. Even though being involved in activities such as volunteering and socializing can be rewarding and fulfilling, these constant demands in addition to your other responsibilities of family may be more than you can handle without feeling stressed.
    • Take a break. Mounting stress and pressure may begin to weigh down on your shoulders like a load of bricks. Before you let it get the best of you, take a break. Bend your knees just a little, curl forward toward your toes, letting your arms and head hang. Exhale with the sound, “ah”.
    • Feeling drained? Instead of reaching for caffeine for low energy, try taking a walk, going outside, and getting some fresh air. Take a few deep breaths, focusing your attention into your back, and exhale with the sound “ah”.
    • Create your support system among friends, family, and co-workers. This may be your best asset in the fight against overwhelming stress. They can help you identify stressful situations before they’ve become more than you can handle. They can also help you organize your schedule or let you vent frustrations about stressful situations.
    • Make a List. Think you can multi-task? Think again. When the ideas in our head are overflowing, research suggests we’re not as capable of doing so many things at once as we wish. But where do you start? First, make a list. This helps you see what’s on your plate so you can better recognize what can wait and what needs your attention now. Then prioritize the items and complete them one at a time. That is really enough. You don’t have to be super-mom all the time!
    • Don’t neglect your health. When pressures are looming, and you’re struggling to stay above water, it’s too easy to let your health fall by the wayside. Get regular sleep, and eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Drink plenty of pure water. Choose more often to skip caffeine, alcohol, drugs and tobacco in favor of outdoor stress relievers, like a visit to a mountain, park, pond, garden, creek, or right in your backyard.
    • oving your body is great for stress relief. Physical activity of every kind boosts your feel-good endorphins. Moving counteracts the damage stress is doing to your body, and gets your mind off what is stressing you. If you can’t squeeze in 30 minutes each day, Three short ten-minute sessions are great too. Go for a walk, ride your bike, jog, jump rope, bounce on the kids’ trampoline, play tag with your children, put on music and dance, let’s hear your ideas!
    • ave a flexible plan for the future. It’s easy to get lost in the “what if’s” of the future, but if you have a back up plan for upcoming stressful events, you will be faced with fewer surprises. Thinking through these scenarios allows you to return to the present moment. Ancient words of wisdom suggest: avert the danger that has not yet come, that is think ahead a bit, but most of all live in the present moment.
    • racticing Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, stretching, visualization, and massage. These are all great ways to work out the physical and mental effects of chronic stress.
    • llow a little time to Focus on what you do like and do want in your life. When you are worried about what you don’t like, your stress level increases, and more of that seems to appear in your life. Whenever you can, inundate yourself with positive thoughts and experiences. Listen to music, watch a funny video online, or call a friend who makes you laugh. Over time you’ll learn to meet negativity with a positive reaction. A positive attitude will keep you from slipping back so easily into feeling overwhelmed. Over time this is one of the best stress relief techniques for your mind and body.

The Psychological Effects Of Stress

Defining Stress

As the Adrenalin in our body rises – as we start to accumulate stress – our body experiences ever-increasing physiological reactions. The physiology relates to our physical responses. For example, a man might say, “I feel stressed. I feel stressed because of my stressful job.” This is interesting because I might say to that man, “Tell me about your job.”

He replies, “Well, I really like my job. I enjoy the people I work with, I’m well paid and I’ve got a good position.”

If the man says that to me, I say to him, “Well, you’ve got a lot of positive feelings about your job. What are the negative feelings? If you don’t have any negative feelings then you are actually not stressed. You only experience stress when you have negative emotion. Positive emotion is a non-problem status.”

He’ll reply, “Well, I’m busy.” I’ll say, “Well, okay. People who are busy – that’s a particular feeling – you can recognize when you are busy – but ‘busy’ comes and goes. It fluctuates. A negative emotion that you have in your life, the stress that you have in your life, perhaps comes from another source.”

Very often, I will explore with that client where his source of stress comes from. It may be related to health. It may be related to low self-esteem. It may be related to his relationship. It may be related to guilt that he has about not spending enough time with his children. But stress is always related to a negative emotion.

Another example is that of a house-wife at home who says she’s stressed and that may be true. She may be feeling bored, lonely, inadequate, helpless, overwhelmed or under-stimulated. Or she may feel put down or dismissed if she tries to tell her husband about these feelings and he says, “What have you got to worry about?” That sort of comment is likely to make her have even more bad feelings and it therefore increases her stress. Remember, stress is related to a negative emotion and so, yes, we have all sorts of people feeling stressed in all sorts of situations.

Stress is extremely subjective. It relates to how you experience it. The stress that we are focusing on in this chapter is the stress that we experience in a life drama – that means a lot of stress. I am referring to a body that is experiencing a lot of stress and that can come about through two different ways. It can come about because of one particular life event that causes your body to flood with Adrenalin – for example, the car accident or the Tsunami.

Or you can also experience a life drama because of what I label, ‘relentless stress’. This is an accumulation of stress that occurs over time so there is no particular major event, just a gradual build up. It is episodes that occur or negative emotion that you experience relentlessly – perhaps in your job or your relationship. If you have a build up of negative emotion and it goes on for a period of time without a break, then you will also become stressed and the feeling is the same. It is to do with an accumulation of and then a flooding of Adrenalin.

Symptoms of Stress

When you have an extreme level of Adrenalin in your body, whether it is caused by the one event or whether it is the accumulation of events, your muscles become tighter and tighter and this eventually results in you having physiological responses. Heart palpitations, the chest, neck and shoulders are always involved – you end up feeling quite hunched and very tight around your neck and shoulders. Your muscles will also ache.

Whenever you are experiencing stress, one of the common symptoms is muscle ache, especially in the thighs, arms. Your body becomes fatigued because your muscles ache. It is like you have been carrying heavy shopping for a long time and you can’t put it down. Even after you have put the heavy shopping down, your muscles still ache because they have been working and tightened for a very long time.

Your breathing is affected. The reason that your breathing alters is simply because your chest wall is a huge muscle. As our muscles constrict and become tighter, the chest wall becomes like a tight, rigid sheet of muscle. As a result of this, the lungs that are inside this chest wall no longer have the ability to expand like they normally do – they are only expanding a little bit and are therefore not taking in the quantity of air that you would normally take in.

After a while the brain sends a signal down to the lungs, “This body needs a little bit more oxygen. Please breathe a bit more deeply.” Outwardly, you end up sighing. This forces your chest wall to open to a greater expansion and that is what the (sighing) response is. When you are stressed, you tend to sigh more or you yawn more because yawning has the same impact. Yawning is when you take in air and deliberately force your chest wall to expand. Again, these are symptoms of stress.

Other people will notice that they do not sleep well when they are stressed. Of course not. When you are stressed, your body has got a lot of Adrenalin in it. The purpose of Adrenalin is to keep you alert, to keep you awake, to keep you on guard. You are not supposed to sleep when you are on guard duty and so, when you are stressed, you will not be able to settle and you will not be able to sleep because your brain is thinking and checking, “Where is the danger?”

As your stress increases, you are producing more and more Adrenalin. The Adrenalin that you are producing is making your brain think more and more, “Where is the danger?” A good analogy of this is the meerkat on sentry duty. It is constantly looking around, checking for danger. This is how the brain becomes. It thinks, “Where is the danger?” And so the Adrenalin that is genuinely in your body is causing your brain to become more alert, more on guard, worrying. That is why Sensitive People, who always have a lot of Adrenalin in their body, tend to be worriers. The Adrenalin in their body is making their brain think, “Where is the danger?” And then of course, the brain begins to think, “Well, it could be this. It could be that.” You are picturing what the danger might be and your body is thereby producing more Adrenalin.

