Stress Management

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This article is part of the SM-201 Life's Lessons Project

Stress is the “wear and tear” on us when we experience adjustments to our changing environment. Change has many effects both physical and emotional, which can create both positive and negative feelings. Stress as a positive influence can help us to move into action, create awareness and a new perspective on things. Stress as a negative influence could result in hurt feelings of distrust, rejection, anger and depression. These feelings can lead to health problems such as upset stomach, headaches, insomnia, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. We experience stress with death of a loved one, birth of a child, job change, moving, relationships and other life changes. It is how we react to it. Certain forms of stress are normal and essential. Indicators that people experience with stress are: general irritability, elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure, increased accident proneness, floating anxiety feeling, trembling, pain in neck or lower back, and changes in eating pattern. Stress is a process that builds and it is more effective to become aware sooner than later. For me stress comes in many forms. When I get stressed out I become anxious and get an upset tummy and tension headaches. Stress can also make me work harder on my goals because it reminds me of what good things might come after putting in hard work.

Your hypothalamus is the body’s way of detecting changes in the temperature, chemistry, and pressure of the blood. When your body senses stress it initiates a chain of reactions to get that flight or fight feeling and prepare for an emergency. This is known as GAS or general adaptation syndrome. Stressors are produced. For every individual stressors vary from heat, cold, poisons, bacteria from an infection, heavy bleeding, trauma or a strong emotional reaction. When a stressor comes it stimulates the hypothalamus and goes through two pathways. One is the nervous system and adrenal medulla. This produces the alarm reaction. The second pathway is called the resistance reaction, which is slower to start, but its effect last longer. This pathway involves the pituitary gland and adrenal glands. Stressors for me are just thinking about have confrontation. I am afraid of letting people down. These stressors cause anxiety, fear, upset stomach, headaches, light-headedness, and sweating. These often last longer and weigh heavy on me. Stressors like traffic cause anxiety and anger. But when I leave the situation I feel all-better.

Four main sources of stress are work, school, home and relationships. Work for most people can be very stressful. With work comes responsibility, schedules, deadlines, meetings, management of people and time. People often worry if they are doing a good job or can they make things better when often they are doing just fine. They stress over keeping the job. Even good changes like a promotion can be very stressful because with a promotion comes more responsibility, more hours, more time from home and the kids. But it also is a positive move in the right direction. You worked hard to get to that point to make more money and help ease the finances at home maybe you get to be more creative and travel. There is good stress and bad stress. For me work is stressful because I am always concerned with am I going to get more clients this week? And if I am busy I am worried if I have the time to fit everyone in? On the positive side I am making my bills and get to see my kids because I have the money. School can be stressful with all the stress on grades and learning correctly. Being on time, making sure you don't get sick and miss school, there are reports and presentations. For some people they have a great deal of stress with tests and deadlines. For me school is stressful because I want to maintain a high grade but I have poor time management skills. The home can have a lot of stress. Unfortunately we bring our work and other stressors home with us. But the home can have many stressors in itself. Some of us have children, family issues, cleaning, bills and so forth. At home we have a much more personal stress. Maybe a loved one that we occasionally argue with or someone whom is abusive. We deal with the loss of someone at home and a new baby at home. It is the center, home. We take to work and school what may be stressing us out at home. For me my home can either be a tranquil place or it can make me nervous to enter. Because upon entering I have issues sometimes that I don't like to deal with because they are stressors. Keeping things tidy and very clean is not a luxury but a priority because I run my business out of my home and that is a big responsibility but I also have the positive stress of keeping a nice looking home for clients and that those clients appreciate my place. Relationships can be another stress. They are in a constant state of change because we are always changing. Everything in our lives progresses and there are ups and downs. Marriage and faced paced love, long relationships, are all stressful. Because it is change and you are dealing not only with yourself but you are dealing with a whole other person and their stresses. But the rewards are wonderful. You have captainship, a friend, and a listener for your stresses, and you want to strive to make things work because you love them. Whether it is a friend or a lover. There is also a responsibility to each other and obligations. But you are not alone you have one another to count on! Like most stressors these all tie in together we often integrate these stresses and they affect one another. But we can help with that by making changes to decrease the stress.

Hans Selye was responsible for the concept of GAS (general adaptation syndrome). Stress can be caused by something extreme, unusual, or long lasting and the normal mechanisms may not be sufficient. If this is the case, the stress will trigger bodily changes. GAS syndrome does not maintain a normal internal environment; it makes these changes to get the body ready for an emergency. There are three phases of general adaptation syndrome:

  • A. Alarm Reaction. The body shows the changes characteristic of the fine exposure to a stressor, at the same time, its resistance is diminished and if the stressor is sufficiently strong, and death may result. This is generally referred to as the “flight or fight” syndrome.
  • B. Stage of resistance. Resistance ensues if continued to exposure to the stressor is compatible with adaptation. The bodily signs characteristic of the alarm reaction have virtually disappeared, and resistance rises above normal. The effects of stage 1 return to normal and resistance and adaptation occur to the stressor.
  • C. Stage of exhaustion. Following long-continued exposure to the same stressor, to which the body had become adjusted, eventually adaptation energy is exhausted. The signs of the alarm reaction reappear, but now they are irreversible and the individual dies.

