How should I deal with Stress?

There are times in our lives when stress can be a real problem. If stress is repeated, it can become a way of life, so that you don't even realize that you are on the way to burnout.

How do I know if I really am stressed out?

Different people react differently to stress. You can become agitated or demotivated and depressed, or vacillate between the two.

A reduction in your resistance to illness, disturbed sleep, feeling on the point of fury or tears, panic attacks, excessive fatigue, forgetfulness, an increased use of substances such as alcohol, eating problems (too much or too little). All of these and more can indicate excessive stress levels. Stress symptoms may be cognitive, behavioural, emotional or physical.

What you are experiencing is 'fight or flight' response ' a healthy release of adrenalin that can save your life in some situations, but that you cannot constantly live with.

Where is my stress coming from?

You could be stressing yourself out by pushing yourself too hard or by putting yourself down. Perhaps you have recently re-located, got married, been divorced or lost a close family member: anything that changes your life can be stressful. Perhaps you are unhappy at work, have problems at work or tend to overwork. You might have worries related to financial or relationship problems, or you might just be a 'worrier' in general.

Think about your specific situation and try to identify the causes of your stress. Perhaps something can be done to remove them! Even if this is not possible, knowing where stress comes from helps you to explore ways to relieve it somewhat. Writing down your thoughts helps! Sometimes, you'll read them afterwards and laugh, and sometimes you'll find the kernel of something useful.

You are not a weakling!

A lot of people are ashamed to admit, even to themselves, that they are suffering from stress. They see it as a 'weakness'. They tell themselves to stop the pity party, to get on with it and keep a stiff upper lip. Stop fooling yourself! If you are suffering symptoms of stress, something needs to change. You will find that more people understand your predicament than you ever believed. It takes guts to admit that you've bitten off more than you can chew, so go ahead and do it!

So what can I do?

1. Relax! Take some time out to reflect, even if you have to plan it a few weeks in advance. Having time away from the things that stress you out helps you to get perspective. You need at least two weeks! Don't push yourself. Try for complete relaxation doing whatever you like!

2. When you get back, ring some changes. Whatever it is that's bothering you most, you have three choices: live with it, change it or put it behind you. If you decide to live with it, recognize that this is your choice and see what you can do to make your choice a positive one. If you decide on change of some kind, be resolute and practical. Do what needs to be done.

3. Time management is paramount. Forget the guilt about how other people might feel when you say 'Can I have this ready by the end of the month?' You'll be no use to anyone if you burn out!

4. Use the time you've bought for doing something relaxing. Meditate, exercise or just relax with something undemanding to do. First prize if you can do all three, but don't stress out about relaxing, whatever you do!

5. Get up a little earlier in the morning so that you've got some free time to meditate in. Don't spend the time thinking about the coming day ' or anything for that matter. Just give yourself five or ten minutes of quiet time. Stretch your muscles like a cat!

6. Stop stressing out your body. Eat healthy food, eat regularly throughout the day (even if you have to force yourself to) and avoid stimulants like coffee. Generally look after your health.

7. Sleep well: Getting enough exercise and allowing your mind to relax completely before sleep can help one to sleep well without medication. Avoid coffee and alcohol and drink relaxing herbal teas instead. Mint, ginseng and chamomile teas are among those recognized as having relaxing properties.

8. Forgive yourself. You can't do everything or be all things to all people. You can't change the past, but you can try to enjoy the present.

9. Rest when you need to. It doesn't matter what you're striving to achieve, sometimes, you need to rest. Do so.

10. Breathe! When you feel the 'fight or flight' response coming on, breathe deeply. Feel the air in your lungs. Release it slowly. Do this at least three times. It works!

11. Talk to someone. It helps. They understand. Verbalizing your thoughts often helps you to find ways to deal with them.

Stress is part of the human condition. In moderation, it can be good for you, but in excess it becomes a spiral towards burnout. It's important to identify the symptoms, causes and possible solutions.

A word of caution: it's important to calm down first before making any rash decisions. You're stressed. You're not 'yourself'. If things are really bad, you should consider discussing this with your doctor or councillor.

Written by : Andrea Durrheim, South Africa

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Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )

Disclaimer: The suggestions in the article(wherever applicable) are for informational purposes only. They are not intended as medical or any other type of advice