This situation becomes the anxious cycle. The anxious cycle, when it continues, eventually will cause your Parasympathetic Nervous System to break down. The Parasympathetic Nervous System becomes so exhausted by trying to restore your body to calm that it no longer functions. Now, when you are thinking about worrying thoughts, your body is producing Adrenalin even when you are trying to restore yourself to calm and you are trying to tell yourself – your Cortex, “No, no, no, there is no danger. It’s okay. Settle down. You’ll get through this. You are a big girl. Other people have experienced things like this before.” This is the way we talk to ourselves. This is our self-soothing talk.

However, when your Parasympathetic Nervous System breaks down, even as you are trying to calm yourself down, you end up producing more and more Adrenalin and this is when we have relentless stress and we can no longer restore to calm. That is when we really experience the feeling of being traumatized. I am using the word ‘trauma’ for the first time – that is how we feel when we are experiencing a life drama. We feel traumatized. Our body is flooding with Adrenalin and it actually feels as though we are in a car accident but the car is still rolling. We don’t know what the outcome is going to be. That is how it can feel when you are traumatized.

At that point in time, as well as all the physical reactions that your body has, there are other things that start to happen. The Autonomic Nervous System in the body starts to collapse. The Autonomic Nervous System is the nervous system that looks after all the functions over which we have no conscious control. (It is the Central Nervous System that we are able to have conscious thought about. For example, movement – blinking and walking.) So the Autonomic Nervous System looks after our gut and digestion, it looks after our bowels and evacuation, it looks after our reproductive system. These are all the areas of our body that continue to function without us having any conscious control over them.

But, when we are feeling stressed, even a little bit stressed, what do we start to notice? We begin to have tummy upsets and when we have a lot of stress, these upsets become more pronounced. Some people end up with Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Ulcerative Colitis. These are quite major gut and bowel problems. If you are a little bit stressed or a little bit nervous, you might have loose stools and need to go to the toilet quite a lot. But if you have stress over a long period of time, you end up with major gut problems and bowel problems.

Our whole reproductive system can be affected. It is well known that if a woman is stressed, her menstrual cycle might alter. What we now know, because of the advance of medical technology, is that men are also very affected by stress. With this advance of medical technology and photography, we know that men’s sperm is highly affected by stress and men can experience a lot of abnormal sperm and low sperm count because their Autonomic Nervous System is being interrupted.

The other major parts of our Autonomic Nervous System are our Sympathetic and our Parasympathetic Nervous System. These are the areas of our system that look after the recovery and the restoration of the body to calm after stress. And so as that breaks down, so our body experiences more and more stress without being able to recover.

To summarize, when we are experiencing stress, the first thing that starts to happen as our Autonomic Nervous System breaks down is that we have a break down of our immune system. We have concentrated on the Autonomic Nervous System but the other thing that happens is that we have a break down of our immune system. As we become more stressed, we start to develop more colds, flus, viruses, skin conditions, your Eczema – if you suffer from it – might crop up again. Your Shingles or your Glandular Fever might return.

The Importance of Serotonin

The next thing that occurs is a decrease of the chemical, Serotonin. Your Serotonin depletes as your Adrenalin increases. Serotonin is our ‘good feeling’ chemical. It is a very important chemical. Serotonin is a Neurotransmitter that we have in our brain and our Serotonin is necessary for us to feel good and to think good. Serotonin enables electrical impulses to jump across all the millions of neurons in our brain. Therefore, a lot of Serotonin equals a lot of good thought. If you are with friends and you are feeling really good, you have a lot of Serotonin and you can do a lot of brainstorming. When you are feeling really good, you can get on with things and you are inspired to get going with the projects that you want to do because the increased Serotonin means you can think well.

With the depletion of Serotonin, you find that your mood drops. You become flat, despondent, unmotivated, can’t be bothered, joyless. When you are undergoing a lot of stress, you might still force yourself to do things that have to be done but they don’t give you pleasure anymore. These are the feelings of a lowered Serotonin level in your brain.

Your thinking is also affected. Your thinking is affected inasmuch as it now starts to become inaccurate. You now begin to have irrational thinking. You may not know this at the time, but afterwards, when you recover a bit from your stress, you can look back and think, “I wasn’t thinking rationally at that time.” Our thinking becomes inaccurate, irrational and anxious. The reason why our thinking becomes more anxious again at this time is purely biological. When you have got a lot of Serotonin, that hormone is a neurotransmitter in the brain that allows electrical impulses (which are thoughts) to jump across neurons. When you have decreased levels of Serotonin, the electrical impulses don’t jump as far. They are not able to jump in different directions and so your thinking becomes more rigid – your thoughts have got nowhere else to go.

Because of that, they come to a stop and that is why, when you are feeling down, you actually feel stuck in your brain. You feel thick. You feel blocked. You can’t think straight. How often we say that to ourselves, “I can’t think straight.” You do not feel like getting going with a project you have to do or the next task you have to do – it might just even be cooking a meal. You just can not be bothered. These are all signs of lowered Serotonin.

Unfortunately, what happens is that these electrical impulses have to go somewhere. And so they then start to go around in the area of the brain where they have just come from, which gives the person a recurring thought. This is what dwelling is. This is what ruminating is. When we are feeling down, we dwell on things. We actually do not dwell on things when we are feeling good. Of course, when we dwell on things, we are in fact experiencing the same, anxious cycle because the thought we are having is a bad thought. Because we are having a bad thought, our body is creating more Adrenalin and so that cycle continues. It is the reason why, with lowered Serotonin and with this inaccurate and irrational thinking, we do in fact become more and more anxious and our brain is increasing our levels of Adrenalin in our body.

These lowered levels of Serotonin and impaired thinking cause us to have lowered self-esteem. Self-esteem is a thinking process. As well as feeling bad, we also think badly about ourselves. We have continuous thoughts about how bad we are, how useless we are, how pathetic we are or how uninteresting we are. These ongoing thoughts, in turn, create more and more Adrenalin.

An easy way to remember the relationship between Serotonin and Adrenalin is to consider your hands as two platforms. The left hand is the Adrenalin hand and the right hand is the Serotonin hand. Remember that these platforms move up and down as though they are a counterweight. As Adrenalin rises, Serotonin drops. And as Adrenalin drops, Serotonin rises. Effectively, the label, ‘self-esteem’ could also be placed on the right hand. Your Serotonin and your self-esteem are very connected and they are both strongly influenced by the presence of Adrenalin.

For example, you might have a good day spending time with friends. When you get home, you are feeling good. Your Serotonin is elevated, you are feeling good about yourself and you are feeling good about life. You do not feel stressed at all. The next day, you might be organizing a dinner-party with the same friends. As you are organizing the dinner party, things go a bit wrong and you discover that you haven’t put the wine in the fridge, you haven’t got enough meat and the potatoes that you wanted to put on the barbeque turn out to be rotten. Your stress rises, your Adrenalin levels rise, you are feeling stressed and now your levels of Serotonin have depleted. Because of that, you start all the ruminating thoughts of, “Oh, I’m so hopeless. I should have done that before. Why didn’t I check? I’m hopeless at organizing barbeques and my friends aren’t going to be happy. And they probably won’t even turn up anyway. I’m so pathetic.”

All of these unnecessary, negative thoughts that you have are simply because of the imbalance of the chemicals. Our personal stress is so significantly affected by the way that we think and once we realize this and visualize this, we can work out that if we can change the way we think, if we can change the way that we see a situation and change our viewpoint of it, we are going to change the way that we feel. We are responsible for the way that we feel, regardless of what happens to us in life. We can manage our stress levels and we can work out what we are going to do next by altering the way that we feel.

Good Stress, Bad Stress: Is There A Difference?

Good stress. Bad stress. The two are viewed as the Superman and Lex Luger – archnemeses. Yet, is good stress different from bad stress, and does each produce a different response in the human body? Even doctors and psychologists take opposing views on the concept of good versus bad stress. It is akin to the 1980s debate about good egg/bad egg as it pertained to cholesterol. That debate still exists, as does the debate over how much stress, and what “kind” of stress is good or bad for us.

