The human body is equipped to deal with short term stress; in fact it thrives on it. It may sound weird to talk about ‘positive stress’. But think about the thrill you get when your experience the sensation of butterflies in your stomach.
Extreme sports fanatics understand the thrill and buss of positive stress very well. Depending on your mindset, positive stress can result in heightened awareness, excitement or anxiety. There is, however, the type of stress we are more familiar with – long term or sustained stress.
Sustained stress is associated with things such as, pressure at work, pressure at home or pressure at school. Sustained stress zaps your energy, leaving you ill prepared to deal with its primary cause. Sustained stress sucks the life out of us, and can make us depressed, anxious and overwhelmed. As does its positive relative, negative stress manifests itself in a very real, very physical fashion.
When faced with a situation that makes you stressed, your body releases chemicals, including cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. These invoke the 'fight or flight' feelings that help us to deal with the situation. However, when you're in a situation that prevents you from fighting or escaping, such as being on an overcrowded train, these chemicals are not used.
If the chemicals released during stressful situations accumulate from not being used, the body feels their effects. A build-up of adrenaline and noradrenaline increases blood pressure, heart rate, and the amount that you sweat. Cortisol prevents your immune system from functioning properly, as well as releasing fat and sugar into your blood stream.
So, not only does having sustained stress feel awful, but it can also have a long term impact on your overall health. Learning how to manage stress is, therefore, critical for performing well and having a happy life. The body has several warning signals that warn you when you are under too much pressure. If you manage to spot these sign at an early stage, you will benefit your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Being under too much pressure may induce symptoms such as irregular sleeping patterns, feeling anxious, feeling depressed, comfort eating, difficulty concentrating, in addition, feeling under sustained pressure can lead to physical symptoms such as stomach cramps and headaches.
Something to remember about stress is that many of associated symptoms are secondary in nature; many of the symptoms are actually stress about feeling stressed! Stress can create a vicious cycle of fear and anxiety. By taking preventative action, it is possible to alleviate its symptoms. One of the best forms of preventative action is changing the attitude you have to stress in the first place.
We discussed earlier about the positive nature of certain forms of stress. When we are doing a bungee jump, we don’t question the fact that we are feeling fear, apprehension, and excitement. Rather, we embrace all of these sensations and roll with it.
We accept that what we are feeling is ‘normal’. When it comes to negative, sustained stress, this is the same attitude you need to take. We are far better equipped with dealing with something unpleasant when we understand it. So, the next time you are feeling stressed, don’t feel concerned with the physical sensations you experience.
However, changing an attitude may only have a limited impact if you are suffering from severely stressful situations. You may, therefore, need to change the underlying situation in some way.
Be honest with yourself when it comes to making this sort of decision. Is your job causing more harm than good? Could your partner help out around the house more? Could you do with living in a different area? Ask yourself questions like these to get to the root of your stress.
Sometimes managing stress can be more about making adjustments than wholesale changes. No matter how you are feeling, never lose perspective on what is happening in your life.
Try to manage your time well and be as organised as possible. Work should stay at work and separate from your home life. If your workload exceeds the time expected to achieve completing it, then is the time to have an honest discussion with your boss.
All too often very competent people end up with a sense of under achieving because they do not have the right support and direction from others.