Stress Management

Stress is a fact of our times. It is like smog, you may not be aware of it, but it is there nonetheless. Stress is a large topic that can hold a variety of conditions, circumstances, and variations, but unless you are living on a tropical island, you will most surely have some degree of stress. After the tsunami, even island life became included in the list of possible stress locations. The degree of stress that you have depends on the choices you make, how aware you are, and how you manage your stress. Even age isn’t immune to stress. Young people can become concerned about not being popular, middle-aged people can become anxious about financial concerns, and older people can worry about their children and grandchildren.

Stress is a biological term that refers to the consequences or failure of an organism to respond appropriately to emotional or physical threats, whether actual or imagined. It includes a state of alarm, adrenaline production, short-term resistance as a coping mechanism, and eventual exhaustion. It refers to the inability of a human to respond appropriately. Common stress symptoms include irritability, muscular tension, inability to concentrate and a variety of physical reactions, such as headaches and accelerated heart rate.

The term “stress” was first used by the endocrinologist Hans Selye in the 1930s to identify physiological responses in laboratory animals. He later broadened and popularized the concept to include the perceptions and responses of humans trying to adapt to the challenges of everyday life. The term is commonly used by everyday people as a metaphor rather than a biological term; it has become a catch-all phrase for all perceived challenges that appear to be overwhelming. Stress also became a euphemism, a way of referring to general problems and eliciting support without having to reveal all the gruesome details. You could respond to the question, “How are you?” with the response, “I am totally “stressed out” and without disclosing the details receive compassion and sincere concern. The term “stress” covers a huge range of reactions from mild irritation to severe problems that might result in a health crisis. In popular usage almost any event or situation between these extremes could be described as stressful.

What causes stress? Usually stress comes from a perception, real or imagined, that there aren’t enough resources to be able to respond to the immediate demands. Often the resources are: time, money, energy, capability, enjoyment, nurturing, rest, wellness, knowledge, stimulation, or work. When someone becomes overwhelmed, stress sets in because, by definition, overwhelm means: to overpower. When you become overwhelmed you activate the “I can’t” syndrome which feels real and diminishes your self-concept and your self-esteem (reference: Negaholics: How to Overcome Negativity and Turn Your Life Around).

Symptoms of Stress are:

1. Breathlessness
2. Increased dependence on alcohol
3. Irritation with little things
4. Nail biting
5. Avoidance of social situations
6. Withdrawal at work
7. Headaches
8. Loss of sleep
9. Loss of appetite, Increase in appetite
10. Memory loss

The symptoms range from mild to serious, to critical. The effects of stress depend on how much stress you can handle, how you cope with your stress, and how you manage the stress in your life. What is stressful for one may seem like a walk in the park for another. Therefore, comparing stress is not a really productive exercise because someone most always feels diminished.

The Four Key Checkpoints

When you notice stress in your life, you have certain options. Those options really depend on how much control you feel like you can exercise over your circumstances. For instance, if you feel like the commute to your job causes you stress, you might want to move closer to your job, or take a job closer to your home. If you feel as if your child causes you stress, then you might want to put yourself into her mindset and see if you could find some compassion for her situation. If you feel stressful whenever you must do paperwork, then you might turn on your favorite music before tackling the task. If you feel like the economic situation in the world is causing you stress, and you don’t see any options providing relief, then you will need to deal with the stress in a healthy and functional manner.

These are the four checkpoints that you can focus on to relieve, manage, or cope with stress: 
1. Change the stressful item in your life.
2. Change your attitude regarding the stressful item.
3. Change your response to the stressful item.
4. Deal with your reaction to the stressful item.

The more powerless you feel, the greater is the stress. The key is to see options, exercise choices, and remove, reduce, or relieve, the stress so that you experience relief, either temporarily or permanently.

Ask yourself these Questions:
1. Can you avoid the situation?
2. Can you avoid the person?
3. Can you stop the behavior?
4. Can you eliminate the cause of the stress?
5. Can you reduce the frequency of the stress?
6. Can you shorten the length of exposure?

If the answer to all questions is, “No,” then find ways to manage the stress so that it doesn’t become a health risk.

Stress is a fact of our times and if you meet it head on… it doesn’t need to overpower you!