One of the authoritative papers on stress, “Physiology and Neurobiology of Stress and Adaptation: Central Role of The Brain” by Bruce S. McEwen, examines that question closely, and says that there the two terms refer to the same physiological response, but that there are marked differences. In other words, there is only stress, but short-term responses can be adaptive, while prolonged exposure or reaction to stress can be maladaptive and harmful.

He says that stress is a word used to describe challenges that are emotionally or physiologically challenging. He differentiates the popular jargon of “good” or “bad” stress this way: good stress refers to experiences that are shorter term, that a person can master and overcome, and provide a positive, exhilarating response; bad stress refers to experiences that are protracted or recurrent and over which the person has little or no control. In short, good stress is self-induced or regulated, such as the stress of healthy sport competition. Bad stress is beyond our control, such as a compilation of crises in our lives, or job-related deadlines and workload that are initiated and controlled by others.

Understanding the difference between the two, while also knowing that the two produce the same hormonal reaction and responses, but of differing intensity and/or duration is critical to understanding how some stress can be enjoyable and other stress can be dilatory. It is critical, as well, to how we embrace and enjoy life experiences, and, ultimately, to how we define our sense of happiness and well-being.

A few of us are conditioned to avoid stressful situations, at all costs. But this response to the external world simply helps to create anxiety and greater stress. To be afraid of life and situations in life – even those beyond our control – contributes to what McEwen describes as “allostatic load,” where the person, in attempting to maintain a balance by active means, actually begins to experience wear and tear on the body because of prolonged or acute effort to maintain that stability. Allostatic overload, he continues, contributes to the aging process.

We do have choices, in many circumstances, but we often fail to recognize that there are options to respond to the stressful situation, to alter it, or to deviate from it without being chronically fearful of stress and confronting or conflicting situations.

I have been through more than my share of marriages and relationships in my younger life. As they deteriorated, I experienced stress. Like most others in such situations, one of the stressors was the division of marital property. Divorce courts are crammed with couples battling to maintain what they see as their share of assets, and attempting to garner everything that is important to them. But few seem to really know what is important.

I have been able to act as a formal mediator, and also handled the legal wranglings for eight other friends going through divorces, all with perfect results. The hardest part is to determine what those perfect results may be. And there is a tendency for people, once they gain the upper hand in negotiations, to go for the jugular. That, to me, is not acceptable. One friend had, as his objective, recovering his portion of his pension and a small cash reserve. He was more than entitled to it, but when we set out, we set that as his objective. But when it became clear that we could get more (because he was entitled to more, as well), the revenge factor kicked in. I gave him an option: go for more on his own or with a lawyer, or accept his original goal. He accepted the original, and has been happy.

In my own divorces, though, I had only one objective: to get out of the relationship and get on with life. In each case, I gave up the family home, gave up the cash assets, gave up the acquisitions, took on almost all debts and offered generous support where required. The result? I got to re-invent myself, over and over. I was stress-free (asset-free, too, but that was immaterial). Ironically, in every case, bitterness lingered in my ex partners. One went so far as to state that, if I was happy, she must have been cheated out of something by me. (It shouldn’t have, but that comment made me even happier. Gloating, sometimes, is irresistible).

The truth is that my ex-partners did not really know what they wanted, or what made them happy. They continued to experience stress, because they created the situation for themselves.

How does a divorce relate to a discussion of good stress or bad stress? Simple. We need to know what is important, and what is not. We need to know when to extricate ourselves from a stressful situation and when to stand up and be counted. Having my friends’ future in my hands was stressful. But because I knew, in my heart, that what I was doing was right, I was prepared to fight for them, and expose myself to conflict and stress. It was good stress. Because I knew that I really did not care about material wealth, I was willing to give up those possessions. I fought for my children, because they were important. I knew when to fight, when to retreat. And the fear of the stress was not a factor in my decision, except to the extent that I was willing to take on stress to do the right thing.

Because we associate bad stress most often with relationships and work (which also is a relationship), we respond by disliking the event, not the component causes. Is work really the problem, or is it the interaction with specific people, the work deadlines, a lack of comfort with the task itself, the remuneration, or any of a hundred other factors.

Fear of work stress or relationship stress scan become like a phobia, disabling us. It is when we are able to break down the specific components of that stress that we are able to dissolve our fears.

A friend has, over time, had extreme difficulty remaining in one job for any length of time, even though he is very talented. Rapidly, each job becomes too stressful for him. But, in talking to him, it has become clear that it is not the job, but his reaction to authority that causes his grief. He has lost out on tremendous opportunity because he fears authority and power so intensely. Hopefully, his new career will lend him some comfort.

My wife worked in a full time position, with some very decent coworkers. But she had to work, as a single parent, to support her children. She could not afford to leave the present position to seek other employment, as her wage would have decreased beyond what she could afford. A very outgoing person, she was becoming stressed, depressed and anxious.

We worked on a couple of strategies, after identifying that a majority of the problems came from expectations and reactions to specific co-workers. First, we worked on how to regain mastery over her space at work, without being obnoxious or retaliatory. This involved techniques to move the “alpha” employee from her position of dominance. It involved responding differently to two other co-workers, and understanding the contributors to their actions. This step paid almost immediate dividends, and her stress dissipated quickly.

But anxiety over income remained, which meant she was locked to her job. Through various means, we were able to allow her to become a casual employee. Although she still worked five days a week (because she was needed and valued), she did so at her choice, and, when she needed time off, she got it. Yes, she lost her benefits package, but with good health, she didn’t need it. This meant that, when she worked five days a week, she earned almost as much net income as she did while full time, but now she had choice. Suddenly, all her stress was gone. She was in control of choices. Sure, she had obligations at work, but she chose to be there.

This example clearly highlights how even bad stress may not be bad stress, if the circumstances surrounding it are altered. She enjoys the pressure to achieve, but she now does it for personal reasons and not because she is compelled to do so.

When we think of good and bad stress, we should be considering, not the designation, but the impact and the control that we can exercise over it. Our sense of fulfillment comes when we have chosen to achieve and compete, rather than when we are compelled to do so. Choose to achieve and fight for what you believe in. Do not choose to flee from challenge. That oasis of relief in life is rarely valued if you have trekked across lush, inviting fields as opposed to oppressive, raw and angry desert to reach the lush green of the watering hole.

Why Stress Is So Bad For Your Health

Stress is a natural part of life. These days there are very few who don’t get stressed over money, the economy, the housing market, jobs or even family. Our bodies naturally react to stress through blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, body temperature and muscle contractions. Everyone deals with stress on different levels and in different ways. However, if one is not able to deal with stress it can ultimately lead to mental and physical exhaustion.

It wasn’t until the 1930’s that the word stress was used to characterize a condition where a stressor causes stimulus. Hans Selye, an endocrinologist, witnessed an inappropriate physiological response to demand placed on a human or animal. Before coining the term stress was considered a normal part of daily function and encounters that results in strain. Now, we know that stress plays an important part in physical, emotional and mental well being.

Stress is defined as a failure to respond appropriately to emotional or physical threats whether they are real or imagined. The signs of stress are easily recognizable and can present themselves as cognitive, behavioral, emotional or physical symptoms. Therefore when presented with stress one’s whole demeanor, attitude and presence can change. Cognitive, emotional and behavioral symptoms include poor judgment, negative outlook, anxiety, worrying, moodiness, irritability, agitation, inability to relax, loneliness, isolation, depression, lack of concentration and absentmindedness. Physical symptoms include increased heart rate, breathing, energy, blood pressure, cholesterol and production of sweat. Stress can also cause physical symptoms of aches and pain, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, chest pain, upset stomach and headache. Chronic stress that occurs over a longer period of time consistently can cause both physical and psychological damage to a person. Long-term stress depresses the immune system leaving it susceptible to infections, disease, and illness. Stress promotes the accumulation of visceral fat, which is a leading cause of obesity. Additional chronic stress has been connected to ulcers, cancer, heart disease, increased outbreaks of psoriasis, depression and diabetes. In children who experience chronic stress a stunt to developmental growth is normally seen.

