When you are stressed, your body responds as though you are in danger. It makes hormones that speed up your heart rate, raise your blood pressure, make you breathe faster, and give you a burst of energy. This is called the fight-or-flight or stress response.
This is normal and even useful when we are in a situation where we need to work hard or react quickly. Ex: When you are in an athletic event or to complete an important job on time. Having a small amount of stress actually keeps you more focused and effective. But when the stress level becomes high, it actually interferes with our performance.
It is harmful to our systems when this stress response occurs often and lasts long. It can make our bodies vulnerable to different illnesses. Stress is often linked to headaches, upset stomach, back pain, sleep problems etc. It can weaken our immune system and make existing health issues even worse. It also affects our mood, worsening anxiety or depression. This may lead to behavioral difficulties. Our relationships may suffer, and we may not do well at work or school.
Stress is a fact of life for most people. Demands are constantly placed on us. Our goal is not to get rid of stress, but we can look for ways to reduce it. That is the essence of stress management. It is a skill that is worth learning as stress does not go away by itself.
- The first step in stress management is to be able to recognize when we are stressed. It is very common that people get used to stress slowly creeping on them and see it as normal. First take a look at how you react to stress. Check the symptoms of stress to see which ones are true for you. Also look at the “Five quick methods to recognize your stress” to know when you are stressing.
- Then it is important to figure out what is causing the stress. Sometimes it is obvious when it is a major life change or the loss of a loved one. At other times it may not be clear why you are feeling stressed.
- Keeping a stress journal can help you find out what is causing your stress and how much stress you feel. Everyone feels and responds to stress differently.
- Look for ways to reduce the stress.
- Sometimes it is making changes in your environment such as separating yourself from a job or a person that is adding more stress to you.
- Other times it is life situations that we cannot change, such as dealing with the loss of a loved one. Then it is about learning new skills to reduce the stress you feel so that you can respond to your life situations more effectively.
- Stress Management training teaches you the skills to reduce the stress you feel by causing the relaxation response which is the opposite of the stress response. Learn relaxation techniques. Look in the “Stress Relief Tools” section.
- You can learn ways to avoid stress by managing your time, finding better ways to cope, taking good care of yourself, learning new ways of thinking, expressing your feelings in a thoughtful, tactful way, asking for help, developing a strong network of family and friends etc. Look in “Coping with Stress” article for more ideas.