Coping with Stress
A certain amount of stress in one’s life is natural, however, excess stress can be detrimental. Some people experience more stress than others, but either way it is a feeling none of us are comfortable with. Stress can affect how you feel, how you think, how you behave and how your body works.
The Physical Effects
When faced with a stressful situation, the body’s natural response is to increase the production of certain hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. The release of these hormones leads to an increase in the body’s heart rate, blood pressure and metabolism and a decrease in reproduction, tissue repair and digestion. After the stressful situation is gone, systems are designed to return to normal function via the ‘relaxation response’. If this does not happen and you are faced with chronic stress and an over activated nervous system, people begin to see physical symptoms. The first symptoms are relatively mild, like chronic headaches, irritability, increased susceptibility to colds. But if feelings of stress become persistent they can cause more long term health problems. It is therefore important to deal with continuing stress to prevent the physical problems along with the psychological effects.
There are many ways in which to manage stress, what works for one may not work for another:
Identify the source of stress – can the stressor be changed in some way (this may not be possible), can the perception of the stressor be changed, can I reduce my reaction?
Learn to relax – relaxation is very difficult for people suffering from the effects of stress. It is a learned skill and it is not always something you can achieve on your own. Some people find counselling helpful.
Make time for yourself – do whatever you find rewarding and relaxing. This may be reading, listening to music or a visit to the beach.
Have a relaxing aromatherapy massage – can help to counteract feelings of stress and not being able to cope. Massage techniques can release tight muscles which can itself relieve anxiety. Many essential oils are available to help cope with mild stress.
Physical activity – can clear the mind and keep stress under control. Some people find running or walking in the fresh air beneficial, others prefer to play team sports. Any type of exercise will be ideal, as long as it is done regularly.
Healthy diet – a balanced diet will help you cope with stress more effectively. This includes restricting the intake of e.g. caffeine, alcohol, cola drinks, junk foods, sugar.
Do not take life too seriously – learn to laugh.
Whatever your situation, stress need not damage your health. If you feel that you need to talk to your doctor or health care professional, it is important to do so right away. There are many methods of help available.