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Stress Management

  2. MEANING AND DEFINITION Stress management' is a wide spectrum of techniques and psychotherapies aimed at controlling a person's level of stress, especially chronic stress, usually for the purpose of and for the motive of improving everyday functioning. According to Ryan Estabrooks, “Stress is mental tension caused by demanding, taxing or burdensome circumstances. Stress doesn't just affect our mental state and mood; it affects our physical health as well. When we are very stressed, a hormone called cortisol is released into our bloodstream, suppressing the functioning of our immune, digestive and reproductive systems. That is why it is so important to practice stress management in order to keep our minds and bodies healthy.” Stress management consists of making changes to our life if we are in a constant stressful situation, preventing stress by practicing self-care and relaxation and managing our response to stressful situations when they do occur.
  3. TYPES OF STRESS Stress is our body's reaction to the demands of the world. Stressors are events or conditions in our surroundings that may trigger stress. Our body responds to stressors differently depending on whether the stressor is new or short term — acute stress — or whether the stressor has been around for a longer time — chronic stress. Acute Stress: Also known as the fight-or-flight response, acute stress is our body's immediate reaction to a perceived threat, challenge or scare. The acute-stress response is immediate and intense, and in certain circumstances it can be thrilling. Examples of acute stressors include having a job interview or getting a speeding ticket. A single episode of acute stress generally doesn't cause problems for healthy people. However, severe acute stress can cause mental health problems — such as post-traumatic stress disorder. It can also cause physical difficulties such as tension headaches, stomach problems or serious health issues — such as a heart attack.
  4.  Chronic Stress: Mild acute stress can actually be beneficial — it can spur you into action, motivate and energize us. The problem occurs when stressors pile up and stick around. This persistent stress can lead to health problems, such as headaches and insomnia. The chronic-stress response is more subtle than is the acute-stress response, but the effects may be longer lasting and more problematic. Effective stress management involves identifying and managing both acute and chronic stress.
  5. CAUSES OF STRESS IN AN INDIVUAL’S LIFE While some of us are terrified of getting up in front of people to perform or speak, for example, others live for the spotlight. Where one person thrives under pressure and performs best in the face of a tight deadline, another will shut down when work demands escalate. And while we may enjoy helping to care for our elderly parents, our siblings may find the demands of caretaking overwhelming and stressful. There are two types of stress:  INTERNAL STRESS: Stress which is self-generated, when we worry excessively about something that may or may not happen, or have irrational, pessimistic thoughts about life is termed as internal stress.  EXTERNAL STRESS: Stress caused due to major life changes, environment, unpredictable events workplace and social life is known as external stress.
  6. INTERNAL STRESS Not all stress stems from things that happen to us. Much of our stress response is self-induced. Those feelings and thoughts that pop into our head and cause us unrest are known as internal stressors. Examples of internal stressors include: Fears: Common ones include fear of failure, fear of public speaking and fear of flying. Uncertainty and lack of control: Few people enjoy not knowing or not being able to control what might happen. Think about how we might react when waiting for the results of a medical test. Beliefs: These might be attitudes, opinions or expectations. We may not even think about how our beliefs shape our experience, but these preset thoughts often set us up for stress. Consider the expectations we put on our self to create a perfect holiday celebration or advance up the career ladder.
  7. EXTERNAL STRESS External stressors are events and situations that happen to us. Some examples of external stressors include: Major life changes: These changes can be positive, such as a new marriage, a planned pregnancy, a promotion or a new house. Or they can be negative, such as the death of a loved one or a divorce. Environment: The input from the world around us can be a source of stress. Consider how we’ll react to sudden noises, such as a barking dog, or how we’ll react to a bright sunlit room or a dark room. Unpredictable events: Out of the blue, uninvited houseguests arrive. Or we discover our rent has gone up or that our pay has been cut. Workplace: Common stressors at work include an impossible workload, endless emails, urgent deadlines and a demanding boss. Social: Meeting new people can be stressful. Just think about going on a blind date, where we probably start to sweat due to nervousness. Relationships with family often spawn stress as well.
  8. WAYS TO MANAGE STRESS Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, and Nicotine: Avoid, or at least reduce, the consumption of nicotine and any drinks containing caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and so will increase the level of stress rather than reduce it. Alcohol is a depressant when taken in large quantities, but acts as a stimulant in smaller quantities. Therefore using alcohol as a way to alleviate stress is not ultimately helpful. Swap caffeinated and alcoholic drinks for water, herbal teas, or diluted natural fruit juices and aim to keep the immune system hydrated as this will enable the body to cope better with stress. You should also aim to avoid or reduce your intake of refined sugars - they are contained in many manufactured foods (even in savory foods such as salad dressings and bread) and can cause energy crashes which may lead you to feel tired and irritable. In general, try to eat a healthy, well-balanced and nutritious diet.
