I have been working with a client recently on her ability to manage stress more effectively and I thought I’d share some of the key ideas: what is stress, how do I compare and what can be done. The importance of managing stress cannot be under exterminated.
On Average, 1:5 women and 1:8 men will suffer from depression at some stage in their lives (Beyond Blue), and there is increasing evidence that more than 75% of all sicknesses were caused by the body’s response to stress.
So …what is stress? Pre-historic man (or women) preserved all stressors could result in personal harm, which would trigger our flight or fight response. When you are about to run from or kill an animal, the flight and fight response was very useful, it brings about: acceleration of the heart and lung function, production of glucose for energy, and conversion of fatty acids into energy.
However, we often have the same response when managing difficult people at work, getting the kids to school on time or paying off a debt. When you need to be calm and have clarity of thought, your body is preparing to unleash “a can of whoop ass”J.
Sadly enough, stress has been linked to stomach ulcers, migraine or hypertension and the release of cortisone is destructive to the immune system and lowers the bodies’ ability to combat diseases. It is quite clear that this is not very helpful in handling daily pressures.
So…how much stress are you under?
Some may want to look at the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (http://www.emotionalcompetency.com/srrs.htm). While the scale is a decent starting point, it does not account for people who have effective coping strategies or compounding stress in a short period of time. We are all individual; don’t compare yourself to others, as you are not likely to know their full story, and it only serves to increase your level of stress and shame.
So…what can be done? Here are my four strategies to managing stress.
Be selective of who you talk to, and what you watch/listen too. Jim Rohn once said “Stand guard to the door of your mind”. If you need to maintain a view of current affairs, be mindful of the continual negative messages that are portrayed. Negative messages may come from friends and colleges. Jim also coined the phrase, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend most of your time with”. If your friends are not discussing overcoming challenges and are continually talking about the effect of the problems, then find new friends.
Get fit for life. Being fit for life includes the following:
- Quit smoking;
- Eating a balanced diet (a low sugar diet);
- Getting adequate sleep;
- Balanced life (Do the wheel of life exercise);
- A balanced life includes a social life outside of work; and
- Remembering that “exercise is the most potent and underutilized antidepressant and it’s free”.
For someone who is stressed, it may seem counter-productive to take “time out” to get fit for life; however, you need to invest in yourself.
Rational Emotive Therapy Model (RET). RET was developed by Albert Ellis who simplified people’s responses to an external environment. Let’s take this example, “The lousy weather makes me feel miserable”. What this person is saying is that the actuating event (let’s call this A) causes how you feel (let’s call this C). The link between A and C is our Belief (let’s call this B) and in this scenario we are blaming the weather for our feelings. We have the ability to choose how we perceive an event, if the cause isn’t supporting you, change your perspective of the event. Let’s take the scenario above which could be rephrased to be: “A little bit of rain’s not going to stop me!”
Learn to say “No”.
Accepting more work with timeframes that can’t be achieved does not make you awesome, it makes you a Marta. Know what you can achieve in the time you have, look for opportunities to outsource and delegate, and then be clear with what you can achieve in the time you have.
For those of you how are not coping with your level of stress, I would like to encourage you to take action. There are many resources in our community that can assist you to find your way ahead: See your local GP, Call Life Line or Beyond Blue. Remember that asking for help is a sign of strength, not a signed of weakness.
How effectively we manage stress cannot be underestimated. Try to view the event logically, optimistically and realistically; knowing that we stand in the middle of the stressor (event or person) and we can control our response.
Using the strategies listed above, we can manage stress effectively so as to be more robust, illness free and empowered to win!