Stress – Friend or Foe?
More so than ever before, we are living in a rapidly changing world, a world that places huge demands on our time and our energy and a significant impact on our physical and mental health. We are pulled in all directions, as we race from one task to the next, caught-up in the madness that is life. Many of us are “stressed out” and some of us may suffer “burn-out.”
If we allow it, there is a potential for stress to wreak havoc on our bodies. It can cause insomnia and weight gain, anxiety, tiredness, depression and elevate blood pressure.
Whilst stress has been referred to as the “silent killer” and the saying “stress kills” couldn’t be a truer statement, there is also a benevolent side to stress, where some people benefit from “good stress”, driving them to get things done, meeting that all important dead-line.
Other benefits include:
It improves cognitive function.
It helps you dodge a cold
It makes you a tough cookie
It enhances child development
Whilst bad stress should be avoided, A Healthy U advocates to welcome moderate doses of “good” stress with open arms. This allows your inborn physiological reaction to kick in to handle every day, normal stressors.
No matter where you sit in this paradigm it is important to acknowledge just what stress is and how best to hone your coping strategies.
Understand that stress is a process, not a diagnosis. The level and extent of stress a person may feel depends a lot on their attitude to a situation. An event that may be extremely stressful for one person can be a mere hiccup in another person’s life.
Stress affects us in many ways, including:
Emotionally – anxiety, depression, tension, anger
The way we think – poor concentration, forgetfulness, indecisiveness, apathy, hopelessness
Behaviourally – increased drinking and smoking, insomnia, accident proneness, weight problems, obsessive-compulsive behaviour, nervousness, gambling.
Here, at A Healthy U we believe that it is your attitude, personality and approach to life that will influence how you respond to stress. Factors that play a part include:
How you think about a problem
How anxious you feel generally
How severely the problem affects you
Whether you have experienced anything like this before
Whether you can control what is happening
How long the event affects you
How important the outcome is to you
The different ways a person copes with difficult situations
Your life experiences and life history
Whether you have people around who can provide support.
The old saying ‘prevention is better than cure’ is certainly true for stress management. It will help if you:
Exercise regularly – regular exercise is a great way to manage stress. You should do some form of exercise that causes you to feel puffed afterwards – a leisurely stroll to the bus stop is not enough! Have at least 20 minutes of exercise three times a week
Avoid conflict – avoid situations that make you feel stressed such as unnecessary arguments and conflict (although ignoring a problem is not always the best way to reduce stress). Assertiveness is fine but becoming distressed is not
Relax – give yourself some time to relax each day and try to spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself
Eat well – a nutritious diet is important. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and avoid sweet and fatty foods
Sleep – a good sleep routine is essential. If you have difficulty falling asleep, do something calm and relaxing before you go to bed like listening to music or reading
Enjoy your life – it is important to make time to have some fun and to get a balance in your life.
To deal with stress more effectively, it helps to investigate your stresses and how you react to them. Try to:
Understand what situations make you feel stressed
Understand what situations you can and cannot control
Prepare for stressful events in advance, by thinking about the future
Keep yourself healthy with good nutrition, exercise, and regular relaxation
Try to do happy things every day.
Until now, you may have wanted to bottle up all stress and toss it into a fiery pit. Now that you are aware of the two sides of this irrational process, remember that stress can be a friend you did not know you wanted. The key is identifying good stress from bad stress. If it is not chronic, stress can be a positive addition to your life.
“Stress steals the beauty from life”