UNDERSTANDING AND ENHANCING YOUR ABILITY TO CONTROL STRESS
‘’Have you ever found yourself in a situation where your to-do list seems endless, there are mountains of bills to pay, deadlines are fast approaching and you find yourself saying, ‘’Eek! I feel stressed!’’ But what is stress really, how does it affect us, what are the signs and symptoms and how can it be controlled?’’
Firstly, let us debunk one myth: Stress is not necessarily a ‘bad’ thing. As a matter of fact ‘stress is not an illness’. It is a state. However, if stress becomes excessive and prolonged, mental and physical illness may develop. There is a difference between pressure and stress. Stress occurs when pressure becomes excessive.
Many of us are faced with stress everyday but we might not know how to deal with it. It is necessary to know how to handle stress because it can affect our performance and relationships in our workplace and at home. At work, stress can lead to distraction and cause an unfortunate accident. At home, stress can put a strain on family relationship.
Stress in the broadest sense of the word is a condition or feeling, experienced when a person perceives that demand exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize. It is a natural reaction to too much pressure.
In small doses, stress can help you perform under pressure and motivate you to accomplish more. But when you are constantly running in emergency mode, your mind and body pay the price. Due to the fact that stress is primarily a physical response, when stressed, the body think it is under attack - whether its real or imagined - and it automatically switches to a stress response mode called the ‘’fight-or-flight mode. In these stress response mode, the body releases a complex mix of hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine. These hormones make us either feel agitated and aggressive (fight mode) towards others which can negatively affect relationships and ruin reputations in unnecessary conditions or run away (flight mode) when we are faced with a stressor which can lead to escalating the stressful situation.
In truth, stress in people must be managed to enable people function optimally and not run the risk of getting themselves harmed as a result of stress.
The first step to managing stress is to identify your stressor; those situations and pressures that cause stress and make you react. Many times we usually think of stressors as being negative, but positive events such as working towards receiving a promotion or getting married etc, can eventually be stressful too. More often than not, what causes stress depends, at least in part, on your perception of it, your attitude towards situations and your acceptance of situations you have no control over. Some common internal and external stressors are;
|EXTERNAL STRESSORS||INTERNAL STRESSORS|
|Financial challenges.||Negative self talk.|
|Not enough time.||Inability to accept uncertainties.|
|Family problems.||Rigid thinking /lack of flexibility.|
|Major life challenges.||Pessimism|
|Relationship difficulties.||Unrealistic expectation/perfectionism|
Stress not properly managed can be a major cause of many health challenges and can indeed be linked to a multitude of diseases. The word disease actually is derived from old French then to Middle English and means “Lack of Ease”. In Chiropractic medicine, illnesses are considered to be a result of a misalignment or lack of harmony within the body. Stress can be seen as a major source of dis-ease leading to many ailments. Some ailments caused by stress are;
- Depression and anxiety
- Pain of any kind
- Digestive problems
- Sleep problems
- Heart disease
- Weight problems
- Thinking and memory problems etc
Signs and Symptoms of Stress
You need to be sensitive to the early warning signs and symptoms that suggest a stress overload is starting to push you over a hump. Such signals also differ for each of us and can be so subtle that they are often ignored until it is too late. Most frequently, others are aware that you may be headed for trouble before you are. These symptoms could be cognitive, emotional, physical or behavioural.
- Poor judgment.
- Constant worry.
- Anxiety and agitation.
- Inability to concentrate.
- Loneliness, isolation, depression or general unhappiness.
- Moodiness, irritability and anger.
- Nervous habit (e.g nail biting, pacing)
- Eating or sleeping more or less.
- Using alcohol, cigarettes or drugs to relax.
- Chest pain, rapid heart rate.
- Loss of sex drive.
- Aches and pains.
There are proven ways that our ability to control stress can be enhanced, some of which are;
- Regular exercise can lift your mood.
- Build strong and more satisfying connections with family, friends and colleagues.
- Engaging one or more of your senses (sight, sound, taste, smell, touch)
- Learn how to relax.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Get your rest and improve your sleep.