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Stress is the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure.

Pressure turns into stress when we feel unable to cope. We feel unable to cope when there is a mismatch between demands made (real or perceived) and our ability (real or perceived) to meet them. It is the balance between how we view the demands made on us, and how we think we can cope with them, that determines how stressed we feel.

Two people may react differently to the same situation, for example, an event that is perceived as stressful for one person may be motivational to someone else.

Feelings of tension and anxiety are normal body reactions that take place when we become aware of a threat to our wellbeing. This is referred to as the fight or flight response, a physical reaction in our bodies that makes sure we have the ability to respond instantly to a threatening situation.

Our sympathetic nervous system controls the fight or flight response. This is the same system responsible for body functions that are not under our conscious control (heart rate, breathing, sweating, etc). It is an instant reflex reaction which means we have little control over the starting up of the fight or flight response.

However, we can learn techniques to keep our stress level low and prevent it from becoming overwhelming and leading to more distressing and unhealthy situations.

Adrenalin is released from the adrenal gland when the body activates the fight or flight response. This adrenalin triggers physical changes (stomach churning sensations, fast breathing, heart palpitations, sweaty palms, restlessness, etc.) and when the worrying situation is dealt with, these symptoms miraculously fade.

Stress can also be the negative side effect of insufficient pressure to drive our lives forward. Being stuck in a rut with little stimulation can be just as unpleasant as being loaded with too many tasks and not enough time.

Stress is not an illness in itself, however it can cause serious illness if not dealt with.

It is very important to recognise the symptoms early:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Insomnia
  • Comfort eating
  • Indecision
  • Lack of concentration.

Emotional symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Tearfulness
  • Withdrawn
  • Anxiety
  • Anger

Physical symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Dry mouth
  • Clammy hands
  • Ringing in ears

Many of us use ingrained unhealthy habits to hide our stress or forget what is troubling us. Such problems occur when stress becomes an ingrained habit rather than a useful resource.

Take time to understand what helps you destress, and practise these things regularly.

Here are some ideas :

  1. Breathe in for the count of 7 and out for the count of 11. Notice your shoulders drop, tension release from your forehead and your lungs squeeze when you breathe out.
  2. Blow all your stress into a balloon, tie a knot and push it away.  Imagine all tensions disappearing in that balloon.
  3. Create an action that calms you (ie: every time I rub my ear, my inner voice says “all is well”.)
  4. Go for a walk.
  5. Listen to your favourite music.
  6. Watch a comedy or read jokes.
  7. Write down what’s worrying you, then tear the piece of paper in small bits and push into the bin.

How do you combat stress? Share with us in the comments.

  • When I get stressed and remove myself from the situation – literally! I take off for a walk, and keep walking until I calm down or feel more in control again.

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  • I think it’s also really important to identify the little things that stress you out. That way, when you’re feeling any of the symptoms, you can be mindful and recognise the stress quickly and address the situation before it gets too overwhelming.

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  • Great tips. A good comedy or great book usually hits the spot for me.

    Reply

  • Watching a comedy is a good way to get rid of stress!

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  • I can recognise some of those symptoms myself. A few months ago I had chest pains and my bottom lip was tingling. I called an Ambulance and was taken to hospital. I could hear my heart beating. They weren’t sure of the problem. They did a few tests. When I am sick any way by blood pressure initially spikes even if I rest. Talking to a nurse I know a few days later the theory was it may have been stress related as a family member had been extremely ill (and almost died on the way to hospital in the Ambulance) only a couple of weeks before.

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  • I really need to implement some ideas from here and make a bit more me time. I think I really need to put less pressure on myself too. I’m too much of a perfectionist.

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  • If I am very stressed, I generally try to free my mind by reading, or going out for a walk with my dog. Doing Sudoku seems to help too, because it lets me concentrate on the moment.

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  • I use lots of mindfulness strategies and I always make time for the things I enjoy. I do these things every day to combat stress. I spend time looking after myself too – physically, mentally and spiritually.

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  • My strategy for combating stress is to stop, think about what’s making me stressed, and then ask myself “what’s the worst that can happen?”. Often times the answer to that question makes me realise that what I’m stressing about is not a big deal and I put it into context and stop stressing. Deep breaths also helps quite a lot.


    • Perfect! Great solution and you’re taking control of the situation. Thanks for sharing.
      Anne

    Reply

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