Coping is defined as To contend with difficulties and act to overcome them or to strive, especially on even terms or with success. We all have different tools to cope with our stress that we face. For an example for the loss of a loved one here are a few tools. Recognizing what had happened, dealing with denial, handling anger and despair, accepting change and letting go. As for my coping skills are concerned I use music, creativity take control. I write and draw, I scream out load, and I vent to those I trust. Talking about my situation always seems to help me a great deal. I take a long drive and enjoy the quite also.

Which brings me to stress management. Identifying stress and being aware of the effects on us is not sufficient for reducing the harmful effects it can have. There are many possibilities to help manage stress, however, all require that you work toward change either by changing the source and/or your reaction to the needs to be changed. These steps are helpful for stress management and find they work great for me:

1. Become aware of your stressors and your emotional and physical reactions.
  • Notice your distress. Don't ignore it. Don't gloss over your problems.
  • Determine what events distress you. What are you telling yourself about meaning of these events?
  • Determine how your body responds to the stress. Do you become nervous or physically upset? If so, in what specific ways?
2. Recognize what you can change.
  • Can you change your stressors by avoiding or eliminating them completely?
  • Can you reduce their intensity (manage them over a period of time instead of on a daily or weekly basis)?
  • Can you shorten your exposure to stress (take a break, leave the physical premises)?
  • Can you devote the time and energy necessary to making a change (goal setting, time management techniques, and delayed gratification strategies may be helpful here)?
3. Reduce the intensity of your emotional reactions to stress.
  • The stress reaction is triggered by your perception of danger...physical danger and/or emotional danger. Are you viewing your stressors in exaggerated terms and/or taking a difficult situation and making it a disaster?
  • Are you expecting to please everyone?
  • Are you overreacting and viewing things as absolutely critical and urgent? Do you feel you must always prevail in every situation?
  • Work at adopting more moderate views; try to see the stress as something you can cope with rather than something that overpowers you.
  • Try to temper your excess emotions. Put the situation in perspective. Do not labor on the negative aspects and the "what if's."
4. Learn to moderate your physical reactions to stress.
  • Slow, deep breathing will bring your heart rate and respiration back to normal.
  • Relaxation techniques can reduce muscle tension. Electronic biofeedback can help you gain voluntary control over such things as muscle tension, heart rate, and blood pressure.
  • Medications, when prescribed by a physician, can help in the short term in moderating your physical reactions. However, they alone are not the answer. Learning to moderate these reactions on your own is a preferable long-term solution.
5. Build your physical reserves.
  • Exercise for cardiovascular fitness three to four times a week (moderate, prolonged rhythmic exercise is best, such as walking, swimming, cycling, or jogging).
  • Eat well-balanced, nutritious meals.
  • Maintain your ideal weight.
  • Avoid nicotine, excessive caffeine, and other stimulants.
  • Mix leisure with work. Take breaks and get away when you can.
  • Get enough sleep. Be as consistent with your sleep schedule as possible.
6. Maintain your emotional reserves.
  • Develop some mutually supportive friendships/relationships.
  • Pursue realistic goals, which are meaningful to you, rather than goals others have for you that you do not share.
  • Expect some frustrations, failures, and sorrows.
  • Always be kind and gentle with yourself -- be a friend to yourself.

The two techniques I learned in class that I use and like are the integration breathe which is great in traffic to cool me down. The head circles and the shoulder rolls are great because I get a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders when I get stressed and this helps to loosen them up. The program that I established for myself is going through “the steps” as mentioned above and I use the techniques I learned in class also. I exercise on a regular basis at least 3 times a week sometimes as much as 6. Try and eat healthy because certain foods affect me differently and if I don't feel well it stresses me out. I try to leave extra early to school to avoid being late and having the stress of getting in trouble. Ignoring the situations and trying to cover up what happens to me sometimes (anxiety attacks) does not work for me. And I have support if I can just get there. As for my clients, I have had situation where they confront me and ask my opinion and what should they do about their stress. I ask them about their diet and exercise. I ask them what is really wrong? Do you want to talk?

Try and take a time out and relax and breathe. ALWAYS BREATHE! It is ok to feel that way and there are ways to deal with stress appropriately. Example my boyfriend gets mad at his computer and will become focused and extremely stressed because he is frustrated. I tell him I understand and I know he is upset but he should take a break and walk away. When he does he feels much better that he did. I only offer my clients advice if they ask for it. I am there for them.

See also Kicking depression


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