Stress is normally given a bad connotation, which implies it is negative. However, most people forget or don’t mention good stress. When Hans Selye discovered stress, he studied all types of stress and realized that stress even when its good is still a stress nonetheless. He developed eustress or good stress and distress or bad stress. Eustress is a condition that enhances ones physical or mental function such as exercise, marriage, having a baby or a promotion. Where as, distress is persistent stress that is not resolved through coping or adaptation, which can lead to symptoms of withdrawal or anxiety. The difference between good and bad stress is based upon one’s past experiences, personal expectations, and the resources to cope with stress.

Coping with stress is not an easy task. Everyone adapts to stress differently and some people have an easier time dealing with stress than others. The way that the body reacts to a stressor is understood through the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS), which describes the effects of stress on the body. Depending upon the intensity and duration of the stressor will determine if the stress is acute-short term or chronic-long term. At the first sign of stress the bodies stress response is in a state of alarm. The body reacts by producing adrenaline which causes a fight or flight response. Fight or flight is the body’s way of preparing to fight (cope, adapt) or flee. The second stage i resistance to stress. If a stressor persists the body must find a means of coping with the stress. Does the body have a way to adapt to the strain or demands of the surrounding environment? As we cope with stress, the body’s resources (nutrients, enzymes, proteins, amino acids, vitamins, minerals) are gradually depleted. The final stage is exhaustion where the body’s resources are completely used up, leading to inability to function normally. Weakness, fatigue decreased energy, inability to concentrate or think clearly are all signs of exhaustion. Long-term exhaustion can be detrimental to ones health and can manifest disease. Although, these stages represent a model of how stress affects the body, stress can manifest itself differently in every person.

No two people will respond to the exact same stressor in the exact same way. Life experience and social background play a role in determining ones ability to cope with stress. Normal responses to stress include adaptation, coping, anxiety and depression. Coping mechanisms include stress management. Stress management provides individuals with techniques to handle stress on a daily basis. Learning to cope with stress will help you live a happier, healthier life.

Let’s Find Out How to Survive Stress

Let’s face it; whether you’re a busy homemaker or a high flying executive, today’s popular mind-set is to be as busy as possible with nearly every hour and minute crammed with some kind of work. Yet the day-to-day pressure can build into chronic stress, which if ignored, can be detrimental to our mind, body, and spirit.

The Body

While most of us have stress in some form, an unhealthy response to stress happens when the demands of the stressor exceed an individual’s coping ability. While stress is actually a psychological state of mind, as it considerably affects our physiological state. “In a classical stressful situation, certain stress hormones such as cortisol are released which increases the heartbeat, sweating, uneasiness, and the urge to urinate,” with the initial indicator usually manifesting as an inability to sleep. In the long run this leads to problems such as indigestion, acidity, ulcers, low-back pains, high-blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, high cholesterol, depression, headaches, and fatigue, to name a few. Long-term stress also affects our immunity and reduces our disease-fighting capacity.

In Teens

While the teenage years can be highly stressful, some typical stressors include: stress from school, social anxiety, and depressive feelings – for example, not belonging, self-harm and other dysfunctional coping strategies. Another big one, particularly pertinent to today, is social media inappropriateness. While teens and adults overlap in how they cope with stress, the only difference is that adults express stress verbally while teens tend to isolate themselves during times of high stress. “This is because teenagers are unable to properly manage their stress due to a lack of healthy coping skills,”.

Negative Implications

If the stress is not caught and addressed in time, teenagers may utilize reckless and destructive behaviors, substance abuse, and physical violence as unhealthy coping skills. Teenagers’ academic and extra-curricular progress may also deteriorate if stress is not handled appropriately.

Getting a Grip on Teen Stress

Maintaining effective communication with your teen and adopting healthy coping skills are the two most effective ways to manage with stress.

    1. Be available – make some time no matter how busy the schedule is – structure opportunities into daily life. Spending time with your teen shows them that you care even though they are pushing you away.
    1. Be realistic and flexible in your expectations but praise effort more than just results.
    1. Be patient and consistent during their developmental phase – they are changeable and trying to make sense of their place in the world – they can defy reason and sense sometimes.
    1. Do not minimize their feelings in hopes of them “getting over it”. Their feelings are real and affecting them in ways that need to be addressed.
  1. Be practical and constructive in your approach – they may need your wisdom and organization – even if they say they don’t.

You cannot and should not shield them from all stresses and risks. You must set limits as well as consequences to what is acceptable and unacceptable at home, school, and elsewhere.

THE MIND

Stress Reactions

When stress is excessive, it results in one of four reactions- -anxiety, apathy and depression, anger and aggression and cognitive impairment. “Stress can be caused by traumatic events, events which challenge our limits, as well as internal conflicts,”. “For example, if your boss criticizes you unfairly, you feel the stress.” You want to be able to explain why he/she is wrong but also have a fear of upsetting your boss and this stress or internal conflict causes you to ruminate and these thoughts can very quickly spiral out of control: My boss thinks I’m incompetent; I won’t get the promotion I deserve. This series of ruminations results in catastrophic thinking, which can lead to worry, anxiety, feeling depressed and insomnia.

Top Ways to Alleviate Stress

Talk about what is stressing you to someone who listens to you, understands the stress environment and cares about you.

Ruminations create a “pressure-cooker effect”. They bounce around creating pressure. Releasing this through talking really helps.

Most relationships in life are reciprocal. It’s really important to establish good social networks so that people may be there for us in our hour of need.

It is very important to remove the source of the stress, if possible, by taking control and being active. For example, rather than being a victim of bullying in the workplace, you may choose to either put in a complaint or move post.

Distraction is a useful technique to avoid stress. Taking up a new challenge or a new activity is often very helpful.

MODERN DAY

Electronic Stress

Smart phones, gadgets, and computers all help us stay super connected but at a high price. “Smartphones add hugely to modern day stresses in that the workplace and social media permeate our lives so that we are never really free,”. “We are working or socializing 24-hours a day, checking our phones last thing at night and first thing in the morning when research shows that each time we receive an email, we can take up to 20 minutes on average to re-focus on children, partners or other focuses.

Planning

The best way to deal with smartphones is to switch them off when at home; however, this is impractical for some. “The alternative is to have windows of when you check your messages, for example 9 to 9:30pm, and to put it away for the rest of the time,” and be sure to avoid using your smartphone one hour before you sleep.

Finding Solutions

Today the aim is on maximizing the usefulness of our time and squeezing as much as we can from every minute of the day. So how can a person find time in the day to destress? We need to learn to tackle the external pressures and even our own inner voices that tell us that to be successful, he says as these are old mind-sets that we have learnt over the years that are no longer relevant. “We must replace these thoughts with new one’s that support us in the true value of taking time to de-stress the right way,”.

Shelve Your Stress with These Tips

1. Practice Regular Exercise – Exercise impacts a neurotransmitter that works like an antidepressant on your brain while lessening muscle tension.

2. Go Outside – Even five minutes in nature can help reduce stress and boost your mood.

3. Focus on Your Breathing – Ideally you should be breathing primarily through your nose through a simple technique called Buteyko breathing to help you restore beneficial breathing patterns.

4. Participate in Activities – You Enjoy Engaging in a hobby helps you enjoy yourself and take your mind off of stress.

5. Eat Healthy – Schedule time to eat without rushing and be sure to consume fresh, healthy, whole foods.

6. Stay Positive – Keep a list of all that you’re grateful for and make a commitment to stop any negative self-talk.

7. Stay Connected – Loneliness can be a major source of stress, so do some volunteering, meet up with friends or take a class to meet others.

8. Take a Break or Meditate – Taking even 10 minutes to sit quietly and shut out the chaos around you can trigger your relaxation response.

The Positive Side of Stress

Is stress is something that needs to be reduced, suppressed or avoided? Or can we accept it, use it, and embrace it? It turns out that which one of these mind-sets you hold plays a key role in how the stress in your life affects you.