  9. Indulge in Physical Activity: Stressful situations increase the level of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol in our body. These are the “fight or flight” hormones that evolution has hard-wired into our brains and which are designed to protect us from immediate bodily harm when we are under threat. However, stress in the modern age is rarely remedied by a fight or flight response, and so physical exercise can be used as a surrogate to metabolize the excessive stress hormones and restores our body and mind to a calmer, more relaxed state. When feel stressed and tense, go for a brisk walk in fresh air. Try to incorporate some physical activity in daily routine on a regular basis, either before or after work, or at lunchtime. Regular physical activity will also improve the quality of the sleep.
  10. Get More Sleep: A lack of sleep is a significant cause of stress. Unfortunately though, stress also interrupts our sleep as thoughts keep whirling through our heads, stopping us from relaxing enough to fall asleep. Rather than relying on medication, our aim should be to maximize our relaxation before going to sleep. Make sure that the bedroom is a tranquil oasis with no reminders of the things that cause us stress. Avoid caffeine during the evening, as well as excessive alcohol if that leads to disturbed sleep. Stop doing any mentally demanding work several hours before going to bed so that we give our brain time to calm down. Try taking a warm bath or reading a calming, undemanding book for a few minutes to relax the body, tire the eyes and help the forget about the things that worry us. We should also aim to go to bed at roughly the same time each day so that our mind and body get used to a predictable bedtime routine.
  11. Try Relaxation Techniques: Each day, try to relax with a stress reduction technique. There are many tried and tested ways to reduce stress so try a few and see what works best for us. For example, try self-hypnosis which is very easy and can be done anywhere, even at the desk or in the car. One very simple technique is to focus on a word or phrase that has a positive meaning. Words such as "calm" "love" and "peace" work well, or we could think of a self-affirming mantra such as “I deserve calm in my life” or “Grant me serenity”. Focus on the chosen word or phrase; if we found our mind has wandered or we became aware of intrusive thoughts entering our mind, simply disregard them and return our focus to the chosen word or phrase. If we found our self becoming tense again later, simply silently repeat the word or phrase. Don't worry if found it difficult to relax at first. Relaxation is a skill that needs to be learned and will improve with practice.
  12. Talk to Someone: Just talking to someone about how we feel can be helpful. Talking can work by either distracting us from our stressful thoughts or releasing some of the built-up tension by discussing it. Stress can cloud our judgement and prevent us from seeing things clearly. Talking things through with a friend, work colleague, or even a trained professional, can help us find solutions to our stress and put our problems into perspective. Take Control: Stress can be triggered by a problem that may on the surface seem impossible to solve. Learning how to find solutions to our problems will help us feel more in control thereby lowering our level of stress. One problem-solving technique involves writing down the problem and coming up with as many possible solutions as we can. Decide on the good and bad points of each one and select the best solution. Write down each step that needs to take as part of the solution- what will be done, how will it be done, when will it be done, who is involved and where will it take place.
  13. Learn to Say ‘No’: A common cause of stress is having too much to do and too little time in which to do it. And yet in this situation, many people will still agree to take on additional responsibility. Learning to say “No” to additional or unimportant requests will help to reduce the level of stress, and may also help to develop more self-confidence. To learn to say “No”, we need to understand why we find it difficult. Many people find it hard to say “No” because they want to help and are trying to be nice and to be liked. For others, it is a fear of conflict, rejection or missed opportunities. Remember that these barriers to saying “No” are all self-created. We might feel reluctant to respond to a request with a straight “No”, at least at first. Instead think of some pre-prepared phrases to let other people down more gently. Practice saying phrases such as: “I am sorry but I can’t commit to this as I have other priorities at the moment.” “Now is not a good time as I’m in the middle of something. Why don’t you ask me again at….?” “I’d love to do this, but …”
  14. Manage Your Time: At times, we all feel overburdened by our 'To Do' list and this is a common cause of stress. Accept that everything can not be done every time at once and start to prioritize and diaries the tasks. Make a list of all the things that needs to be done and list them in order of genuine priority. Note what tasks are needed to be done personally and what can be delegated to others. Record which tasks need to be done immediately, in the next week, in the next month, or when time allows. By editing what might have started out as an overwhelming and unmanageable task list, we can break it down into a series of smaller, more manageable tasks spread out over a longer time frame, with some tasks removed from the list entirely through delegation. Remember as well to create buffer times to deal with unexpected and emergency tasks, and to include time for our own relaxation and well-being.