Avoid harmful stress

Avoid harmful stress

Avoid harmful stress

What is stress?

We need to avoid harmful stress. Stress is commonly defined as: “The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them”.

The word stress derives from the Latin word ‘stringere’ meaning to ‘draw tight’ and was used during the seventeenth century to describe hardships or affliction.

It’s the driving force that keeps us on our toes and ensures that we push to be the best we can be. However its usefulness is limited. Too much, and it can drive us to physical, mental and emotional exhaustion.

Stress can have a significant negative impact on the well-being of an individual. Links have been demonstrated between stress and the incidence of heart disease, alcoholism, mental breakdowns, job dissatisfaction, accidents, family problems and certain forms of cancer.

What causes stress?

Problems occur when pressures are so great that they exceed a person’s ability to cope. Therefore we can tackle stress either by reducing pressures, by increasing coping resources – or a combination of the two. 

It is not the things which stress us that cause problems. It’s actually the way in which we react to them. So remember as your temper rises or as you feel emotional, that you have within you the power to react in a completely different way.

Stress in the early stages can ‘rev up’ the body and enhance performance in the workplace, thus the term ‘I perform better under pressure’. If this condition is allowed to go unchecked however and the body is revved up further, then performance will be affected.

Hints to avoid harmful stress?

1. Work out priorities

Keep a list – make the tasks possible. Prioritize the tasks in order of importance and tick off when done. Include the important people in your life as priorities and attend to these relationships.

2. Identify your stress situations

Make a list of events that leave you emotionally drained, with one or two ways to reduce the stress for each. When they occur, use them as an opportunity to practice your stress reduction techniques, then, keep notes on what works for next time.

3. Learn to ‘reframe’ statements: Don’t react to imagined insults

It is a waste of time and energy to be oversensitive to imagined insults, innuendo or sarcasm. Give people the benefit of the doubt, talk over the situation with someone you trust. They may have another spin on what was said.

4. Think before you commit yourself to other people’s expectations

We can often perform tasks merely to feel accepted by other people. Practice saying “no” to requests that are unreasonable or more than you can handle at the time – rather than suffer subsequent regrets and stress.

5. Move on: Don’t dwell on past mistakes

Feelings of guilt, remorse and regret cannot change the past and they make the present difficult by sapping your energy. Make a conscious effort to do something to change the mood (eg mindfulness technique or something active you enjoy) when you feel yourself drifting into regrets about past actions. Learn from it and have strategies in place for next time. Learn to forgive yourself for past mistakes.

6. Learn to defuse anger and frustrations

Express and discuss your feelings to the person responsible for your agitation. If it is impossible to talk it out, plan for some physical activity at the end of the working day to relieve tensions. Let go of grudges –they do not affect the potential victim because he does not necessarily know about them. However, the grudge-bearer pays a price in energy and anxiety just thinking about revenge.

7. Set aside time each day for recreation and exercise

Gentle repetitive exercise such as walking, swimming, cycling are good to relieve stress. Meditation, yoga, pilates and dance are also excellent. The trick is to find what suits you best. Hobbies that focus attention are also good stress relievers. Take up a new activity unrelated to your current occupation, one that gives you a sense of achievement and satisfaction. Establish new friends in your newly found interest.

8. Take your time: don’t let people rush you

Frenzied activities lead to errors, regrets, stress. Request time to orient yourself to the situation. At work, if rushed, ask people to wait until you finish working or thinking something out. Plan ahead to arrive at appointments early, composed and having made allowances for unexpected hold-ups. Practice approaching  situations ‘mindfully’.

9. Take your time on the road: Don’t be an aggressive car driver

Develop an “I will not be ruffled” attitude. Drive defensively and give way to bullies. Near misses cause stress and strain, so does the fear of being caught for speeding. If possible avoid peak hour traffic.

10. Help children and young people to cope with stress

Children need the experience of being confronted with problems to try out, and improve their ability to cope. By being overprotective or by intervening too soon, parents may prevent young people from developing valuable tolerance levels for problems, or from acquiring problem-solving skills.

11. Think positively – you get what you expect

Smile whenever possible –it’s an inexpensive way of improving your looks and how you feel. Try and find something positive to say about a situation, particularly if you are going to find fault. You can visualise situations you have handled well and hold those memories in your mind when going into stressful situations.

12. Cut down on drinking, smoking, sedatives and stimulants

They only offer temporary relief and don’t solve the problem. They can create more problems in terms of physical and mental health. Consider the effects you are looking for (sedation or stimulation) and how else you can achieve them.

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