Mindset

It’s not our stress levels that need to change, but our attitude to stress itself, reveals Menon, because how you think about stress and the stress in your life plays a profound role on how it affects your well-being. She explains, “It determines whether the presence of stress in your life is harmful, which can ultimately lead to burnout, depression, and heart disease or whether that stress actually leads to greater well-being and resilience.”

The Science

Research shows that when you tell people about the importance of stress mindsets, you encourage them to choose a more accepting and embracing attitude toward the stress in their own lives, suggests Menon and in turn, they actually become healthier, happier, and more productive at work, even in very difficult and stressful circumstances. According to research at Yale University, people who hold more a negative perception of stress and believe it should be reduced or avoided, are more likely to experience what we typically think of as the negative outcomes of stress. They’re more likely to have health problems or illnesses, suggests Menon and they’re more likely to become depressed and, are less productive at work. “But on the other side, people who hold a more positive and accepting view of stress are protected from the negative effects of

stress, even when their lives are stressful,” she tells, and they’re healthier and happier. They’re doing better at work and they’re better able to find meaning in their struggles.

The Question

Therefore, can changing how you think about stress make you healthier? Menon points out that the science says ‘yes’ – when you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to stress. “Research shows that stress is actually enhancing; in one study at University of Wisconsin researchers tracked 30,000 American adults for eight years,” she explains, and they found that subjects with a lot of stress had a 43 percent increased risk of dying – but only if they believed stress was harmful. What is surprising is those who experienced a lot of stress but did not view stress as harmful were no more likely to die than the normal population. In fact, Menon reiterates that they had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study, including people who had relatively little stress.

The Big Picture

Although stressful experiences are an important part of life, how you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress, Menon says. “When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you can create the biology of courage and resilience,” she explains. “Stressful experiences help us learn and grow and they can actually be an opportunity to develop our strengths and choose our priorities.”

Stress: How High Is Stress Level in Our Lives?

If you are having any type of stress, please don’t panic! Welcome to the global club of stress. Stress is a worldwide phenomenon, in rich and poor countries, in the developed and underdeveloped world, among men and women, even among the rich & famous persons.

Many books and articles talk about stress: stress management, success under stress, stress therapy, stress relief, job stress, stress medication, stress seminars… etc.

Stress is almost inevitable in our lives today. It seems there is no way to avoid it. According to American Psychological Association 75% of adults reported having moderate to high stress level in the past year. Even U.S. teens between 9th & 12th grade are experiencing higher stress level to the extent it is becoming a top health concern for them. In Australia, according to Lifeline Australia, 91% of adults suffer from stress in at least one important area of their lives. Working conditions are creating more stress all over the world. According to the Regus Group, 6 in 10 workers in major global economies are experiencing higher stress related to their work, and China being the highest (86%) in workplace stress.

Stress seems to be everywhere and most of the time. According to Stress in America Survey 2011, by the American Psychological Association, stress is caused mainly by work, money and the economy. The survey shows that Americans believe stress level has increased in the last 5 years. Other studies about causes of stress include factors such as noise, isolation, relationship problems, danger, loneliness and even high technology like video games or mobile phones. There are other causes for stress, but no matter what the cause maybe, it is a fact that stress is increasing worldwide. If you do a Google search as of today, 12, December 2013, you would get 169 million results. This shows how stress is becoming a major topic.

Are we dealing with stress properly?

A Strange Phenomena:

Most people deal with stress in a wrong way. Most people, once they are subject to stress, they act and behave in a way that makes this stress, not weaker but stronger. People react to stress as if to reinforce it rather than weaken it. Both men and women are the same in this respect. They only differ in the way they reinforce it. Men: once a man is under a stressful cause or event, the first thing he usually does is to deny its effect on him. Men reinforce stress by the denial behavior. A man, especially a macho type, would consider this stress as something too weak to affect him. He views himself as a man, as a person who is supposed to be solid inside, not bothered by what he may consider the little things. This is one of the reasons why men reject the natural tendency to cry. Crying, although it releases part of stress, is considered as something exclusive for women, or at least that is their main view. Denial of a problem or any stressful situation means that the cause of that stress is not being tackled nor confronted. This may create the continuation of that stress until it becomes larger than necessary.

Women: Like men, they also reinforce stress but not by denying it. They engage in negative behaviors that also reinforce the stress. For example, most women once they end up in a broken relationship with a husband or a boyfriend, they start negative behavior. This negative behavior is usually one of the two: overeating (similar to but not same as Bulimia), or self-isolation, or a combination of the two. Of course, there are cases where women start self-starvation, and this is called Anorexia. By overeating, women become fat. Let us stop here for a moment and notice this behavior because it has many meanings, all are at the unconscious level. Men by their nature, usually are attracted to slim rather than fat women. Again, there are exceptions here. Women by their nature, on the other hand, tend to be much more conscious about their physical appearance, especially, about their weight. The question here is: what makes a woman behave in a way that is contrary to her natural tendency? Many studies and research show very clearly that women’s appearance is directly linked to their higher happiness level. Yes, a woman feels good of herself when she looks good, and this is not necessarily because of her interest in men. She feels good even if her female friends tell her that she looks good. But as she has a stressful situation, she begins to reinforce that stress by doing what she usually does not want to do. Is it a subtle way to sabotage her interest in men? Or is it a form of self-destruction? Or is it a way to hurt the male, whoever that might be?

Both men and women engage in a behavior that is not helpful to their stress. Actually there are many cases where this behavior grow until it becomes more like what I call a personal-suicide. Yes, if you don’t confront your stress in a positive way, it will grow in you until it is stored in your body. Once stored in your muscles, then it creates a self-destruct mechanism regardless of the existence of any cause. If another stressful cause is added to this already high -level stress, then you would not be able to function at the personal level. Everything seems to be in a disarray. Your life would look miserable to you even if you are possessing high standard of living or good relationship.

Fortunately, we have the tools and ways to deal with different types of stress. We have many useful resources. The good news is that we can confront it and release it. Many persons who had high stress level were able to lower it significantly.

The Benefits Of Stress Management

As I have said in many previous articles, stress can be one of the most debilitating emotions we can have. This is not only mental stress but also in many circumstances can lead to physical health problems – both short term and more long term in nature. The sad thing about stress is often not so much the stress itself, though this is very unpleasant for the person who is stressed, but rather the fear of other people’s reactions if the person wishes to confide in a friend, family or work colleague – even stress management specialists. Another sad fact about stress management, and being a stress and anger management professional myself I know this all too well, is the widespread opinion that stress management does not matter; that it is a ‘fluffy’ concept that is not needed, or is only for weak minded people. From many years of experience now, I can tell you wholeheartedly that this could not be further from the truth.

We all know the effects that stress can bring about and if you are reading this in search of a cure, or at least some relief, from personal stress or that of a loved one, the effects of stress need no further explanation. What I will do in this article is to suggest the main reasons why from my personal professional experience, ‘stress management’ can be a helpful course of action.

STRESS MANAGEMENT CAN STOP THE STRESS GETTING WORSE – An old saying comes to mind here that ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. From experience one of the main factors why stress is stressful, is that it starts off as something quite minor. This problem whatever it may be is often ‘swept under the carpet’ hoping that it will solve itself which is seldom the case. As such it is then left and turns into a much larger problem. By addressing the stress head-on can immediately stop this stress getting any worse – before stress reduction can begin. Which course of action to take and rates of improvement depend on many factors ranging in time, nature of stress and of course for each and every one of us as we are all different. However, a reputable professional will tailor their approach to best meet the needs of their client.

