Recognising and understanding the sign of stress in our lives is just the first step towards managing it. We may not be able to eliminate stress altogether because life happens, but we can learn to cope better to make our lives a little easier to manage.
Some of the most common stressful life events for adults may include:
- Death in the family
- Relationship breakdown
- Financial issues
- Injury, illness or chronic pain
- Job loss
It’s good to remember that stress isn’t always bad; it can drive us to meet certain challenges in life and we all have those. These may include work-related challenges, a pressing appointment or a pending exam. There are no limits, whatever the challenge may be, remember in small doses stress can assist to motivate us to handle those situations better when under pressure.
The concern is when we are continually stressed, day in and day out that it becomes a problem and our mind and bodies suffer. Before we know it, we are confronted with health problems such as:
- Depression and anxiety
- Chronic physical pain
- Sleep disorders
- Digestive problems
- Autoimmune diseases
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Weight problems
- Skin conditions
- Memory loss
If this is you and you are experiencing one or more of these problems, or something completely different then it is time to take action, make changes so that you can manage your stress levels in a more productive manner. Stress management gives us the opportunity to reassess things in our lives before it becomes too late and we are bogged down with health issues.
I believe that one of the best ways to identify stress, and I use this approach with my clients, is to keep a journal. It can be effective to write down your challenges, your negative thoughts, feelings and frustrations, what makes you anxious or overwhelmed and what you find difficult to cope with.
Recognising our stressors and what triggers them is the first step in managing them and making positive change. We may not be able to eliminate all of our stress but we can certainly be more self-aware and improve our coping strategies, identify what triggers the stress and reflect on ways to be able to change it. Changing negative behaviour is a personal thing that will be different for each one of us and should be tailored to suit our individual lifestyles.
Improving our ability to handle stress may include:
- Physical activity (walking, running, swimming, pilates, dancing)
- Connecting with others (spending time with people who make us feel good)
- Engage our senses of sight, sound, touch, taste, smell (look at something beautiful, listen to music, cuddle an animal, have a cup of tea, smell the roses)
- Learn relaxation techniques (yoga, meditation mindfulness, relaxation music or exercises)
- Eat a healthy diet (include foods from the five food groups of vegetables and legumes, fruits, grains and cereals, lean meats, poultry, fish and eggs and milk, yoghurt and cheese)
- Good quality rest (getting better sleep for less stress and a more productive and emotionally balanced lifestyle)
If high levels of stress continue and you are struggling to find ways to alleviate the stress and it is interfering with your enjoyment in life, it may be time to seek some professional help. A Counsellor can help you identify the behaviours and situations that are contributing to your stress and suggest changes, new behaviours and management skills that you can learn, to handle the anxiety associated with the stress, gain some balance and improve life in general.