What is Stress and Stress Management
Stress is something that is simply part of being alive. Being born is stressful!! What matters in the actual amount of stress we encounter which determines whether we stay well or become ill.
Stress occurs when we experience mental or emotional strain and tension. Stress can also manifest in physical symptoms such as neck or back pain, headaches, stomach upset, poor digestion, elevated blood pressure, poor sleep and ongoing fatigue leading to a compromised immune system.
We need a certain level of stress to leave the comfort of bed in the morning and prepare for our day. So whether we are preparing for a long commute, a long day in the office, a long day with small children or whatever our day may involve, an optimal level of stress is needed to function well.
We stop functioning well when stress crosses our threshold level and we start making mistakes, being constantly fatigued, sleeping poorly, eating poorly and neglecting our healthy routines such as exercise.
The threshold for stress tolerance varies between individuals. Some people suffer from boredom when there is a lack of activity in their life and this too can be a form of stress. Some people can actually thrive on high levels of stress without negative consequences.
Managing stress is an important life skill to prevent compromising your immune system and suffering from long term physical or mental illness.
It is well documented that stress leads to many dysfunctions in the body, mind, relationships and ability to cope with life.
"In 2008, Dr Bruce Lipton, the world renowned leader in cellular biology and quantum physics, and former Stanford Medical School Cellular Biologist, published one of the most controversial yet compelling books in the history of medicine, called The Biology of Belief. In this book he scientifically PROVED, along with an agreement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that STRESS is the primary driving factor behind 95% of all modern disease."
Furthermore, "he discovered that a specific type of stress, stress caused by something called destructive cellular memories which cause wrong beliefs...is the type of stress causing 95% of all modern illness and disease."
Source and further information:
Top 10 stressful situations
- Death of a spouse
- Jail sentence
- Death of immediate family member
- Immediate family member commits suicide
- Getting into debt beyond means of repayment
- Period of homelessness
- Immediate family member seriously ill
- Unemployment (of head of household)
- Break up of family
Source and further information:
The Life Events Inventory, Re-Scaling based on an Occupational Sample. A. Spurgeon, C.A. Jackson and J.R. Beach.
It is interesting to note that on this list of 54 life events, moving house is listed as 32, marriage 41, retirement 53 and going on holiday as 54. These could be viewed as happy life events (I imagine in most cases) and yet they are listed in the research by Spurgeon, Jackson and Beach as stressful life events.
Workplace stress: Environmental and individual factors
"Work stress is a hot topic. More workers are making psychological stress-related compensation claims than ever before, with the national cost of such claims estimated to be $105.5 million in 2000-2001. Employers and the government are grappling with how to address the problem. Adelaide-based organizational psychologist Associate Professor Maureen Dollard has been researching and consulting on occupational stress for over a decade. "I have never seen such a national reaction to it as now", she says. Psychosocial risk factors in work environments are firmly on the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission agenda and the State-based workers' compensation bodies are running programs for stress prevention, intervention and management.
Part of this recent action comes from the growing recognition of the human cost of stress, but it is the financial expense that has forced a response. Recent figures show how the nature of stress claims makes them particularly costly. Although the number of such claims account for a minority of claims overall, stressed workers tend to stop working for longer periods, resulting in a higher relative cost to employers. In 2001-2002 stress accounted for over half of all long term (12 or more weeks) compensation claims that did not involve an injury. Stress is considered to include work pressure, harassment at work, exposure to traumatic events, lack of autonomy and support, and exposure to workplace and occupational violence."
Source and further information:
Creatures of habit may struggle with change as a cause of stress
Change - be it change in environment, changing belief patterns, changing friends, careers, a home - the list goes on - can be difficult and stressful. As humans, we are creatures of habit and those habits can be many and various! Effective stress management skills can come in handy in these circumstances.
Change seems to be more difficult when it involves accepting an option that appears to be a drop in status or lowering of standards to what we have been accustomed to or would prefer.
Even positive change can be stressful
It can be easy to look at change as involving some loss. This can be the case even in what society deems as positive change such as change of relationship status. For instance, even though marriage may be seen by some as positive change – a joyful event – it can also involve the stress of loss and adapting to new circumstances including identity. This may be loss of freedom to enjoy other relationships, loss of financial freedom, loss of living space, loss of time to one self or with friends and so on.
What values are important?
Whether there is an overall perception of loss or benefit depends on values. This bit can be tricky. Identifying your most significant personal values as against societal values or family of origin values can be confusing sometimes. It is important to identify what your personal values are so that you can be true to yourself. “To thine own self be true” is an important motto to follow. If you end up making decisions based on what you think will please someone else, it could have undesirable results.
Exercise to help you identify your own most significant personal values
It is often difficult to differentiate between our own values and those that have been adopted from family, friends and co-workers. If we have been brought up in an environment where our ideas and opinions have been silenced, then often it is difficult to even know our own minds. Our sense of “Self” has been lost somewhere in childhood. This often leads to a tendency to comply with the wishes and opinions of others because to do otherwise may result in disapproval, ridicule or punishment of some sort.
Often what we believe is important isn’t really so when we take a long, hard look at the consequences of any action we are contemplating taking or not taking. That may sound like a riddle. However, taking no action sometimes can lead to dire consequences when action is required. Similarly taking the wrong action can also lead to trouble. So how do we know what is right action? How do we know if change is necessary and what changes are appropriate?
A matter of money
One example that comes to mind is financial circumstances. With the global financial crisis still having an impact on a lot of people, mortgage repayments are proving difficult if not impossible for some. Loss of income, loss of shares, often involves difficult decisions when it comes to managing mortgage repayments or credit card debt. Will a second job solve the problem? Will re-financing create relief and for how long? Or is it time to sell the family home and downsize? Financial stress can lead to compromised health and relationships. Sometimes seeking help through counselling can relieve this stress and lead to optimal decision making.
What Role Does Meditation Have In Training The Brain To Manage Stress?
Following is a short clip from ABC iview
Stress Management - To reduce or eliminate stress
- Ensure you have regular adequate sleep - experts recommend 7 to 8 hours
- Take mini breaks to stretch and have a cup of tea or water throughout the work day
- Take the stairs where possible instead of the lift
- Take a lunch break in a nearby park if there is one
- Delegate as much as possible
- Make lists and prioritize what really needs to be done today or can be carried over
- Be realistic about what can be accomplished in time available
- Add a buffer of time to allow for unexpected phone calls, unforeseen challenges etc
- Screen phone calls or divert them to a call centre or answering machine if necessary
- Walking or other enjoyable exercise
- Go "fishing"
- Head for the beach
- Practice Yoga (see Monday morning bed yoga below)
- Loving sex and affection with partner
- Sharing conversation with friends
- Cuddling a pet
- Gardening (for some!)
- Spending time in nature
- Listening to relaxing music
- Playing a musical instrument that you enjoy
- Reading an engrossing book
- Watching a favourite movie
- Sitting by the fire and gazing at flames
- See the list for raising your energy vibration for further ways to reduce and manage stress
Monday Morning Bed Yoga for a stress free week
How can counselling help you with stress management?
Christine Bennett and Emily Dylan offer help through counselling and psychotherapy for stress management. Christine finds that Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Ericksonian Hypnosis and lifestyle education can make a significant difference to improve your energy state. Emily utilizes a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy approach and Positive Psychology techniques.