STRESS MANAGEMENT CAN GET TO THE ROOT CAUSE OF THE STRESS – This is often not as easy as it sounds. Quite often the cause the stress is not actually what the person thinks. Stress from the journey to work every morning for example may not actually be the root cause of our stress. This could be caused by a colleague at work or even something in our home life, but we have tricked ourselves into believing that this is the root cause of the stress because it is the simplest solution. Left to our own devices, the probability is that we would not even begin to solve this stress and probably leave it as an underlying problem. Speaking to a stress management professional can actually allow us to get to the root cause of stress – helped by speaking to somebody with wide experience of these matters, but also somebody outside friends or family – something I will discuss shortly.

STRESS MANAGEMENT CAN PROVIDE COPING TECHNIQUES FOR THE FUTURE – Getting to the bottom of the stress is one part of stress management but the other and equally important part of the process is gaining techniques for managing future stress. It is often the case that speaking to a stress management professional, while being a great help and initially relieving the present stress; is of little use if the person is going to get stressed again in the near future. Stress management therefore provides a means of providing each and every person the skills to relieve stress that may arise in the future – with the skills being tailored for every person. Therefore this stress management is not only for the here-and-now but also can greatly improve future well-being.

ENABLES US TO TALK TO AN EXPERIENCED PROFESSIONAL WHO IS COMPLETELY NEUTRAL – It can be difficult discussing anything with family and close friends, especially stress. We may fear that family members will simply tell us they love us and that it does not matter, friends may be very biased, especially if it a family member or another close friend who is causing the stress and we may not want to tell work colleagues for fear of being seen as weak or unreliable. Also with the current employment market we may simply not want to run the risk of losing our job if talk of this stress goes around the workplace. Speaking to a qualified stress management professional confidentially has a number of benefits here – (a) all information is kept in complete confidentiality so that we can be as open as we like and discuss everything, (B) most importantly, the professional while experienced, will also be completely neutral. Therefore there should be no fear of saying anything that will upset another family member or the professional taking the side of one person over another. They will simply sit back listen and judge the situation on its individual merits and provide the best advice possible having the whole situation discussed with them.

These are the four main reasons why, in my professional opinion, I think that stress management is a positive action to take if suffering from stress. As I have stated above, not only can stress management help with the current stress, but it can also help to pinpoint and solve other underlying concerns -many that may not have even been realised and indeed can also help provide techniques to hep to stop future stress from building.

Stress: Recognize It – Manage It

Decision making is something we do every day – left/right, up/down, fast/slow, now/later, buy/sell, and numerous other daily choices. Stress is also a normal part of everyday life, and especially so in business, and is present in all professions and industries. Its effect on decision making depends on our ability to recognize it and then having a predesigned plan for handling that stress. This article discusses how to recognize stress and its effect on every day decision-making from the perspective of an ordinary business executive, and offers some solutions for handling that stress.

Although useful, this brief article only touches on the subject of stress. We invite you to investigate the plethora of resources available for a more lengthy discussion of the topic, including licensed professionals.

What is Stress?

Stress is an inevitable and necessary part of life; just the right amount of stress adds motivation and heightens our individual response to meet any challenge. But this is not the stress we want to discuss in this article. We want to discuss the stress that is generated when we exceed our ability to cope with the situation at hand, generally resulting in a substandard level of performance.

What are Stressors?

First, let’s talk about what causes stress; we call these stressors. Stressors fall into three general categories — physical stress, physiological stress, and psychological stress.

Physical stress can be generated when conditions associated with the environment, such as temperature and humidity extremes, noise, vibration, and lack of oxygen are not what we expect or are outside our previous experience. But in most cases the mere presence of these conditions generates stress.

Physiological stress is generated when physical conditions, such as fatigue, lack of physical fitness, sleep loss, missed meals (leading to low blood sugar levels), and illness affect our ability to cope. Note that these physical conditions are all within our ability to control.

Psychological stress concerns social or emotional factors, such as a death in the family, a marriage or divorce, a sick child, a car accident, an argument with a spouse, or a change at work. This type of stress may also be related to mental workload, such as analyzing a complex problem or making decisions sooner than we would like.

It is not how much stress we face, but rather how we handle stress that determines its effect on us. However, too much stress or stress over a long time results in our inability to cope effectively, leading to diminished capability. This continuing stress can have residual health issues, which then generates additional stress in our lives. It can be a never-ending cycle, unless we come to grips with it.

It is also important to recognize that individuals respond differently to these stressors. We also note that some individuals have become very adept at hiding the effect that stress is having on them. A cheerful countenance does not necessarily mean that stress is absent.

Effects of Stress

The effects of stress can be subtle or obvious; in either case, it’s important we understand the effect on us. Stress affects us in four major areas — physical, mental, behavioral, and professional. If we are aware of these effects and recognize their onset, we can take action to offset the impact they have on decision-making.

The physical effects of stress can result in headaches or heartburn or upset stomach which are otherwise unexplained or new, muscle aches or tight muscles, slurred or slow speech, increased blood pressure or heart rate, shallow or difficult breathing, chills or dry mouth or sweating, and numbness or tingling or coldness in the extremities.

The mental effects of stress can result in difficulty thinking, defensiveness, forgetfulness, fatigue or exhaustion, poor task performance, anxiety, or a state where small things now become big things.

The behavioral effects of stress can result in loss of appetite, attempts to place blame on others, becoming accident-prone, impulsive or aggressive outbursts, drug or alcohol abuse, withdrawal and isolation, sleep problems, or deviation from standard operating procedures.

The professional effects of stress result in job burnout, absenteeism, poor working relationships, low morale, high turnover rate, lawsuits, and accidents and incidents.

Solutions to Stress

Before we can develop a plan to manage stress, we must recognize stress and its effect on us, as discussed above. We generally recognize stress by its effect on us or by recognizing that we are entering upon an activity that generates stress. In addition, sometimes the way we think determines how we react to stress; are we a glass half-full or a glass half-empty person? Generally, positive thinking people handle stress better.

It is of utmost importance that we modify any negative, self-critical, or self-defeating mental patterns. In their place, we must create supportive work and personal relationships. Here are some tips for coping with stress that can be accomplished at home.

• Exercise regularly by walking 30 minutes a day; this is in addition to the walking you may do at work.

• Get adequate sleep; at least 7 ½ to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep for most adults.

• Practice good nutrition; be aware of the effect of certain foods.

• Avoid alcohol, drugs, and tobacco; these items do not reduce stress, they merely hide it.

• Practice relaxation techniques; for example, take a deep breath and hold it, let out half and hold it again, and then exhale completely. Most TV is not relaxing!

• Find some self-renewal activities, such as continuing education, hobbies, sports, meditation, family activities, volunteer activities, etc.

We can practice stress reducers at work as well; here are some suggestions.

• Plan, anticipate, and schedule; getting caught off guard generates significant stress, so be sure to plan ahead! Also, when you expect (and plan for) the unexpected, it is not unexpected!

• Communicate often and well, in the office and in other professional meetings. Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns on issues that affect you or the business. Remember, though, be positive; no one likes to be around a “doom and gloom” type person.

• Take short walks and find other opportunities to stretch your legs; this also helps you take deep breaths which can be relaxing and invigorating. While sitting at your desk, stretch out your legs and point your toes away from you and then toward you several times.

• Pace routine and “boring” tasks; perhaps set aside a time in the morning or afternoon to accomplish these mundane tasks, while also setting aside prime time to be creative. Let others know your schedule so they don’t interrupt unnecessarily.

• Maintain a positive mental attitude; have a vision for the future. Those without vision will soon perish.

• Know and respect your personal limits; don’t be unduly pushed to perform.

• Maintain proficiency not only in your professional skills, but also in basic office skills such as using a word processor, using a spreadsheet, and knowing how to conduct effective meetings.

Modes of Thinking

You’ve probably heard that some people think differently than others do. You may have heard that one person is left brained or right brained or whole brained. You may even have heard that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, whatever that means! The thing to remember is that we are not all the same. Don’t expect different people to react the same way to the same situation.

However, a good leader will take time to understand the people he works with so he can understand how each thinks. In other words, when a leader understands people, he or she will make affective assignments, thereby helping decrease the stress he creates in their professional lives.

