How to manage stress

HARARE - Do you know anyone who isn't at times stressed out these days?

The pace of modern life makes stress management a necessary skill for everyone. Many people juggle multiple responsibilities, work, home life, caregiving and relationships.

Learning to identify problems and implement solutions is the key to successful stress reduction.

Stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way. When you sense danger whether it’s real or imagined the body’s defenses kick into high gear in a rapid.

The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, stress can save your life giving you extra strength to defend yourself, for example, or spurring you to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident.

The stress response also helps you rise to meet challenges. Stress is what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work, sharpens your concentration when you’re attempting the game winning free throw, or drives you to study for an exam when you'd rather be watching TV.

But beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships, and your quality of life.

Because of the widespread damage stress can cause, it's important to know your own limit. But just how much stress is "too much" differs from person to person. We're all different.

Some people are able to roll with the punches, while others seem to crumble in the face of far smaller obstacles or frustrations. Some people even seem to thrive on the excitement and challenge of a high-stress lifestyle.

The first step in successful stress relief is deciding to make stress management an ongoing goal, and to monitor your stress level.

Once you start monitoring your stress level, the next step is identifying your stress triggers. When or under what situations do you experience the most stress?

Some causes of stress are easy to identify, such as job pressures, relationship problems or financial difficulties. But daily hassles and demands, such as commuting, arranging child care or being overcommitted at work, also can contribute to your stress level.

Stress Management: 8 tips for reducing stress

· Identify the sources of stress in your life.
· Learn healthier ways to cope with stress.
· Get moving.
· Connect to others.
· Practice the 4 A's.
· Make time for fun and relaxation.
· Maintain balance with a healthy lifestyle.

Your ability to tolerate stress depends on many factors, including the quality of your relationships, your general outlook on life, your emotional intelligence, and genetics.

Stress can effect on;

Your support network – A strong network of supportive friends and family members can be an enormous buffer against life’s stressors. On the flip side, the more lonely and isolated you are, the greater your vulnerability to stress.

Your sense of control – It may be easier to take stress in your stride if you have confidence in yourself and your ability to influence events and persevere through challenges. If you feel like things are out of your control, you’re likely to have less tolerance for stress.

Your attitude and outlook – Optimistic people are often more stress-hardy. They tend to embrace challenges, have a strong sense of humor, and accept that change is a part of life.

Your ability to deal with your emotions – You’re extremely vulnerable to stress if you don’t know how to calm and soothe yourself when you’re feeling sad, angry, or overwhelmed by a situation. The ability to bring your emotions into balance helps you bounce back from adversity and is a skill that can be learned at any age.

Your knowledge and preparation – The more you know about a stressful situation, including how long it will last and what to expect, the easier it is to cope. For example, if you go into surgery with a realistic picture of what to expect post-op, a painful recovery will be less traumatic than if you were expecting to bounce back immediately.

How to Manage Stress

· The first step in managing stress is to understand where these feeling are coming from.
· Keep a stress diary to identify the causes of short-term or frequent stress in your life. As you write down events, think about why this situation stresses you out.
· Next, list these stressors in order of their impact. Which affect your health and well-being most? And which affect your work and productivity?
· Then, consider using some of the approaches below to manage your stress. You'll likely be able to use a mix of strategies from each area.

Action-Oriented Approaches

· With action-oriented approaches, you take action to change the stressful situations.

Managing Your Time

· Your workload can cause stress, if you don't manage your time well. This can be a key source of stress for very many people.
· Take our time management quiz to identify where you can improve, and make sure that you use time management tools such as To-Do Lists , Action Programs , and  Urgent/Important Principle  to manage your priorities.
· Then use Job Analysis  to think about what's most important in your role, so that you can prioritize your work more effectively. This helps you reduce stress, because you get the greatest return from your efforts, and you minimize the time you spend on low-value activities.
· Also, avoid multitasking , only check email  at certain times, and don't use electronic devices for a while before going to bed, so that you use this time to "switch off" fully.

Other People

· People can be a significant source of stress. Our guide to Managing Conflicting Priorities  helps you juggle multiple requests, while our articles on Assertiveness ,Managing Your Boundaries , Dealing With Unreasonable Requests , and Saying "Yes" to the Person, but "No" to the Task  will help you ensure that your needs are respected.

If you think that someone close to you is having stress, you can make a difference by showing your love and support and helping that person get properly evaluated and treated by mental health professionals.

(Dr Farzana Naeem is a clinical psychologist based at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals. She is contactable on freefari@yahoo.com).

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