Here are some very general thoughts about how left brained, right brained, and whole brained individuals approach situations.

A left brained individual does things from a logical perspective, is highly organized, is good at keeping track of time, and easily handles spelling and mathematical patterns and formulas. He or she rarely uses gestures when talking and likes to make lists and detailed plans; they like to observe and are rational, objective, and analytical.

On the other hand, a right brained individual does things from feelings, and appears to act randomly and have a general lack of organization. They often have no sense of time and are not great at spelling or mathematics. They generally do use their hands when talking; they take life as it comes and like to touch things. They are intuitive and subjective.

A whole brained individual is hard to categorize. One moment they are left brained and the next they appear to be right brained and sometimes it appears they are thinking from both sides of the brain. If that seems awkward to you, think how it must be for them!

So, how does this affect your stress levels? If you are right brained, and are put into a left brain situation, you will feel stress. Likewise, if you are left brained, and are put into a right brain situation, you will also feel stress. A good leader will recognize these differences and will not make inappropriate assignments. More importantly, if you understand yourself, you will not take on projects that require skills you don’t have.

Recognize your mode of thinking and accept the differences that occur in the opposite situation and don’t try to push a square peg into a round hole! This is where teamwork is most effective. In fact, assigning a combination of right brained, left brained, and whole brained individuals to a problem can result in a faster, and many times, a better solution.

Other Techniques to Manage Stress

It may look like some people have intuitive decision-making skills unaffected by stress; and some do. Bless them! But for the rest of us, the majority, we need to develop techniques to manage stress.

When we understand people, including ourselves, we are better able to manage stress. When we successfully manage stress, we make better decisions. One way to do this is to add a few modern books on decision-making to our reading list. We can also study risk management principles. When we are informed, we are seldom caught off guard.

Although some people are born with good judgment, the rest of us can learn how to make good decisions. One way to do this is by developing a standard operating practice, a checklist if you will, for different situations. When we follow standard procedures we keep stress at a manageable level.

Just like air traffic controllers, we should always have a plan B already developed in case plan A doesn’t work out. Again, being prepared reduces stress.

Conclusion

When we consciously make an effort to recognize stress, we are already managing that stress. By practicing stress reducing activities, we maintain our ability to cope with the stress that comes into our lives. When we have a predesigned plan for handling stress, we will discover that our level of performance improves.

Go back, now, and re-read this article, paying special attention to those things you can do to recognize stressors. Then take steps at home and at work to manage the stress that has a negative impact on your performance; even the seemingly little suggestions will help. Not only will your performance improve, but you will feel like a new person!

10 Tips To Overcome Stress

Stress is something that seems to easily rear its head in the modern working world.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic to deal with stress more effectively?

Here we give you 10 simple tips to dealing with, and overcoming, stress in the workplace.

We tend to think of stress as a phenomenon of the modern working environment, but it might surprise you to know that people have been studying stress for nearly a century. It was Walter Cannon way back in 1932 who introduced the “Fight or Flight” theory

The strange thing about stress is that we all experience it at different times but we find it very hard to articulate exactly what it is.

The most commonly accepted definition of stress comes from the late Richard S Lazarus, an eminent psychologist. In his book “Psychological stress and the coping process” published in 1966 he states that “stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.”

In other words, we feel stressed when we are not in control of events.

I want to introduce you to Albrecht’s Four Types of Stress. Dr Karl Albrecht introduced this model in “Stress & the Manager – making it work for you” in 1979. Albrecht wrote that “most of the chronic stress experienced by twentieth century Americans comes from anxiety”.

Albrecht identified four types of stress:

1) Time Stress

2) Anticipatory Stress

3) Situational Stress

4) Encounter Stress

I wonder how many of these you have experienced?

Time Stress

This is the anxiety caused by believing that you will run out of time. No doubt you will have been in situations where a deadline is looming. The very fact that time is running out raises your levels of anxiety (or stress).

This area of stress can be overcome by effective time management.

Simple “to do” lists are a good way to start. Far too often we try to store all our tasks in our heads. They get jumbled up and our brains almost feel like they will explode! Moreover, when everything is in our head it is hard to determine what is important or what sequence things should be completed in. So, whilst a “to do” list is very simple it is also a fantastic way of getting everything out of our heads and onto paper where we can see them.

Steven Covey’s “Urgent / Important” matrix is an easy to use tool to help you prioritise your work. It allows you to “dig where the diamonds are” but it also enables you to jettison some of the stuff that really is not important in your job or life.

Time stress is also forced upon us as we have more and more tasks dropped on us by others. This “monkey on the shoulder” syndrome can best be countered by increasing your assertiveness.

Anticipatory Stress

This is an anxiety about forthcoming events.

Many of us will have experienced the situation where we worry that “something” will go wrong before a task or event or that a person won’t like us or that there are bound to be better candidates for a job.

For the last 12 years, I have been helping people improve their confidence in Public Speaking.

Time and time again, I have worked with people who have a long list of scenarios that they fear might happen. The reality is that most of these fears never come to pass. Although, some fears, if dwelt upon enough do come about. If you are constantly thinking that you will drop your notes during your presentation you will. This is “The Law of Attraction” which is featured in the book “The Secret”. What you dwell upon is attracted into your life.

So why not attract success into your life instead? In the “The Secret”, Dr. Denis Waitley described the following powerful study of visualisation:

“I took the visualization process from the Apollo program, and instituted it during the 1980’s and ’90’s into the Olympic programme. It was called Visual Motor Rehearsal.

When you visualize then you materialize.

Here’s an interesting thing about the mind: we took Olympic athletes and had them run their event only in their mind, and then hooked them up to sophisticated biofeedback equipment. Incredibly, the same muscles fired in the same sequence when they were running the race in their mind as when they were running it on the track. How could this be? Because the mind cannot distinguish whether you’ve really doing it or whether it is just practise. If you’ve been there in the mind you’ll go there in the body.”

So try to visualise success rather than dwell upon the negatives..

There are some other tips to overcoming anticipatory stress:

Contingency planning is a way of looking at the potential problems and developing a “plan B”. Just by having that contingency plan allows you to overcome stress by knowing that even if a problem occurs (and, let’s face it, they do) you have an action plan which means that you retain control of the situation.

Meditation is a wonderful way to restore a level of calm to your mind and body. Sandra and I are currently following a daily meditation programme from Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey which has had an enormous impact on the way we are dealing with the challenges and stresses in our busy lives.

Finally, sometimes we just need to learn to cope with failure.

I saw a statistic that showed that the best strikers in the premiership score less than a third of the shots they take on goal. By any statistical measure they are failures but we don’t think they are. They accept that they cannot score every time.

In 2012, Katherine Grainger won an Olympic gold at rowing. Yet this success came after failures to secure gold at the three previous Olympic Games. She just accepted that failing happens sometimes on the road to success.

Vincent Lombardi summed it up perfectly:”It’s not whether you get knocked down but whether you get up.”

Situational Stress

This type of stress, according to Albrecht, is when we actually have lost control of a situation. Redundancy, grief and personal conflicts all tend to fall into this type of stress.

Just like King Canute trying in vain to stop the sea coming in, we cannot always prevent a situation from happening. But what we can control is the way that we respond to the situation.

If you recall Richard Lazarus’ definition of stress, it is when we are not in control of a situation.

By increasing our self awareness helps us to understand our weaknesses and to be aware of the triggers that stress us out and how we can turn the situation from a position of weakness to a position of strength.

We can also, on a practical level, learn how to manage conflict in the workplace (or maybe it is outside the workplace too).

Often we feel that a situation is out of control when a colleague (or probably a boss) acts in an aggressive manner. This aggression, verging on bullying, is definitely a reason that some people feel stressed at work. Rather like in Time Stress, learning to become more assertive and less passive will help regain control of a situation and this particular form of stress.

Encounter Stress

The fourth type of stress identified by Dr Karl Albrecht is called “Encounter stress”.

As the name implies, this stress revolves around people.

Sometimes our interaction with a particular person or group of people is stressful in itself.

This may be because we don’t like them – we often hear people saying that someone always “puts them on edge”. Alternatively, stress levels can be raised because the person that you are dealing with is unpredictable. A third reason for people increasing your stress is that the person is in distress themselves. Think of people in the health professions. They are dealing with people in pain or maybe they have to give them bad news. Either way the person being dealt with will be in some form of distress. If you go to a completely different arena, say call centres, you will also find customers calling in some form of distress (normally a complaint, but not always).

The final reason that people can raise stress levels is simply because you can get to a point of “contact overload”. Those of you who are aware of Myers Briggs personality types might recall that some people are “I’s”. They prefer to reflect on information before making decisions. If a person with this personality type is in an environment with loads of extroverts it can, after a while, feel quite overwhelming.

The tips for overcoming this type of stress are similar to “Situational Stress”. Developing your emotional intelligence and self awareness will be a key tactic.

Extending that self-awareness to understanding how other people “tick” then becomes a powerful tool. This could be by simply understanding Myers-Briggs personality types or getting a team to have an MBTI assessment. Learning about the 5 stages of grief is also a useful tool. Whilst this model was originally designed to help people understand bereavement it is now widely used to understand how people deal with trauma’s in their lives.

Conclusion

Stress is a huge issue in the workplace. It costs lost days and hits the bottom line. Whilst it is important for employers to try to reduce the levels of stress in the work place, as Richard Lazarus argues, stress is about when we feel that events are out of our control. Based upon this it is hard to see how employers can reduce stress by themselves.

And anyway, how long are we willing to wait for our organisation to change.

What we can do, however, is take actions ourselves. By taking action, developing our skills, gaining greater degrees of self awareness we can begin to take control of the events in our lives for ourselves.

Our 10 tips to overcoming stress are:

1) Start “to do” lists

2) Prioritise your work

3) Increase your assertiveness skills

4) Develop visualisation techniques

5) Work up contingency plans

6) Practise meditation

7) Learn to cope with failure.

8) Develop your ability to manage conflict

9) Use Myers Briggs (MBTI) to build better inter-personal relationships

10) Increase yourself awareness and Emotional Intelligence.

Top 10 Questions About Stress

Stress. What is it really? What do we mean when we say “I can’t take the pressure?” Or “I’m stressed out?” Am I really? Is it a bad thing? Or do I actually need stress to get me going? A lot can be involved when we start a discussion about stress. And it’s important to understand a problem before we can begin to find solutions for it.

Let’s tackle the basics here with 10 top questions about stress:

1. What is stress?

When we talk about stress, we really should be talking about the “stress reaction.” Okay, so what is the stress reaction? In short, it is an evolved survival mechanism. Our senses transmit information about a situation and our mind has to make its mind up; Am I safe or under threat? If the decision is ‘under threat,’ the mind activates the ‘fight or flight’ response. This then equips the body to proceed with that course of action. It can occur in an instant, often before you are even consciously aware that there is a threat present. It’s about gearing you up to deal with the threat in order to survive, and then restoring you to your former (unstressed) state, once the threat has abated.

2. Is there a difference between pressure and stress?

The problem today with these words is that they have become so commonly used and now carry a host of meanings. Let’s keep it simple. Let’s think of ‘pressure’ (sometimes referred to as a stressor) as the thing that is applied to us and ‘stress,’ or more accurately, our ‘stress response’ as the response to that pressure. An example; your boss drops a big pile of paperwork on your desk requiring it to be completed by the end of the day (that’s the pressure being applied), You, upon seeing this, then stand up, scream and run out of the office (that’s your stress response).

3. What is acute stress?

Some dangers and threats are immediate. Back in the day, when we were living in caves, hunting and foraging for food to live, our bodies evolved to handle the various threats we encountered. Upon realizing that we were in the presence of a dangerous predator, say a sabre-toothed tiger, the stress response was immediate and all-consuming. Our breathing and heart rates soared, our adrenaline pumped, and all our energies focused on our immediate survival. This exemplifies acute stress. It demands a big response from your body, and hopefully it won’t need to be maintained for to long.

4. What is chronic stress?

Some dangers and threats last over a longer term. Back to the caveman. In addition to sabre-toothed tigers, there were other threats to survival. There were periods of hunger, competition for scarce resources, hostile environments, and a host of other daily physical challenges. Our bodies also used the stress response to adapt to these long-term threats. When food was scarce, our metabolisms and other bodily functions would slow down so our continued survival required less food. When bountiful times returned, so would our daily food requirements. This exemplifies chronic stress. It is our body’s way of surviving those longer term threats or challenges.

5. There’s no sabre-toothed tigers today, why should stress affect me now?

Whilst the stress response itself has not greatly changed, what we deem a threat has. Thanks to our mind’s ability to recall past events and think about future possibilities, we are capable of activating our stress response when simply imagining a threatening situation. So, unlike the Zebra who is only able to focus on the immediate threats, we can worry about a threat that might occur tomorrow, next week or next month, and subsequently activate our stress response. And the situation need not be life-threatening for our mind to perceive a threat and thus activate the stress response.

6. Do we all get stressed out by the same things?

The short answer is no. Take the example of Christmas. To some, it is a wonderful time for celebration, relaxation and reflection. To others, it is an incredibly stressful time that begins with the annual ritual of untangling the tree lights and ends only after the last straggling relative has gone home for another year. How can this be? Christmas is Christmas. This is true. The day itself, the 25th of December, is the same for everyone. But the values, customs, social beliefs, and past experiences that we bring to a situation determine its effect on us. Thus to some, Christmas is a source of great joy while to others, it can be a significant stressor.

7. Does my own mindset affect how stressed I get?

Absolutely yes, and in a number of ways. One of the things that determines how we will respond to something stressful is our perception of our ability to cope. Do we have the capacity (physically, psychologically and emotionally) to handle the threat or challenge that we are facing? What it boils down to is whether or not we believe we have control of the situation. If we believe that we do not, we may experience an increased stress reaction, maybe even to the point of panic mode. If that happens, we may become unable to decide upon a course of action, and indeed, lose control of the situation.

8. How does stress affect me?

There are three key ways in which stress affects us.

Physically: Some of the ways that stress can manifest itself in your body are sleep disruption, tiredness, muscle tension, lack of energy, headaches and viral infections.

Psychologically: These may be a little harder to spot and include lower motivation, negative thoughts, the inability to switch off, negative self-talk and anxiousness.

Behaviourally: There are some behavioural changes caused by stress that you might want be on the lookout for, like working through breaks, craving energy boosters, changes in appetite, teeth grinding and taking work home, becoming irritable, withdrawing.

While any of these warning signs may also point to other issues besides stress, and therefore consider seeking professional medical advice, do consider whether stress is a contributing factor.

9. Is stress all bad?

There is actually a positive purpose for stress, when used and managed properly. The stress response is activated as a result of our brain perceiving a need for action. The stress response engages our body, and we get moving. When the alarm goes off in the morning, it is the stress response that tells our brain that we need to get out of bed. The brain then tells the body, and alas, we get out of bed.

10. What could happen if I don’t manage my stress?

The stress response evolved to help us out of sticky situations, but it was meant to be turned on for short periods of time when needed, then turned off. However, if the stress response turns into chronic stress, it can contribute to the development of serious physical conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, stomach problems and even cancer. It can also lead to psychological issues such as clinical depression, anxiety and panic disorders.

To sum it up, the stress response is our body’s way of reacting to a threat. We respond to the situation at hand and return to our normal state when the threat has been resolved. It evolved to deal with short and even long-term physical threats, so problems arise when we can endure long-term psychological stress response activation. Over time, this kind of chronic stress can lead to real physical, psychological and emotional problems. Understanding how the stress response works, and applying stress management strategies to your life will go a long way toward preventing these kinds of problems in your life.